Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Basics About Cockatiels:Everything you need to know about the species.

I am a big believer in keeping animals in accordance with their lifestyle in their natural habitat. It only makes sense to me that if one is going to take care of a wild creature, they should be able to accommodate that animal to feel like it is in a similar environment to its natural one. In order to provide the best home for your cockatiel you need to know where they come from and some basics about their personalities and physical characteristics. Although cockatiels are one of the most adaptable birds to an owner's home and have become very domesticated, they are still "wild" and the characteristics they possess for living in nature really help explain why these little birds are the way they are.

Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) originated in Australia, where they can still be seen flying wild today. In fact, the cockatiel is the most widely distributed hookbill on the Australian continent(The Cockatiel Handbook by Matthew Vriends). Australia has a subtropical climate thus cockatiels often do better in warmer conditions. In their natural habitat they live in open terrain with scattered groups of trees. Cockatiels are also nomadic and spend most of their days searching for food, mostly seeds of acacia and spinifex grass on the ground. However, they are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything from berries to insects. As you will see cockatiels will also be opportunistic feeders with their owners. Frequently,my cockatiel has wanted to try just about anything I am eating. One should be warned that just because your cockatiel may want to try something you are eating does not mean it is good for them and does not mean they should have any of it!

Toxic foods include:

  • Alcohol

  • Avocado

  • Caffeine

  • Chocolate

  • Dairy products

  • Raw eggs

  • Salt (in moderation is okay ie:cooking with)

  • Soda

  • Sugar

  • Uncooked beans
There are also other foods and plants which pose a danger to cockatiels.

Your cockatiel will want to try what you are eating because the species is very "flock" orientated. In the wild cockatiels usually live together in groups from 12 to 100 birds. They are not solitary creatures and when in captivity the owner takes over the role of the flock. Your cockatiel will imitate you with respect to food and actions. Cockatiels are birds that strive for companionship, an innate characteristic of the birds. Since they are ground feeders they are often a tempting target for birds of prey; therefore, nature has equipped them with an extremely swift and strong flight to flee from danger. This is explains why cockatiels in captivity, even after having their wings clipped can still to some degree fly and should NEVER be left out of their cage or aviary when alone.

Cockatiels came to Europe for the first time as pets in the late 1800s. The word cockatiel originates from a Portuguese word meaning "small parrot." Most cockatiels are from 11.5 to 13.5 inches in length, including the almost 7 inch tail! The cocks weigh between 80 to 102 grams and the hens weigh between 89 to 92 grams. My cockatiel, Loki is three years old and currently weighs 84 grams. A healthy cockatiel should fit within these weight requirements, as obesity often occurs because of a lack of adequate exercise for captive birds. Obesity leads to premature death and many other health complications.

Both the male and female cockatiels have similar coloring and it can be hard to distinguish between the sexes if you are not sure what to look for. During the first four months I had Loki I thought she was a boy! Males and females are mainly gray in color, with their forehead, face, and throat being yellow. The cheeks are orange. Females have a much lighter yellow face and the orange is more pale. The main distinguishing feature between males and females is the horizontal barring or stripes on the underside of the females tail. Make sure to look for these differences when going to pick out your cockatiel.


  1. I have an Albino Cockatiel and the underside of it is plain, no lines or anything so does that mean its a boy!???

  2. My Cockatiel died today. She was just a baby. I loved her so much. May she go to heaven. Good-Bye Bella I will always love you.

    1. Oh no! Do you know what he died from? It doesn't seem like you had him for long.

  3. im hoping to get a cockatiel this week! Any advice?

  4. i just bought my cockatiel today. I named it Gus though all of its charateristics implies he is a boy on his tail there is a bit of striped color would though the rest is a boy signs would he be a boy or a girl