Cockatiels are one of the most popular pet birds in the United States, and for good reason: They are curious, friendly, and easily trainable and even enjoy the occasional cuddle. Cockatiels are native to the semi-arid regions of Australia and are members of the Cockatoo family.
Almost all color variations of Cockatiels are due to naturally occurring genetic mutations that have subsequently been bred for — except the Grey Cockatiel. The Grey Cockatiel is the original color variation that was brought from the wild and bred as a pet, but they are no less beautiful than their more colorful cousins. Cockatiels began to be bred in captivity in the early 1850s, and it took until the 1950s — almost 100 years — before these unique mutations began, but the Grey Cockatiel is the original color.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the personality of these beautiful birds and how to properly care for them. Let’s get started!
Origin & History
Cockatiels are native to the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia but tend to always stay close to water, namely scrublands and bushlands. The species is largely nomadic and will constantly move to wherever food and water are readily available. They are known to fly down to the ground to forage for food and live in fairly large flocks, making them highly social creatures. They readily breed in the wild and are easy to breed in captivity, making them far more affordable than most other parrot species.
These birds are outgoing, friendly, and extremely comical, making them a popular pet bird. In the wild, these birds live together in flocks and are highly social, and tamed Cockatiels consequently tend to bond strongly with their owners. This is why the Cockatiel is not a great choice of pet if you are away from home frequently, and at the very least, you should get a pair if this is the case. These birds can get bored and lonely quickly, and they need a great deal of social interaction, either from their owner or a partner.
Cockatiels are relatively quiet birds compared to other parrot species, although they do whistle and can learn to mimic a limited vocabulary of words. Males are more vocal than females and more attention-seeking, whereas females are known to be more docile and easy-going. Cockatiels are highly intelligent birds that can recognize their owner’s faces and voices and can easily be taught to mimic words and perform tricks.
Speech & Vocalizations
While Cockatiels are comparatively quieter than many other parrot species, they still have plenty of different vocalizations, including whistles, warbles, and cheeping. They are most vocal at sunrise and sunset, like most parrots, but they will vocalize quietly throughout the day too. Males in particular are more vocal and inclined to burst into song during the day. Like most parrots, Cockatiels will revert to a low hissing sound when they feel threatened or unhappy, accompanied by tightly held feathers and a held-back crest.
Happy and content Cockatiels will quietly grind their beaks and let out a warbling sound, usually when they are falling asleep or are ready for bed. While their vocabulary is not as extensive as other parrot species, Cockatiels are capable of mimicking a few dozen words. Again, males are more inclined toward vocalization and learning speech than females.
Grey Cockatiel Colors & Markings
Grey is the natural color of Cockatiels in the wild, and mature males will have an entirely grey body except for a characteristic white stripe on each wing, a yellow face and crest, and orange cheeks. These orange cheek spots are far more prominent in mature males and are dull and may not even be visible in females and young chicks.
If you’re curious about the many color mutations and types of cockatiels, we can’t recommend the book The Ultimate Guide to Cockatiels enough!
This beautiful book (available on Amazon) features a detailed, illustrated guide to cockatiel color mutations, plus helpful tips on housing, feeding, breeding, and generally taking excellent care of your birds.
Caring for the Grey Cockatiel
Grey Cockatiels are highly social creatures that live in vast flocks in the wild, and as such, they need regular, almost constant interaction with their owners. These birds become bored and lonely quickly, so if you are away from them frequently, we highly recommend getting them a partner. If you notice your Cockatiel plucking out their feathers incessantly, this is a sure sign of loneliness. Try and take them out of their cage and interact with them as much as possible, especially if they don’t have a partner.
They need a cage with plenty of space to stretch and flap their wings, and as they love to forage on the floor in the wild, their cage should mimic this environment as closely as possible too. Try hiding treats on their cage floor to keep their foraging instincts stimulated.
Like most pet parrots, Cockatiels need their wings clipped a couple of times a year. You can learn to do this yourself, but it does take precision and skill, and you may be better off taking your bird to a professional to avoid any mistakes. They also need regular nail clipping — two to three times a year— in order to prevent injury to themselves and other birds.
Common Health Problems
Cockatiels are healthy, hardy birds in general that suffer from few health issues, and they have a long lifespan of up to 20 years or more to prove it! The main concern is malnutrition, and their diet needs to be carefully monitored to be sure they are getting all the required nutrition. Vitamin A and calcium are the most common deficiencies, especially in birds that are fed mostly on seeds.
Parrots in general are experts at hiding illness. This is a self-preservation mechanism in the wild, as predators will often aim for weak and sick birds. By the time your Cockatiel is showing signs of illness, it has likely been around for some time and they’ll need treatment as soon as possible. As the owner, you’ll know your bird better than anyone and should be able to notice subtle changes in behavior that may indicate illness. Some of these sign include:
Diet & Nutrition
Variety is key in the diets of any parrot species, and many pet bird owners make the mistake of feeding their birds on seeds as their main diet. While seeds are a great addition to a Cockatiels diet, they should only make up around a third of their daily food intake because they are high in fat and do not contain all the essential vitamins and nutrients needed for optimum health. Commercially available dry bird pellets are the best choice, provided that they are of good quality, because they are specially made to provide your Cockatiel with all the essential nutrition that they need.
Besides seeds and pellets, your Cockatiel’s diet should also be supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables. This includes carrots, apples, and bananas to name a few, and fresh is always best. Dark leafy greens like spinach and orange veggies like carrots and pumpkin are a great source of vitamin A, a common deficiency in parrots. Cuttlebones from cuttlefish are also an ideal addition to their cage because they can provide essential calcium and help keep your bird’s beak trim and healthy.
Cockatiels are fairly active birds that love to climb. Perches, ladders, ropes, and plenty of toys should always be available in their cage to provide them with essential mental and physical stimulation. But even with a large cage and plenty of toys, time outside their cage is essential and you should allow them a few hours a day outside to allow them to stretch their wings, keep them entertained, and keep them socialized.
An important point to note is that Cockatiels and most other parrots love mirrors and can easily spend the entire day fawning over their own reflection! While this is fine in small doses, it can also prevent them from doing any exercise and should be kept to a minimum. We recommend removing any mirrors from their cage for this reason.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Grey Cockatiel
If you have decided to bring home a Cockatiel, we highly recommend adopting a bird from a shelter. There are many well-meaning, would-be Cockatiel owners who could not deal with the large responsibility of owning one of these birds, so you’ll be giving an innocent bird another chance at a loving home. If you decide not to go with the adoption route, dedicated breeders are the best option because they generally have a genuine love for the birds and will raise and breed them in good conditions.
Finally, try and avoid buying a bird from general pet stores. These birds are often bred purely for monetary gain and are generally not healthy or happy specimens. This is a huge generalization to make, but in our experience, you are far better off buying a bird from a breeder or adopting a bird in need of a home.
Grey Cockatiels make great pets, and their wide popularity is a good indication of this fact. These birds are incredibly loving and affectionate and form strong bonds with their owners, and they are even known to cuddle from time to time! With that in mind, these birds need a ton of attention and are not a good choice for owners who are away from home frequently, as they will quickly become depressed. They also have long lifespans, so bringing home one of these birds is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
Grey Cockatiels may not be the most colorful parrots in the Cockatiel family, but they are beautiful nonetheless and will make a great family companion!
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay