|Scientific Name||-||Nymphicus hollandicus|
These attractive little parrots are considered part of the cockatoo family (Cacatuidae). As a member of this family, they display their cute little erectile crests, as well as have their male/female colorings and their nesting behaviors. Young cockatiels are more slender than the adult, have incomplete feathering on the head, extensive barring on their breasts, and pinkish to light grey bills. Young birds reach full size at about 9 months, though they begin to moult at about 6 months and will continue to moult yearly from then on. The adult cockatiel weighs 3 to 4 ounces and is 12 inches from beak to the tip of the tail. The adult generally has darker feathers and beaks. Male cockatiels generally have brighter yellow heads and cheek patches, as well as prominent crests. Most cockatiels live 12 to 14 years, though they can live as long as 20 to 25 years.
Genus: Nymphicus Wagler, 1832
Species: N. hollandicus
Binomial name: Nymphicus hollandicus
Cockatiels are not solitary birds by nature, so will always prefer the company of their own kind. They can be kept in pairs (hens with cocks) although if just keeping a few birds together, either sex should be fine. For larger aviaries it’s usually best to keep more hens than cocks – otherwise the cock birds may fight over the hens. You can also mix pairs of Cockatiels with other small parakeets such as budgerigars although if kept in a breeding aviary you shouldn’t mix more than 2 species.
Cockatiels love climbing and stretching their wings, as well as playing. Keep the quantity of toys and accessories in the cage light so that you don't inhibit the bird's movements. They enjoy a variety of toys such as seed treats, swings, ladders, bells, and mirrors. Tree branches and wooden chews provide excellent exercise and keep the beak trim. Bright shiny plastic toys are for parakeets, not cockatiels! Never give them rubber toys!
A tame cockatiel will enjoy a playpen outside of the cage. It makes a superior cockatiel toy and can be equipped with ladders, perches, swings and hanging toys. 10 to 12 hours of rest are needed each day for a healthy, well adjusted cockatiel.Housing
Cockatiels are active and playful and should have a large cage. Opinions on the minimum size varies, but a good rule of thumb is at least 20 inches by 20 inches wide, and 26 inches tall as a bare minimum. The spacing on the cage bars should be no more than 3/4 inches (any larger is a safety hazard). Horizontal cage bars offer the best opportunity for climbing and exercise. There should be space to place at least a couple of perches at different levels with enough space to comfortably move between them. Many cockatiel cages come with a removable bottom tray for easy cleaning.
The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Change paper bottoms daily and litter coverings every 2-3 days. Weekly you should clean and disinfect the cage. Wash and completely dry the perches and toys whenever they become soiled. Sand floors in aviaries should be renewed annually.
Cockatiels in the wild eat a wide range of seeds, grains, and vegetation. A quality cockatiel mix makes a good basic diet although supplements may also be required such as cuttlefish which acts as a vitamin supplement, environmental enrichment, and also helps grind the beak down. Small pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables may also be given as treats and fresh drinking water should always be available. Certain foods can be harmful to your Cockatiel - avoid giving your pet lettuce, avocado, lemon, potato, or any sweets or drinks designed for human consumption.
However, with both seeds and pellets a wide variety of other foods should complement the diet. A variety of fresh vegetables and fruit should be offered, although persistence might be needed before your bird will try new foods (particularly if they are accustomed to an all-seed diet). Proteins such as hard boiled egg, legumes, and cooked meats can be offered in moderation. Sprouted seeds are also an excellent way to add variety to your bird's diet.Reproduction
These birds are prolific breeders and will breed at just about any time of year. Hens over twelve months old are mature enough to breed, but only a maximum of two clutches per year should be allowed and breeding in the heat of summer should be avoided. Cockatiels lay between five to seven eggs, usually on alternate days. Both the hen and cock share the incubation, which lasts from 18 to 21 days. After hatching the chicks grow rapidly. They fledge at around five weeks of age, and can generally feed themselves by the time they are seven to eight weeks of age.Handling
With patience, Cockatiels can become quite tame although it is essential they are trained from an early age, and by one person only. The first step is to get the bird used to being stroked inside its cage – use a stick or perch, not your hands. Start by gently stroking its chest a couple of times a day, then encourage it to jump onto the stick. Next, repeat the whole process through the door of the cage rather than the bars. Finally, repeat again, using your hands this time instead of the stick. This is a gradual process that may take several weeks but usually works in the end.
