Cockatiels make great pets for people who love birds. These birds are intelligent and affectionate, and generally good-tempered. They grow up to about 45cm, which is bigger than a Budgie, but smaller than some of the larger birds such as Cockatoos.

The Cockatiel known as the ‘Normal’ is dark grey in colour, with a yellow head and facial orange patches on the male, and more muted colours on the female. Other varieties include the ‘Cinnamon’ which has light brown tones, the ‘Platinum’ with silvery shades, the ‘Whiteface’ and the ‘Yellowface’, amongst a number of other mutations.

This breed of bird is most closely related to the Black Cockatoo, with whom it shares a number of colour patterns on the plumage such as dark feathers and orange and yellow patches.

Cockatiel behaviour

These birds can be quite playful, and express their happiness in various ways such as bobbing up and down, hanging upside-down and tail wagging. A sad or upset Cockatiel may display feather plucking, depressed behaviour and even have cold feet. A content and healthy bird generally has warm feet.

If a bird is frightened he may lift his head crest upwards, and if in a more aggressive mood his crest will be flattened against his head. On a curious bird the crest may be somewhere in between the two. If a bird hisses this means he is feeling very threatened and it is best to leave him alone so you don’t get bitten! However there is no need to worry about beak grinding as Cockatiels do this when they are content.

In a strange or new environment a bird may face the wall away from you for a few days. He is just a little frightened and needs time to adapt to his new home.

Caring for a Cockatiel

Diet
In the wild these birds mostly eat seeding grasses, wild berries and plant or tree shoots. Hence in captivity, a seed-only diet is insufficient. Cockatiels also require some green leafy foods such as carrot-tops, spinach, lettuce, kale or watercress for example, and orange/red foods like nasturtiums, carrots and berries. Seeding grasses are also nutritious. The birds should also be given cuttlefish for calcium and a mineral block. Specially formulated mixtures for Cockatiels also provide nutrients in a balanced ratio. Other beneficial foods include occasional oats, grainy breads, mashed boiled eggs, sprouted seeds or beans and cooked beans or pulses.

Housing
The cage or aviary for your bird needs to be large enough for him to fly around, and there needs to be access every day to fresh water. Natural perches, especially those from Australian native trees are good for his feet as well as for chewing or nibbling on. Branches with leaves or gum nuts provide entertainment as well as natural perches and chewing surfaces.

Health care
Like people, birds are constantly exposed to bacteria and viruses, and whether they pick up disease may depend to a large extent on their resistance due to the state of their immune system, and their environment. To help your birds stay healthy:

– Make sure the floor of the cage or aviary is kept dry. Also keep the floor clean from droppings and food scraps as these may harbour micro-organisms.
– Always change their water daily, unless using a drip-feed system in which case weekly replenishing may suffice.
– Daylight exposure not only gives them access to Vitamin D but also helps to dry out their cage. However it’s important to keep your bird or birds well-sheltered in hot or rainy weather.
– Remove foods which are wet or moist from the aviary as these are more likely to harbour micro-organisms.
– Keep rodents and other vermin away from your birds.
– Make sure the aviary or cage is well-aired but not draughty.
– Help keep your birds more secure and relaxed by ensuring wild birds or other animals cannot access their home. Provide hiding spots away from cats and dogs. This shelter also acts as protection from wind and rain.
– Check the birds for signs of illness such as fluffed-up feathers, sleepiness, loss of appetite, changes in behaviour and activity or mood.
– Remove bullies to help ensure the security of your other birds.
– Quarantine new birds for a few weeks, and remove any sick birds from the others.
– Worm your birds every 2-3 months.
– Make sure your birds get 10-12 hours of peaceful sleep every night.

Taming / Training
Keep training sessions short and positive, and be gentle with your bird. Do not reach in to grab the bird, coax him out instead, teaching him to step onto your finger. Cockatiels may also be trained to do tricks and some may learn to talk. There are many resources available to help guide you in training your bird.

Finally
Give your birds lots of love and interaction, and hopefully they will reward you with the same.