Cockatiels the smallest members of the cockatoo family come from Australia. They sport a crest like the larger members of their family but only grow to a little over a foot. They are affectionate birds and the males especially are very good talkers.
In the wild cockatiels travel in flocks and are very social birds. They are ground feeders eating grasses, seeds, and insects that they find as they forage around the grasslands. They tend to congregate around water sources. All of the cockatiels available in the US are captive bred.
The naturally colored cockatiel has a dark grey body with a bright yellow face and orange cheek spots. These face colors are much more vibrant in the males. Careful breeding has resulted in a number of other color varieties. Some of the more popular varieties are Pied, Lutino, Cinnamon, Pearl, Whiteface and Albino.
In the Pied variety white and yellow replaces about 3/4 of the dark grey body feathers. The Lutino Cockatiels have an all white to yellow body. In the Cinnamon variety the normal dark grey body feathers are tan to brown. The Pearl Cockatiels have lighter colors along the shafts of their grey body feathers and darker edges giving a scalloped appearance, this is usually stronger in females than males. The Whiteface varieties lack yellow pigment so yellow and orange areas are all white. The Albinos are pure white with red eyes.
There are two factors that affect the price of a cockatiel. One of course is color and the other is whether the babies were hand raised. Hand raised babies command a higher price because of the time involved but results in a bird that is more used to human interaction so they tend to be more social with their owners. Depending on these factors prices normally range from about $40 to $150 per bird.
Cockatiels are about a foot or a little more in length and weigh in the neighborhood of 3-4 ounces when full grown. When it comes to cages bigger is always better but a pair can be kept in a cage about 2 feet in all dimensions. About an hour a day minimum outside of the cage is important for socialization and stimulation. Those birds kept in smaller cages will need more time out of it.
Given proper care and nutrition cockatiels normally live 15-20 years but individuals living well into their 20's are not all that uncommon. They are not strong talkers usually whistling instead and the males are usually more vocal than the females but both tend to be quieter than other parrots. A cockatiel's voice is not as clear as some of the parrots but they can develop a large vocabulary that can often be understood by their owner. Cockatiels are usually more vocal at dusk and dawn.
Cockatiels produce a fine dust used to waterproof their feathers requiring at least a couple of baths a week to prevent a build up which dulls the feathers and can cause respiratory problems. Some enjoy the water and will willingly bathe themselves if a bathing container is provided and some don't resisting even a mist bath however this is a necessary part of their care.
Regular care includes daily watering and feeding a nutritious diet consisting of about a third each of seed, quality pellets and a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. The cage bottom material should be changed about 3 times a week, the bottom washed weekly and the cage disinfected monthly.