Cockatiels are one of the most common parrots in captivity and actually belong to the same family as the cockatoo. Hand-raised cockatiels can be quite personable and gentle. Although they can speak, they more typically whistle and chatter. Cockatiels need a lot more care to stay healthy than most people expect. Cockatiels need balanced diets (not just seeds), spacious cages with different heights of perches and different diameter perches, access to direct sunshine, and regular baths to stay in peak condition.
A cockatiel needs lots of opportunity for climbing and hopping around its cage. Perches should be placed at different levels so that your cockatiel can fully explore the cage. Perches should vary in their diameter so that your cockatiel may flex its feet in different ways as it moves from perch to perch.
Cockatiels appreciate toys. There are a variety of wooden and plastic toys available at pet store that are appropriate for this species. Small pieces of notebook paper, paper towels, or plastic bottle caps (such as from the top of a 2 liter soda bottle) are other readily available home-made toys. It may be best to avoid toys with mirrors as some cockatiels become obsessed with them and treat their image as a mate. Avoid toys with metal pieces unless you are sure the metal is non-toxic. Do not use charm bracelets or other metal trinkets as they may have dangerous metals such as zinc and lead that can be deadly if chewed.
Cockatiels, like other birds, need access to sunlight. The ultraviolet-B rays in sunshine help maintain a normal skeleton by allowing a bird to make vitamin D3. This is then used to allow absorption of calcium from the diet. Putting your cockatiel near a window may help allow for normal circadian rhythms but glass and window screen block the ultraviolet-B rays. Getting your bird outside in the sun is the most effective way to provide for access to ultraviolet- B rays. A bird should be monitored closely while outdoors however to ensure it does not over heat or fly away. If you do not have a safe way to give your cockatiel access to unfiltered sunshine, a safe alternative is to provide a lamp that emits ultraviolet-B, such as Zoomed's Avisun 5.0. These lights should be 12-18 inches from the bird and used for around 6 hours a day.
Cockatiels produce a fine powder that helps waterproof their feathers. You may notice this powder on the surfaces around your cockatiel's cage. A regular bath can help keep plumage clean and bright and clear out any debris in a cockatiel's nostrils. Some birds will bath on their own in their water dish or a designated “bird bath” dish. Others enjoy being misted with a squirt bottle.
As with other species of psittacines, it is recommended that the majority of the diet be in the form of a pellet. Fresh vegetables, fruits and grains should make up the remainder. To learn more about general diet recommendations for psittacines click here. It is important to note that some cockatiels require less pellets in the diet and do better when they have some seed mixed in. Although this seems to be the case more for the color mutation cockatiels than the standard grey, it is still slightly unpredictable which cockatiels will develop these issues. Therefore, it is a good idea to make diet changes under the supervision of a veterinarian. If you are switching your cockatiel to a pellet diet and need some help please refer to our handout on tips for diet conversion here.