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Cockatiel vs. Budgie: What’s the Difference?

Nicole Cosgrove

Both cockatiels and budgies are cute birds that are known for their alertness, ability to talk and mimic noises, and outgoing personalities. They both make great house pets and get along well with humans of all ages, given that they are well socialized from a young age.  Both types of birds are part of the parrot family, and their curiousness makes them highly interactive.

However, there are just as many differences between the cockatiel and the budgie as there are similarities. Size, looks, and temperament are just a few that potential owners should be aware of. Only by understanding the differences between a budgie and a cockatiel can a decision be made about which bird is the best fit for your family and household. Here is everything you need to know.


Visual Differences

Cockatiel vs budgie visual
Image Credit | Left: Budgie (Paula Darwinkel, Flickr); Right: Cockatiel (Anne Stauf, Pixabay)

In general, cockatiels are larger and longer than budgies, although both types of birds are on the smaller side in the parrot kingdom. Cockatiels typically have grey bodies, yellow heads, and orange patches on their cheeks. Budgies can be a variety of different colors, such as yellow, green, blue, and white. Cockatiels have head feathers that stand up tall, but budgies do not. The beak of the budgie is slightly more rounded than that of the cockatiel. Also, the tail feathers appear longer on the cockatiel than on the budgie.

At a Glance

Cockatiel Pet Breed
  • Average length (adult): 12-14 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 5-3.5 ounces
  • Lifespan: 10-14 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: High
Budgie Pet Breed
  • Average length (adult): 8-7.2 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 1-1.5 ounces
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Sometimes
  • Trainability: High


Cockatiel Pet Breed Overview

Cockatiels are outgoing, friendly, and funny most of the time. These birds are sturdy yet gentle and can get along well with kids of all ages. They like to whistle and can learn to whistle tunes of songs and commercials. They can also mimic sounds like whistling teapots and rumbling motorcycles. These birds can get along with other pets in the household if they are not feeling threatened. Some cockatiels even enjoy singing to their dog siblings.

The birds are native to Australia, where they live naturally in arid regions. They typically spend their time in trees but make their way to ground level when it is time to forage for food. In captivity, they should spend much of their time in a spacious cage with faux tree limbs, leaves, mirrors, and interactive toys. Since food is provided to them in captivity, they do not need to forage.

That said, they still enjoy hunting for food in their bedding and throughout the house when they are let out of their cage to exercise and interact with family members. These little birds are highly intelligent, observant, and easy to train. They make great pets for households of all types and sizes!

Blue Cockatiel
Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

Health and Care

Cockatiels are generally healthy birds and will maintain a happy and healthy life if they get enough exercise and eat properly. However, there is a small chance that a pet cockatiel could get sick. Respiratory disease, candida, and chlamydophilosis or psittacosis are the most common health problems to monitor for.

These birds should eat high-quality commercial food made up of grasses, seeds, grains, and even dried fruits and vegetables. They should also be offered fresh vegetables, like lettuce, carrot chunks, and squash, and fruits, like berries, oranges, and bananas, daily. Cockatiels should be let out of their cage for at least an hour of exercise and interaction every day.


Cockatiels are highly intelligent and easy to train. They can learn to do all kinds of things, most notably whistle and talk. They can also learn to retrieve small items, come when called, and wait in one place until they are told that they can move around again. Training does take time and patience, but daily practice can result in a well-behaved cockatiel that understands how to effectively react and interact with its human counterparts.

cockatiel on training
Image Credit: warriormutz, Flickr


Cockatiels are great pets for all types of households. They can live with other animals, they enjoy the company of children and adults alike, and they do not need a ton of space, so they can be happy in apartment and house settings. They don’t need outdoor space, and they are relatively easy to care for compared to other types of pets.


Budgie Pet Breed Overview

Budgies are social and outgoing, like cockatiels. They love to play and get excited when their family members come home after a long day away. Like the cockatiel, these birds hail from Australia and enjoy living in flocks. The budgie is a fun-loving animal that likes to be held and to perch on places near their human family members when they are out of their cage.

Budgies always seem to be exploring during their waking hours, so owners should expect a great deal of movement and noise out of them. These small parrots do get along with kids, but they require a gentle hand and should always be supervised while spending time outside of their cage. The budgie likes to talk, but only on their own terms.

budgie on a tree branch
Image Credit: jggrz, Pixabay


Budgies need at least an hour of exercise every day to stay healthy and fit. They can get exercise in their cage habitat if there are plenty of toys available to interact with. However, they should be let out of their cage daily to walk, stretch their wings, and interact with family members for extra exercise and entertainment.


Like cockatiels, these birds are easy to train because they enjoy communicating and pleasing their human family members. They can talk but are more likely to whistle instead. They can be trained to sit in pockets and perch on peoples’ shoulders. They are also good at learning how to mimic songs and sounds when exposed to such noises.

budgie on training
Image Credit: Max Exter, Flickr


Budgies are loving little parrots that long for human interaction. They can get along well in any home size and do not require much grooming to stay healthy and happy. Therefore, busy households and those where people are home all day can expect awesome results when adopting a budgie.


Which Breed Is Right for You?

Both the cockatiel and the budgie are great family pets. They have similar characteristics and are both small parrot breeds. They are inexpensive to keep and easy to take care of. So, which one should you pick? It all depends on your personal preferences! Make a list of what you think are the pros and cons of each bird, then sit down with your family to come to a final decision. Once you choose, be sure and let us know in the comments section below.

Featured Image Credit: Zdenka Kincel, Shutterstock, Piqsels

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.