Cockatiels are far less demanding than the larger parrot species. In fact, they are relatively easy to take care of, and, if well socialized, make very loving and amusing pets.
Life Expectancy and Diet:
Cockatiel lifespans in captivity are generally given as 15-20 years, though it is sometimes as short as 12 to 15 years. On the other hand, I have heard of several cockatiels that lived 30 years and even longer.
The contradictory opinions may be based on the fact that so much more information on bird nutrition and bird care is available now resulting in healthier birds and longer lifespans.
In the 80s and 90s basically all that pet owners would feed their pets were seeds resulting in nutritional deficiencies food additives, illness and premature death. The second generation of recommended bird nutrition focused on "processed pellets" that were contaminated with artificial flavoring, preservatives and other unhealthy . Birds on that diet didn't fare much better. Instead of dying of "fatty liver" and other diseases caused by seed-only diets, they died of visceral gout and other like diseases caused by the chemicals in their diet.
If you observe birds in the wild, they will eat a variety of things, fresh fruits, vegetables / plant matter, some seeds, of course, and then often even some insects. By duplicating the original healthful diet of our parrots owners are now enjoying healthier and happier pets.
I compare cockatiels pretty closely in personality to the African Grey. Albeit cockatiels are far less destructive and demanding than the larger African Grey, of course. Both cockatiels and African Greys are generally not really CUDDLY, but they do like to hang out with their 'human mates" and be preened by them. However, they generally do not like to be man-handled by people.
Hand-fed, well-socialized cockatiels can form very strong bonds with their owners. Otherwise quiet birds, they will frequently make contact calls with their owners, calls that sometimes can be quite loud if the person is out of sight.
Their popularity as pets is in part because of their calm temperament, to the point that they can even be bullied by smaller but more confident birds such as Budgerigars and the far more aggressive Lovebirds. Great care and supervision should be provided when mixing cockatiels with other birds. It is not uncommon at all for a larger or smaller bird to maim the cockatiel, potentially creating life-threatening injuries.
Personality and Talking Ability:
Cockatiels are generally better at imitating whistles than speech. Some do learn to repeat phrases, and the males are generally better at mimicry than the females. Cockatiels can mimic many sounds, for example the bleep of a car alarm, a ringing telephone, or the calls of other bird species, such as blue jays or chickadees.
Input from AvianWeb Visitors:
Judy Collins wrote as follows: " I lost my 25 year old cockatiel (a male Pearly) about 4 years ago. His name was Peppercorn and he TALKED a blue streak, with a repertoire that included: "Heather's a good girl." (Heather was one of my cocker spaniels.) "Whatcha doin'?" "Peppercorn's a good bird." And when I covered him at night, on cue he said "Night-night Peppercorn." So, I'm personal proof that cockatiels DO talk. I've also had good luck with parakeets talking."
Terry Jinings wrote as follows: "Our cockatiel started talking at 3 MOS. of age. He is now 3 years old. He speaks very clearly. His name is "Chilly Bird". He greets people with "Hi Chilly Bird, give me kisses. He says "Love You", "Go Chilly", "Night- Night". Although everyone in his world is Chilly Bird---He does call the neighbor lady by her real name which is Carmie Kay. He speaks as clearly as any person. I cannot believe you say cockatiels do not talk. We got Chilly 2 HOURS after he was hatched, hand raised him and he's the greatest."
Kerrie described her pet cockatiel as follows: " I have a cockatiel that talks. He's grey and white, just over a year old now and says a few phrases. In the morning when we come out he says "Good Morning", he also says Cheeky Boy What ya doing, Come On, he does the mexican "ariba", and possibly some other ones I can't think of right now, and there's a few things he's muttering lately that we can't quite catch what he's saying. He's a clever little boy ... The funny thing is is that he can whistle perfectly, but my husband can't, so on occasions, he's doing a real breathy not quite there whistle - it sounds hilarious. He whistles quite a few tunes, it usually takes no longer than a month for him to learn something perfectly, but it's taking a while for some reason for him to whistle the "Addams Family" theme tune. He copies ring tones on mobiles perfectly, and finds it great fun to chase after your toes on the floor like a dog playing with you. My birds are put in their cages for about 3 hours every day, it's the cross over time when my husband leaves for work and the kids come home from school. Apart from that they have free run of the house, though they mainly stay in their favourite spots. They are all treated like family. "
- Sonja from Serbia: Describes her pet "Cico" featured to the right as follows:
"I have had a lovely male cockatiel whom we have loved and cherished for eight years. [M]y little one could say about ten words, like: my husbands name, his name and nicknames (Cico, Cicko, Ciko), 'Come here, come here!' (in Serbian language, of course). [I]t took him only the first year that we had him to learn all this. He also learned to whistle several long tunes. [T]he only true recipe for [teaching] them to do tricks or to talk is just loving them with all your heart and they'll reciprocate. "
"No bird will ever bite, scream or pick her feathers without a good reason. I strongly believe that ( I do, however, also believe that birds should never have been put inside cages in the first place, but that's the whole different issue to discuss). Cico has NEVER bitten anybody in his entire life, though he was a very shy bird. I guess he didn't have a reason to... Whenever we had guests in our apartment he would always try to come near them and kiss them on the mouth, just like he did with us. "
- "He just loved humans since he had never experienced anything bad from them." Sonja, grieving owner of Cico featured to the right. She submitted a heart-warming story about how Cico and his life.
Melanie: "Hello, I was reading about some parrot species’ ability to talk and I noticed you said you have never heard cockatiels talk. I can say they certainly can talk. I’ve heard of quite a few who can talk. My 5 year old cockatiel learned to talk from an early age after I hand tamed him. He can say “hello pretty boy” and “hello Peanut” when he looks in the mirror, also “Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty booooooooy” when he REALLY likes what he sees (eg. His girlfriend) “dance” when he bobs up and down, “peekaboo” when we play peekaboo and “wowowowow!” when he lifts up his wings."
Tamera Wolsey was so kind to share this information: "I had a cockatiel for 13 years that never shut up. He knew many phrases, and he was very cocky. I have videos of him talking, but he recently passed away. "
Leanne M: "We have 6 cockatiels, 2 were only brought today and are very young. So hard to say how they will go, but we have 2 cockatiels that we also got at a very young age and both can do chicken noises, both say hello. They will even copy the brushing your teeth noise, if they are on you while your brushing your teeth, and they have copied many other whistles and so forth. It is cute as when they do it :D I am pretty sure if we had kept to only the one bird that he would have learnt many more words. It has to be something you repeat all the time, sometimes we are sure we hear good boy out off him as well... "
Amy Ryen reports that her cockatiel called "Cookie" is able to say "Cookie Bird". Her daughter repeatedly said Cookie Bird as she would get her out of her cage.
Training your Cockatiel:
- Web Resources: Cockatiels are generally easy going and behavioral problems rarely are an issue with them. However, cockatiels that have been neglected or abused in the past may have developed some issues that may need to be addressed. Valuable tips on parrot behavior and training.
Other Web Resources
They do deserve a large cage -- more of a parrot cage than those tiny cages available at the general pet stores (which I would use for no more than carrying birds in). You need room for toys. Your cockatiel needs to be able to "roam around", flap its wings -- do the things birds like and need to do for their well-being. The more time they spend in the cage, the larger the cage should be. I put together an informative website on bird cages, safety considerations, and things to consider when shopping for one.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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