Cockatiels are natives of Australia, where they are usually found in pairs or small flocks. They are now one of the most popular species of domesticated birds. They come in a variety of colors: grey-which is their natural color found in the wild, yellow, pied, white, cinnamon and others. They live an average of 15 to 20 years, although we have had cockatiels in their 20’s in the hospital before. While they can certainly make noise, they tend not to be anyway near as loud as some of the larger species of parrots and cockatoos, which can make them a better choice for someone in an apartment, or that has neighbors close by. They can talk, but are better known for whistling, and the males tend to be much more communicative on average than the females.
Their diet should consist of a good quality pellet formula, such as Harrison’s Bird Foods, www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com, which we have available at the hospital. They do like seed, but it should not be the bulk of their diet. You can actually feed them most of the same things we like to eat with a few exceptions. Chocolate should be avoided, as it can be harmful to them, as can avocado. Foods that are high in sugar should be avoided as well. They will enjoy most vegetables, pasta and rice. Vegetables can be given fresh or you can thaw frozen vegetables.
Cockatiels can be wonderful pets for older children. Birds are delicately built animals though, so younger children will need to be closely supervised around them. Cockatiels are very social animals and will need to interact with you daily to keep them happy and healthy. If you know you won’t have time to devote to them daily, but still would like a cockatiel, then you should consider getting two, so that they have a buddy. Buy the largest cage that you have space for, so that they have plenty of room. Also, they will appreciate getting out of their cage on a regular basis as well. Just be sure that you have your windows and doors closed, ceiling fans off, and no open pots on the stove that they might land in if they have not had their wing feathers clipped to keep them from flying. Also be aware of any other pets you might have in your household, such as dogs or cats, who may consider you cockatiel a tasty tidbit.
If you think a cockatiel may be the pet for you, you can find more information at the National Cockatiel Society, www.cockatiels.org and at Cockatiel Cottage, www.cockatielcottage.net. Keep in mind too, that like dogs and cats, cockatiels can benefit from regular veterinary checkups. Birds often hide the fact that they are sick and by the time they are showing symptoms, they are usually very ill. So if you ever suspect your cockatiel is not feeling well, it would be wise to get it examined as soon as possible. They also often need periodic “grooming” appointments to keep their nails trimmed and if you wish to keep them from flying, wing feathers trimmed as well. With a proper diet and good care, your cockatiel will be a friend for many years.