Are you thinking of getting a cockatiel for yourself? You are making an amazing choice. This article will tell you all about cockatiels as pets – what to expect before you go in.
Friendly, intelligent, and playful cockatiels make for amazing pets.
Native to Australia, they’ve become one of the most popular pet birds in North America.
However, before you get a pet cockatiel, it’s a good idea to learn more about these birds.
Not sure whether a cockatiel is a right pet for you? Or maybe you got a cockatiel and want to learn how to train it?
Well, I’ll try to answer all your queries as best as I can.
What Are Cockatiels and Where Do They Come From?
Cockatiels belong to the cockatoo family, just like macaws, cockatoos, budgies, conures, and other parrots.
While they differ from the other parrot species in several ways, they also share several similarities.
The short, curved beak and the ability to vocalize are probably the most notable examples of the latter.
Cockatiels have come a long way from Australia to North America via Europe.
Although they were already documented in 1793, these birds didn’t gain much popularity as pets until the 1900s.
Brought to Europe and popularized by breeders, cockatiels eventually made their way to the US as exotic birds.
Today, they’re rather commonplace in North America.
The cockatiel is a light-colored bird, usually with mid-gray feathers and a white blaze on the wings.
The plumage underneath is generally of a lighter color, and the males have orange spots on the sides of their heads.
One of the most interesting features of a cockatiel is the crest on its head.
These feathers aren’t there just to make them look nice – cockatiels use them to express their emotions.
Cockatiel Pet Lifespan
If you get a very young or baby cockatiel, you may expect it to live at least a decade and a half.
Although wild cockatiels live only around ten years, in captivity their lifespan ranges from 15 to 20 years.
The longest-lived cockatiel was recorded to have been on this earth for 36 years!
Did you know there are 18 different cockatiel mutations with varying colors and patterns?
The description I shared earlier applies to the standard non-mutated gray cockatiels.
However, over the years, breeders have created many color varieties to cater to the demands of adoring pet parents.
Today, we have several color variations, such as the all-white albino cockatiel, lutino cockatiel, yellowface, etc.
Breeders made various genetic modifications to develop these mutations and then created more by cross-breeding them with each other.
How Much Does a Cockatiel Weigh: Cockatiel Size and Weight
Cockatiels are much smaller than their closely related cousins, the cockatoos.
An adult cockatiel should weigh anywhere between 2.6 and 5.3 ounces. They grow from 9.84 to 13.78 inches long, with a wingspan of 11.8 to 13.7 inches.
Cockatiels have fairly long tail feathers, which is something to keep in mind when buying a cockatiel cage (I recommend a minimum cage size of 24 x 24 x 24 inches).
They take up a rather large area even though they look comparatively smaller.
If your cockatiel isn’t full-grown yet, refer to this growth chart to know how much they should ideally weigh at what age.
Sexing regular gray cockatiels is quite easy. The orange cheek patches I mentioned earlier are missing in female cockatiels.
On the other hand, male cockatiels lack the tail markings found in females.
However, if we’re talking about cockatiel mutations, the same features may or may not be useful in determining their sex.
As the appearances vary, so do the sexing criteria in cockatiel mutations. In the case of some mutations like the albino cockatiel, visual sexing might be entirely impossible.
Determining Cockatiel Age
Now, finding out your cockatiel’s age can be a little tricky unless you can somehow find out its year of birth.
Breeders often put leg bands with various information on cockatiels, including the last two digits of their year of birth.
You can also guess a cockatiel’s age based on certain physical cues, but even that is almost impossible if it’s a fully matured cockatiel without any signs of aging.
The amazing temperament of cockatiels is one of the biggest reasons behind their popularity as pets.
While it can take you some time to earn a cockatiel’s trust, expect it to be very friendly toward you once you do.
Cockatiels are affectionate and love to spend time with the people they love.
Cockatiels actively seek attention and affection from their owners, which is why I’d recommend learning more about their personalities and behavior.
They are great with kids and make great companions for elderly people too.
As I mentioned earlier, cockatiels are intelligent birds. They can be trained to perform tricks of varying complexities.
Even if you aren’t interested in teaching your pet any tricks, it still requires some basic training for its own good.
