Common name: Cockatiel
Latin name: Nymphicus hollandicus
Length: 29-33 cm (11-12.9 in)
Weight: 80-100g (2.8-3.5 oz)
Life Span: 15 to 20 years
Noise Level: Moderate. Males usually sing to attract a mate or at the beginning and end of the day, while females chirp to get the attention of their owner or mate.
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These tiny crested birds have charmed the hearts of humans worldwide based solely on their level of intelligence. Cockatiels are extremely intelligent and very social. They are curious and playful in nature, enjoying interaction with their human “flock”. They are master communicators using their crest to express surprise, interest, or anger. When properly stimulated, they are relatively easy to care for and make wonderful companions. Cockatiels that are constantly ignored can also become cage bound, lonely or depressed. While bored birds can start plucking out their own feathers, a depressed one can even starve itself to death. As bird owners ourselves we cannot stress how important socialisation and attentiveness is for your Cockatiel. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep your Cockatiel entertained and to fill their cage with variety of mind teasing toys. Furthermore, well – trained Cockatiels become extremely devoted to their human counterparts, and are even disciplined enough to enjoy riding around on your shoulder for most of the day. They are very fascinated by shiny objects such as earrings and various pieces of jewellery. They are also intelligent enough to remove these without your notice, so ladies watch out!
Cockatiels have a moderate talking ability with a 25-word vocabulary which is said to be the average. Most males can learn to say a few human words quite effectively such as ‘hello’ or ‘pretty bird’. Once they have completely learnt these words you will most likely find them attempting to join your conversations. These parrots will imitate household noises such as the hum of a microwave, telephone ringing or a dog’s bark. Males are known for being more vocal than female cockatiels, whose chirping is softer. Although the sound of a cockatiel talking is more unclear and muffled when compared to the sound of larger parrots like an African Grey, it’s still incredibly entertaining to hear. The fact that these birds are extremely intelligent and are master imitators means they can eventually be taught various phrases, as well as songs. Check out this little guy for instance whistling the Darth Vader them song from Star Wars:
This little guy is even more impressive singing the theme song to The Adams Family, Darth Vader, and even saying ‘what you doing’:
Feather plucking is a very common complex problem indicating either a physical or psychological problem with your Cockatiel. The causes of feather plucking can be due to disease, allergies, skin toxins, dietary requirements, or parasites. Some plucking is even due to a behavioural response. Observation is key when dealing with a feather plucker. You should bathe your feathery friend frequently to minimise any bacteria or irritants. Avoid giving them any attention for plucking, and that includes distracting them to avoid plucking. Rather commend your Cockatiel when they are playing quietly or when they are resting peacefully. Due to their intelligence, cockatiels need mental stimulation from you and from their environment, so make sure your birds have an assortment of toys to keep them playing. A mirror or two wouldn’t hurt either. There are also a variety of skin soothing products and supplements you can invest in to make sure you cross out any skin related causes of feather plucking.
HOUSING FOR YOUR COCKATIEL
- The cage that you purchase must be as large as possible.
- As a rule of thumb, the cage size should be a minimum of 24″ x 18″ x 24″.
- The bar spacing is very important and it should be more than ½” to 5/8” (1.3 – 1.6 cm).
- Ideally locate it in a quiet corner away from busy or noisy parts of the house. From there they can see people coming and going but aren’t surrounded by activity and noise, as cockatiels are afraid of loud noises.
- Cockatiel cages with horizontal bars on the sides are nice because these little birds love to climb.
- Locate it out of direct sunlight and draughts.
- Variety of toys should be available for your playful cockatiel. 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!
- They should be allowed out of cage on daily basis, so they can play around and stretch their wings.
FEEDING YOUR COCKATIEL
- A commercial cockatiel seed mix is generally regarded as suitable along with a good vitamin supplement.
- Pelleted diets will also provide a fairly balanced feed, however it does not contain the phytonutrients (antioxidant pigments) that are found in vegetables, fruits, grains, and seeds, so should be supplemented.
- You can supplement your cockatiel’s diet with green foods such as dandelion leaves, weeds, carrot tops, celery, watercress, spinach, peas, seedling grasses, and millet.
- Various fruits will also be enjoyed such as apples, oranges, bananas and others.
- Cuttlebones are recommended to help provide calcium and to help keep the beak trim.
- Proteins can be offered in the form of mynah pellets, game bird starter, dog food, and even mashed hard-boiled eggs.
- Grit should not be provided. Although it was previously thought that grit was needed by cockatiels, it has been found that they do not need grit and can actually cause problems if given to cockatiels. Parrots that eat seed whole without shelling it first require grit, but cockatiels shell their seed before eating it, so don’t need grit.
- Fresh clean water should be available at all times. You can also add soluble vitamins and minerals to the water.
- Food and water dishes should be washed daily.
Most handfed Cockatiels have a very sweet, even temperament, and will exhibit a rather curious and inquisitive nature. They can bond closely with their owners and can be extremely affectionate. Small, intelligent, and easy to care for, Cockatiels have graced the homes of bird lovers for many years.
Their engaging personalities and high trainability have put them near the top of the list of the most popular pet bird species.
When cared for properly, Cockatiels can be affectionate and fascinating pets. They are a wonderful species for inexperienced bird owners because of their natural friendly dispositions and curious playfulness. Their dispositions are sweet and convey emotions with their crest.
Of all the parakeets Cockatiels experience the most bird dander or dust. This is indicative of a healthy bird and the ‘powder’ makes their feathers silky-smooth.
These birds are particularly frightful and may have night frights which may cause potential injury. Providing your Cockatiel with a night light is a great mechanism to let them know what’s happening in their surrounds. Remember, like any parakeet – treat your cockatiel like a child, alas a very intelligent child!