The cockatiel is a perfect pet bird. A hand-raised youngster quickly becomes attached to its owner. The males very easily learn to whistle tunes and can even be taught to talk. Cockatiels are easy to breed in either cages or aviaries. They are a great choice for anyone that would like to go into business raising birds. There is always a ready market for tame babies. Originally from Australia, many thousands are reared worldwide as pets. Cockatiels are also exhibited as a show bird.
The cockatiel now occurs in five well established color varieties. Some of these mutations also cause changes in eye color. Many other color variants have been reported. Some of these are new mutations being established by pioneering breeders. Others are simply combinations of pre-existing varieties or are imaginative names used in sales pitches.
The normal cockatiel is slate grey, reminiscent of a common pigeon. This is the form that exists in the wilds of Australia. A yellow suffusion covers the entire bird. This yellow is especially prominent in the head and crest of the male bird. Youngsters and hens have horizontal bars going down the tail.
The pretty Lutino is the best known cockatiel mutation. The Lutino cockatiel is right behind the budgie as far as popularity is concerned. The Lutino cockatiel is a white bird with variable yellow coloring. The yellow is here the same as the suffusion in the normal, but in the normal much of the yellow is hidden by the grey pigmentation. Lutinos have red eyes. Though not as easy as in the Greys, the sex of the Lutinos can be told through the color. If you look closely, the bars can still be barely made out in the tails of the hens. The males also again have more yellow in the head.
Lutinos are sometimes described as Albinos. This is not a good practice, for the true Albino is a different variety.
In the Cinnamon the grey of a normal bird is replaced by a deep brown. The exact shade is variable. The color of the male is often darker than the hen’s in the Cinnamon.
The Pearl cockatiel has the outer edges of most of the feathers colored, the insides of the plumage being white. This produces a scalloped appearance. A poorly colored specimen might seem to be a normal bird with a few white feathers. The better birds show only a fine penciling of color on the border of each feather.
The Pearl color form is regularly only seen in adult hens. Males Pearls can be produced, but, as adults, they molt out into the normal Grey color. Sometimes they will keep a few white flecked or shaded feathers. Adult males masking Pearl may be discerned by examining the tail feathers at the quill. A small amount of yellow will be discovered in this area. Pearls are particularly attractive in the Cinnamon color variety.
Pied cockatiels are very popular. Here random patches of color are lost. No two pieds look exactly alike. Some have only a stray white feather or two, others are so light that they may be mistaken for Lutinos. Most fanciers prefer birds that are evenly mottled. Pieds can not be sexed by the color of the tail feathers. Surprisingly enough, male cockatiels that are both Pearl and Pied, don’t lose the Pearl markings as they mature.
The White Faced cockatiel, also known as the Charcoal, shows no yellow or orange coloring. The White Faced color is most interesting when combined with the Lutino. This blend gives us the true Albino, a pure white bird with red eyes.
Whatever the color, all cockatiels make great pets and require the same care. If you want a tame bird, get a baby that is being hand fed. If you can’t handle the bird at the time of the sale, don’t expect to be able to play with it at all. Even though all cockatiels are bred in captivity, if the birds are not worked with at an early age, they become independent and wild. No matter how much you try, a rough bird will resent being touched and will let you know it by biting. Only the males whistle and talk. Unfortunately, gender can’t be distinguished when cockatiels are babies. A hand fed female will be a tame pet.
Cockatiels are very easy to feed. A vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched seed or pellet mix is the backbone of the cockatiel diet. Health grit and cuttlebone or mineral block must always be available. Spray millet, egg sticks, honey sticks, and fruit sticks are great as treats. Small amounts of fresh greens, carrot, apple, scrambled egg, corn, or whole wheat bread can be given to round out the diet. Vitamins are mixed with the water to make sure that the nutrition is complete in every way.
If your cockatiel is taken out often for play and exercise the cage only has to be big enough for the bird to flap its wings. If the bird is kept in the cage all the time, a cage thirty-six inches by eighteen inches is the smallest that can be used. No matter what, the cage can never be too big. Make sure that your bird can’t stick its head out through the bars. If something scares the bird, it will jerk its head back and get stuck. In a panic, the bird will keep pulling until it breaks its neck or chokes itself to death. For this reason, large parakeet cages are better for cockatiels than small parrot cages.
The opposite holds true for toys. The cockatiel has a much stronger beak than a budgie. Plastic keet toys will quickly be destroyed. By swallowing the plastic, your cockatiel might harm itself. Use only hard vinyl, acrylic, wood, metal or lava rock toys for a cockatiel.
Temperature is not really important. Anything that is comfortable for you will be fine for your cockatiel. Do be sure that the bird is not kept in a draft. Remember, in the summer, a draft from a fan or an air?conditioner can make any bird very sick.
To be certain that the cockatiel is getting proper rest it is a good idea to cover the cage from dusk to dawn. Interrupting the sleep of any bird is a bad practice but especially harmful for cockatiels. These birds are subject to night frights and can gravely injure themselves by getting upset and panicking during the night. A cage cover and a small night light can be a great help in preventing this problem.