Cockatiel; Quarrion in Australia
32cm (12 ½ in)
about 50cm (20in)
Adult weight: about 90g
Potential lifespan: 20 to 30 years.
Status in wild:
Common in some regions, especially in the north. However, the long, severe droughts of the past decade have had an adverse effect on many species.
Australia, the interior. Not present in Tasmania (except as escapees).
Cockatiels are so often overlooked as companions by people who are seeking something larger and more impressive. They are making a big mistake! These unusual members of the cockatoo family, make perfect and endearing pets if acquired when young.
In the average household, with or without children, I would rate its suitability second only to the Budgerigar. It loses points only on its shrill, far-carrying voice. Young Cockatiels, whether hand-reared or parent-reared, are so easy to handle and of a size that a sympathetic child will not find daunting. Cockatiels are long-lived, inexpensive to feed, and low-priced. Note, however, that females seldom learn to mimic much but males can be brilliant talkers with large vocabularies.
Some people might find it difficult to accept that they need to pay five or six times the cost of the bird for a suitable cage. The result is that too many Cockatiels live in cramped cages not even adequate for a Budgerigar.
The cage should be at least 60cm (2ft) long; the length is more important than the height. One sometimes sees Cockatiels kept in Parrot cages that are higher than they are wide, with vertical bars spaced too far apart. Recommended is a horizontal cage with horizontal bars that allow it to climb about easily and are not spaced more than 1cm apart.
When and Where to Buy
In the UK Cockatiels usually start to breed in March or April, so young birds will be available from May or June. If you are seeking a companion, rather than a breeding bird, do not be impatient and buy a youngster hatched that year during the autumn or winter because it will be much more difficult to tame -despite what a pet shop might tell you.
Wait for a young bird of five or six weeks old and go direct to a breeder. If you buy a parent-reared bird, try to find one that has been handled in the nest on a regular basis and is therefore confident and unafraid around people. If you are looking for young birds for breeding, choose those that have been parent-reared as they have already learned a lot from their parents that will make them good parents.
Cockatiels are designed for fast and long flight. They need to fly and should not be wing-clipped. If they are, they are liable to gain excessive weight, resulting in serious health problem.
In the male the underside of the tail is black and the face and crest are bright yellow in wild-type birds. The female has the underside of the grey tail feathers faintly barred with yellow and the face and crest are mainly grey with faint yellow markings. There are numerous mutations and it is harder to distinguish male and female in some of these but most can be sexed after the age of six or seven months.
Cockatiels are sexually mature by about 18 months old. They can be bred successfully in a colony aviary - unlike most Parrots.
They also do well in breeding aviaries for single pairs and are among the most prolific of Parrots. However, they should not be permitted to rear more than two clutches per year. They can rear five or even more chicks in the first nest but usually are less successful in the second.
If well cared for they can breed for 18 years or more. Male and female incubate the eggs, for about 20 days, and the young leave the nest after five weeks. They then resemble the female but the tail is shorter and the cere pinkish, not grey.
Too readily available -resulting in low prices and careless acquisition and disposal. Breeders should think about limiting the numbers they breed.
A seed mixture formulated for Cockatiels, including canary seed, millet, safflower, buckwheat, oats and a little small sunflower, can form the basis of the diet. They relish chickweed, young leaves of sowthistle and dandelion, seeding dock and seeding grasses. These wild foods are extremely important for pairs rearing young.
At this time a good quality eggfood can also be offered. Spinach and the green leaves of carrot tops will also be eaten. Fruits offered can include apple, grapes and sweet Satsumas. Millet sprays are a great favourite. Cuttlefish bone and mineral blocks should always be available. In addition, a calcium additive should be given to pairs, starting about one month before the female is expected to lay, and continued until the young are removed from their parents.