You’d want to hand-tame your cockatiel so that you can pet and hold the bird without making it freak out.
However, you first need to put your time and effort into earning the cockatiel’s trust.
An untrained cockatiel can be hard to manage and can easily get stressed or aggressive.
Being prey birds, cockatiels are instinctively afraid of everything and everyone (in the beginning – they become affectionate as time goes on).
Cockatiel Speech: Sounds and Vocalization
As I mentioned earlier, cockatiels are capable of vocalizing quite well.
These birds can mimic a variety of complex sounds, including human speech and songs they hear regularly.
You can train your cockatiel to say a phrase by repeatedly saying it to the bird.
Other sounds made by cockatiels include chirping, warbling, hissing, screaming, trilling, etc.
While some of these are signs of contentedness and excitement, others might mean your pet is stressed, scared, or angry about something.
Cockatiels are also known to sing by whistling. This is especially common among the males – they sing to draw the attention of female cockatiels.
You should note that cockatiels are quite noisy and tend to chatter incessantly several times a day.
If noisiness is an issue in your household, you should consider getting a female cockatiel, as they are relatively quiet birds and don’t talk as much as the males.
Exercise and Emotional Needs
Keeping your cockatiel in a cage is fine, but they still need regular exercise for the sake of their physical and mental health.
A wild bird gets to fly around daily, but a pet cockatiel doesn’t have that luxury.
You must take your pet cockatiel out of the cage regularly and let it walk around a bit.
Getting your cockatiel to dance, training it to hop up onto your fingers, and giving it toys to play with can also help provide the necessary activity.
Cockatiels are extremely social birds with strong emotions. You need to spend time with your pet regularly and show your affection.
Unfortunately, pet owners who are unable to make time for their birds often find behavioral problems in their cockatiels
Lack of attention often leads to several indicators of stress, such as screaming, hiding their face, biting, becoming lethargic, and so on.
Fresh food and clean water are, of course, essential to a cockatiel’s well-being.
Cockatiel food mixes are easily available in pet stores. Just make sure to provide your pet with a balanced diet and fresh water regularly.
For a cockatiel, a healthy diet includes pellets, seeds, fruits, veggies, nuts, and (occasionally) worms.
You’ll also have to be careful not to overfeed your cockatiel. If you’re more accustomed to having larger birds, keep in mind that a cockatiel wouldn’t eat as much.
Some foods are meant to be occasional treats only. They’re healthy and loved by cockatiels but can cause health issues if consumed excessively.
Make sure that you feed the right amount and right proportion of food to your bird. For example, pellets and seeds should constitute 70% of their diet, while the rest can be about 30%.
Breeding and Mating Cockatiels
You may breed cockatiels at home, but keep in mind that it takes a lot of effort.
You need to select the right cockatiels to pair together in the first place and help them bond with each other.
It’s highly recommended to first learn how to breed and mate cockatiels in detail before you get started.
Cockatiel Egg Laying and Incubation
You’ll have to provide your cockatiels with a nesting box to lay the eggs in.
The mother will need proper care and a nutrient-rich diet. Laying eggs is extremely stressful on the body and often causes health issues.
Cockatiel egg laying and incubation is a difficult task that all pet owners who want to breed their birds should be aware of.
Female cockatiels can sometimes lay eggs without a mate, although these eggs will be unfertilized and won’t hatch.
Hence, you’ll have to provide them with a nest box and the necessary care even if you don’t have any male cockatiels around.
Raising Baby Cockatiels
Of course, if you breed your cockatiels, you should be prepared to help raise their babies.
Cockatiels take about a year to grow into adults, developing through several stages. As with any other bird or animal species, baby cockatiels need special care.
Taking care of baby cockatiels has several facets, from hatching the eggs to feeding the young, the right temperature to keep them at, weaning them, and understanding what they need at various growth stages.
Common Cockatiel Health Issues
Health issues in pets are always a concern for every pet parent.
Cockatiels are vulnerable to different illnesses of varying severity. Signs of illness may be superficial, pathological, or behavioral.
Some things to always watch out for are lethargy, loss of appetite, puffing up, abnormal droppings, poor feather growth, and so on.
