Cockatiel Care

Cockatiel Care

Origin: Australia
Species: Nymphicus hollandicus

Of the many parrots and parrot-like birds available, the cockatiel appears to be one of the ideal pet parrots. In popularity it occupies a position between the budgerigar (parakeet) and the larger exotic parrots. Their popularity is well deserved because of their gentle nature and elegant beauty. Cockatiels are very sweet, lovable birds that love attention. Many like to be scratched or stroked behind the crest or on the cheeks. The cockatiel has a relatively long life span of about 15 to 20 years or more in captivity. Cockatiels are very affectionate birds that will often learn tricks to delight their owners. They can mimic speech and sounds, but their voice is very high-pitched so it can be hard to hear the words. However, their whistling ability is well known, and many tiels can be taught whole songs with practice. Cockatiels are approximately 13 inches in overall length and need to be housed in a suitably large cage. Cockatiels are very social birds and will appreciate time out of their cages every day. Time spent in a cage will be more fun for your bird if you provide it with toys and something to watch or listen to. Cockatiels see colors and like to chew and manipulate moveable objects.


It is very difficult to sex young Cockatiels. This is because until the first molt at about 6 months, all Cockatiels look like females. However, if you catch a young bird trying to whistle a lot, it is probably a male. It is much easier to sex a Cockatiel after the first molt. Males of most color mutations get bright yellow heads, while females have only traces of yellow on the face. The underside of the tail feathers is solid colored in males, and barred in females. A Pearl Cockatiel is especially easy to sex after the first molt- the males lose their spots, while the females keep them! Both sexes make good pets, although it is recommended that you not put mirrors in the cages of male cockatiels as they will strut about to show off and can become aggressive to protect this “mate.”


The diet should consist of seeds and pellets plus all the fresh, frozen or canned (without salt) vegetables they want. Some vegetables and other favorite foods are fresh greens (romaine, kale, spinach, chard, carrot tops, herbs, chickweed & dandelion), vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, beets, broccoli, etc), fruits (apple, berries, etc), cooked rice, beans or pasta, brown bread, corn bread, unsalted nuts, tofu, cheese, and scrambled or hard-boiled egg, pasta, and some cereals such as Total, Shredded Wheat, Cheerios and others which are low in sodium and sugar. Cockatiels won’t eat a lot of fruits, but most of them will at least taste apples, kiwi, bananas, mangos, strawberries, cranberries and some melons. Since vitamin A deficiency is frequently found in pet birds, try to provide vegetables that have a high amount of vitamin A or Beta-Carotene in them. These include carrots, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. Most Cockatiels love breads, muffins and cookies with carrots, pumpkin or sweet potato in them. In fact, most foods that are good for you are good for your bird too! However, there are some foods that should never be fed to birds: avocado, rhubarb, alcohol, chocolate, and any foods high in fat, sugar, salt or caffeine. And, for those picky eaters who prefer not to eat pellets, try putting the pellets in with their other foods All green food should be given fresh daily and obtained from clean sources and be sure that anytime you give fresh foods to your birds that you remove them from the cages within a few hours or they become a bacterial breeding ground. Calcium is a must for your birds. Provide them with cuttlebones and mineral blocks at all times. If they won’t eat these, you’ll need to scrape them onto your birds’ food. Cockatiel hens are famous for egg binding problems. Single pet hens WILL lay eggs, they just won’t be fertile.


Bathing is natural for tiels. It helps keep feathers clean and skin moist. It also keeps down the amount of dust the cockatiels put out. Use a plant mister or give a dish with water. Cockatiels grow down feathers that disintegrate into a fine dust. Keep this in mind when considering cage placement.


Cockatiels are very playful. They should be given as large a cage as possible. Make sure the spacing between bars is no greater than 3/4″ and make sure there are plenty of horizontal bars to facilitate climbing. Add toys to keep your bird amused and content. Make sure your bird has adequate room or play and exercise. Cages which have more floor space are much better, especially for birds who spend a lot of time in them. Since cockatiels are ground feeders in nature, a larger space gives them more room to move about. Use a grate on the bottom of the cages. This keeps the birds from eating their droppings and spoiled/ discarded foods which can be a major cause of bacterial and fungal problems in captive raised birds. You can line the tray with black & white newspaper (never colored!), brown paper bags, or paper towels, all of which need to be changed daily. Do not use kitty litter, ground corn cob, or crushed walnut shell to line the tray. These not only grow mold easily, but can be fatal if ingested. Pine or aspen shavings (never cedar!) can be used, but are very messy. Shavings tend to blow everywhere!


Try to provide a variety of perch sizes and materials. Perches with varying diameters and shapes, such as branches, help exercise the feet. If a bird is using the same size perch all the time, it can cause foot problems later in life. If you use natural perches, please, make sure you are using safe wood and only from trees which have never been treated.


Cockatiels are intelligent and can become bored. Providing your bird with lots of toys in the cage will keep him entertained, especially if he is alone. Wood toys are also good for keeping beaks trimmed. Use a variety of toys and rotate them. You can buy bird toys or make your own from items around the house or purchased at craft stores. The possibilities are unlimited.

Wing Clipping

Keep both of your bird’s wings properly clipped. The bird will stay much more tame, and it also reduces the risk of the bird escaping through an open door or window. Clipping wings is not painful, as you are not actually cutting off part of the wing, rather you are just trimming the long flight feathers. These trimmed feathers will be replaced by new, long ones at the next molt, and the bird will be able to fly again unless you have it re-clipped. Have an experienced person or veterinarian clip the wings for you, as doing it wrong can cause the bird severe pain and bleeding. Also, make sure you have both wings clipped, never just one. Having only one wing clipped is dangerous, as the bird is off-balance, can’t control its movement well, and it may injure itself.

Night Frights

Cockatiels fear being unable to see things at night. They can have what is referred to as “night frights” which almost looks like some sort of seizure. They’ll flap around the cage wildly and can even injure themselves. It is a good idea to have a night light near their cage. Not covering their cages can help eliminate night frights. If you do cover a cage don’t cover totally, but leave at least one side uncovered. During a night fright, some feathers will often get damaged. If one of these happen to be a blood feather, try to remain calm and remove it. If you don’t and the bird has further frights or bangs the broken feather on something, it can continue to bleed. Too much blood loss a small bird can cause it’s death. To remove a broken blood feather you would grasp it with a needle nose pliers close to where it enters the skin. Generally it is a wing or tail feather. In this case, hold the wing or tail where you will be removing the feather. Jerk firmly on the feather with the pliers to remove it. Using your fingers, place firm pressure on the spot where the feather was removed until all bleeding stops, usually a minute or two. If you cannot stop a blood feather from bleeding, this is an emergency. Call your vet immediately.