To pick up your Cockatiel, ensure your palm covers its back and wings while your middle and index finger surround the bird’s neck. Be gentle – Cockatiels will bite if they feel stressed. If catching an aviary bird use a padded rim net and never try to catch it in mid flight - always wait until it is perched safely.Colour Variations
In the wild, the cockatiel is predominately grey. There have been a variety of colour variations, or mutations produced over the years, resulting from domestic breeding which are generally referred to as Pied, Pearl, Cinnamon, Lutino, Silver and White Faced. There are other mutations available, such as Platinum, Olive, Fallow, Spangle, Platino, Pastel Face and Yellow Face, however we'll concentrate here on the more popular varieties. The basic pigments in the cockatiel are yellow, red, and black. The first mutation is the Pied, which has white and yellow spots on their bodies wherever they lack black pigmentation. The second mutation is the Lutino, which is where they lack black pigmentation; the third mutation is the lovely Pearl, where they have white and yellow feathers with dark grey borders. After the male moults he loses his pearling sometimes just a faint hint remains, while the females pearling remains. The fourth mutation is the Cinnamon, where the black pigmentation turns brown. The fifth mutation is the Silver, a paled grey resulting because the black pigmentation has been partially reduced. Sixth is the White Faced, a variety where there is no yellow and no orange cheek spots and is available in all the other mutations such as Pied, Pearl, Cinnamon, Lutino and Silver.
Cockatiels are sexually dimorphic, which means males and females are visually different. Female cockatiels have small white dots on the tops of the tips of their flight feathers and black barring and stripes on the undersides of their wings and tail. However, all cockatiels have the markings of a female until they are six months old, after that, the males lose these features. Male cockatiels also have brighter orange cheek patches and usually have a greater ability to talk.
Cockatiels are beautiful, small-bodied birds that have varied colorations from all grey to all brown. Some popular types are: grey, lutino, white-faced, cinnamon, pied and albino. A single bird can also be a combination of any of these or a color “mutation” of any one or more. Cockatiels have a proud posture, small dark eyes and a long tail. All cockatiels have a head crest, which the bird can raise or lower depending on mood and stimulation. Cockatiels are a “powder-down” bird. This means they have an extra powdery substance in their feathers. This powder can be very irritating to those owners and handlers with allergies and asthma. If you, or a family member, have these issues, a different parrot species may be more suited to you. Other “powder down” birds include cockatoos and African greys.Diseases:
The cockatiel is a very hardy bird. However, signs of illness to be aware of are if a bird shows a lack of activity, the feathers are ruffled, or if it shows any signs of weight loss (weight loss can be quick and fatal).
Some of the common illnesses and injuries your cockatiel could contract are broken wings or legs, cuts and open wounds, overgrown beaks and nails, lameness or sore feet, feather plucking, feather cysts, weight loss, heat stroke, shock, concussions, egg binding, indigestion, eye disease, mites, watery eyes, colds, tumors, Psittacosis, coccidiosis, French molt, goiter, E. coli, Aspergillosis, conjunctivitis, constipation, diarrhea, arthritis and rheumatism.
Set up a hospital cage where you cover all but the front of the cage and add a light bulb or heating pad to keep the interior cage at a recommended constant temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove all perches and put food and water dishes on the floor. If you don't see improvements within a few hours, an ailing parrot should be taken to an avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.Signs of a Healthy Bird:
A healthy bird should be perky, active and alert with bright, clear eyes, cere (fleshy nose area) and nares (nostrils). You should observe your bird eating and drinking throughout the day, although they may prefer to eat when you are eating, as they are flock oriented animals. Your bird should appear well groomed with neat, bright feathers. The feathers should be mostly smoothed to the body at rest - not continually fluffed. The feet and legs should be smooth and free of lumps, scabs and rough scales. Birds vocalize regularly with chirps, clicks, whistles and learned words. They enjoy communicating and mimicking. Your bird should be interested in communicating, but may be shy or intimidated around new people or in new environments. A healthy bird is confident and inquisitive, although cautious and aware as well.