Even if you don’t have any veterinary experience or knowledge, you should at least possess a basic know-how of common cockatiel illnesses.
Some health issues can even be life-threatening if not treated quickly.
Costs of Keeping Cockatiels as Pets
Having a pet cockatiel is great, but one should keep the associated costs in mind before getting one.
These include both initial short-term costs and several ongoing expenses throughout the lifespan of the bird.
Short term costs
Depending on whether you get a regular gray cockatiel or one of the mutations, it’ll cost you anywhere from USD 60 to USD 600.
You should only buy from the top breeders in your state and compare your options to get the best price.
Other initial costs include the cage, food bowls, water dishes, harnesses, etc.
Apart from food and other everyday necessities, a cockatiel also needs regular grooming.
You might think that you can save some money here by clipping its wings and nails yourself, but it is not as easy as it looks.
If you aren’t sure if you can handle it and fear that you might hurt your pet, you’ll have to take it to a vet for grooming.
You’ll have to find a good vet near you for regular health checkups for your cockatiel.
This, again, will add to the ongoing expenses along with any treatment that your cockatiel might need. You’ll also have to buy your pet new toys from time to time.
These are only some of the most notable costs of keeping a cockatiel. You should consider them beforehand and plan your budget accordingly.
Are Cockatiels Good Pets for Beginners?
Cockatiels are one of the best pet birds for beginners, thanks to their gentle and affectionate nature.
Even if you don’t have much experience with pets, you should be able to bond well with a cockatiel.
Besides, they’re great with children and can adapt very well, even in small homes.
With that said, one should bear in mind that a cockatiel still needs a lot of care.
If you’re a beginner, make sure to do your research beforehand and consult a vet if necessary.
I’d advise first-time bird owners to get a female cockatiel. The males tend to be more possessive of people and objects, which means you may easily upset them if you aren’t careful.
What Is the Worst Thing About Owning a Cockatiel?
Every pet comes with its own drawbacks, and cockatiels are no exception either.
While it’s true that cockatiels make great pets, they shed a lot of feather dust and can be quite messy. A cockatiel’s cage requires a weekly cleanup.
You should also watch out for destructive behavior in a cockatiel.
Usually timid and gentle, these birds can turn destructive when they are stressed or upset about something.
Most often, the cause is a lack of attention or territorial ness, but there could be other reasons as well.
Their noisiness is another factor to consider as well.
Cockatiel as Pets: Pros and Cons
If you’re having trouble deciding if you should get a cockatiel, this section should help. Let’s weigh their pros and cons to see if a cockatiel is a suitable pet for you.
- Builds strong bonds with humans and other pets
- Can sing and mimic human speech
- The bites don’t usually hurt
- Smart (can learn tricks)
- Great companions
- Needs a lot of time and attention
Should I Get a Cockatiel? – Things To Consider Before Getting a Pet Cockatiel
Getting a smart and cute pet like a cockatiel sounds great, but let’s consider the practical implications.
You should get a cockatiel only if you’re sure the bird will get at least a few hours of daily human interaction.
The other option is to get a pair of cockatiels so that they can keep each other company.
As long as you don’t mind the noise and can provide the necessary care and attention, it’s a good idea to get a cockatiel.
However, this is an entirely different subjective matter – only you know if you can cater to a cockatiel’s needs and give it a good life.
Birds Similar to Cockatiels That You Might Want To Consider
Parakeets, cockatoos, lovebirds, and conures are similar to cockatiels and make great pets too.
If you’re still evaluating your option or feel that a cockatiel isn’t the right choice, you may consider getting one of them instead.
The following articles will help you compare cockatiels against the best alternatives.
As a very short summary, parakeets and lovebirds are much smaller birds who chatter more and are short-lived.
Cockatoos, on the other hand, are larger and can live for much longer (upto 50-60 years).
Conures and cockatiels are very similar birds and have similar needs and sizes.
I’ve tried my best to cover pretty much everything you should know about keeping cockatiels as pets.
You may check out detailed articles on more specific topics by visiting the various others articles I linked along the way.
Thank you for reading – I hope it has been worthwhile and you’ll find a dear friend in your new pet.