Cockatiels are the smallest member of the cockatoo family, they are easily tamed and make wonderful pets. Normal male cockatiels have bright orange cheek patches and a yellow face, females have a grey face with dull orange cheeks. Many colour mutations are available, some of these can be difficult to sex visually. Cockatiels can live over 20 years, a couple of our patients have nearly reached 30 years old. Average life expectancy is about 16 years.
Housing and husbandry
Cockatiels can be kept indoors in a large cage. They are very social so if kept alone they should have contact with people daily. they can also be kept with other compatible birds in an aviary.
- Perches should be natural wood of varied diameters
- 'tiels are very clever and need lots of enrichment and stimulation
- they are arguably the best beginner "tame" pet bird
- avoid zinc or lead objects as they are toxic.
- avoid sandpaper on perches!
- native Australian tree branches, gum nuts, grasses & greenery are excellent for behavioral enrichment & beak care. See our range of products available at the clinic on display. Many of these come from the Parrot Rescue Centre so your purchase will also help abandoned parrots
- provide multiple toys, e.g.. at least one cuddly, one to chew and destroy and then replace, one reflective, one to preen.
- a single concrete perch helps wear the nails and beak.
- they sleep on the highest perch so make the highest perch broad and in the "safest' position
Diet Feed the "BIG 4" food groups every single day, i.e.. a combination of
1) Parrot pellets (eg Harrison's fine, Pretty Bird cockatiel)
2) Dark green vegetables
- Appropriate vegetables include spinach, silver beet, grated carrots, beans, peas, broccoli, seeding grasses, etc.
- Fruit may also be offered esp apple , as can multi-grain bread, pasta, ,rice, chicken bones .
3) Small mixed seed, all given fresh every single day
4) Low fat low -sugar human foods
- Dr Phil's Tiel loved sharing healthy human foods with him like: Wheatbix, oats, toast, pasta, vegetables and almost all low fat low sugar foods.
Avoid chocolate, caffeine, alcohol or avocado.
- Chlamydiosis - Usually causing respiratory disease or conjunctivitis and potentially transmissible to humans!
- Malnutrition - usually due to too much fat in the diet or simply from an all seed diet - leading to decreased vitality and longevity and xanthomas and lipomas which are fatty growths that usually on the wings or abdomen.
- Heavy metal toxicity from chewing lead or zinc containing objects – see separate article for more information.
- Giardiasis, a protozoan parasite that causes itchiness and "on off' loose droppings. Potentially Transmissible to humans
- Egg binding, egg yolk related peritonitis
- Injuries from erratic flying, and panic attack in the cage
- Poor wing clipping - psychological and physical injury (with each fall) - see the wing clipping page.
- Depression from not enough stimulation, companionship or interactive toys. 'Tiels need branches to strip, toys to play with and lots of owner interaction.
- We recommend a health check (with testing as appropriate), when you acquire your new cockatiel and each year thereafter, to check for and prevent common illnesses listed above.
Birds often hide signs of illness and may only appear unwell when they are very sick. It is important to seek advice early if your bird looks unwell.
Do not downplay or deny the potential for serious illness as most medical problems are more easily and cheaply treated if addressed early.
· Pet Cockatiel Vet Question: My pet cockatiel sneezes more than my other birds; should I be concerned?
Pet cockatiels feathers produce powder from powder down feathers. This powder can make its way into the nose and can result in a bird sneezing As long as the sneezing is not continuous, and the sneeze is dry it may be normal in your cockatiel. However, there are other causes for sneezing that will require treatment, if in doubt your bird should be seen by an avian veterinarian.
· Pet Cockatiel Vet Question: My pet cockatiel has a bald spot on the back of his head behind his crest; is this normal? Many pet cockatiels – especially the color and pattern mutation cockatiels– have an area behind the crest devoid of feathers. Usually normal. Dr Phil Has a bald spot on his head! Is it normal? Maybe
· Pet Cockatiel Vet Question: My pet cockatiel poops in his water bowl; can this make him sick? Yes Many pet birds tend to poop in their water bowls, and many also dunk food, including pellets, vegetables and seeds, into their water. causing excessive bacteria to grow in the water and making the water unhygienic. Ensure fresh water is available at all times .
· I catch any diseases from my pet cockatiel?
Yes, including psittacosis a respiratory tract disease and Giardia a intestinal parasite. We recommend testing for these diseases
· My pet cockatiel has laid an egg. Should I leave the egg with her, or take it away? Should I take her to the vet?
If your female cockatiel hen has laid an egg, it is usually best to leave the egg. Cockatiel will generally continue laying eggs until they have completed a clutch of eggs. It is generally best to leave the egg(s) with the hen so that she thinks she has completed her cycle. Remove eggs after about 2-3 weeks. If she becomes aggressive guarding her eggs removing her from the cage for brief periods often results in her returning to her normal beautiful self. ( “Out of sight”= “out of mind”) If these simple procedures are not working then she should be seen by an avian vet. If severe problems are occurring the vet may recommend a hormone implant to try to stop the reproductive behaviour.