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Home > Birds > Male or Female Cockatiel? How to Identify the Differences (with Pictures)

Male or Female Cockatiel? How to Identify the Differences (with Pictures)

two cockatiels_wasi1370, Pixabay

Cockatiels are serious contenders for being one of the most popular birds to own as a pet. And no wonder! They are beautiful birds with gentle and loving personalities. They are also charming, smart, and enjoy spending quality time with their owners.

If you’re trying to figure out if your cockatiel is female or male, however, this can be a little tricky. There are many bird species where it’s quite easy to tell the difference through appearance, and the cockatiel does have some physical characteristics that can help you figure out the gender. But there are certain color mutations that make this more of a challenge.

You can also look at behavioral distinctions, so read on, and we’ll go over the best methods for determining if your cockatiel is male or female.


At What Age Can You Tell the Difference in Gender?

Typically, by 6-9 months of age, young cockatiels have their first molt, eventually leading them to develop their adult coloration. This can also include behavioral changes that can point towards gender.

There are certain behaviors a chick could exhibit that might make you believe your cockatiel is male or female, but it’s usually best to wait until it comes into its adult coloring and behaviors.

Closeup of a blue cockatiel_CapturePB_Shutterstock
Image By: CapturePB, Shutterstock


If you have the more commonly colored cockatiel, such as the gray, fallow, silver, whiteface, or cinnamon, you can use the following as a guide. This relates only to adult cockatiels that have taken on their adult coloration:

  • The male sports a solid-colored yellow face with bright orange cheek patches.
  • After the first molt, they will lose the white or yellow bars found on the tail feathers and the spots underneath their wing feathers.
  • The male whiteface cockatiel will have a pure white face.
  • The female is primarily tan or gray with hints of yellow and duller orange cheek patches.
  • After the first molt, they keep the yellow and gray bars found on their tail feathers and the spots underneath their wing feathers.
  • The female whiteface, like the male, has a pure white face.

These common cockatiels can be physically easy to tell the difference between the sexes, but we’ll have a look at some of the other color mutations.

Color Mutations

Many of the color variations of the cockatiel make the ability to differentiate between males and females more of a challenge. In most cases, you’ll probably have to go by the behaviors instead.

  • Lutino – Females will have faint barring on their tails. A Pied Lutino will not necessarily have any barring, so you’ll need to use other methods to figure out the sex.
  • Pearl – Females keep the pearled markings, whereas the males will lose those markings. A Pied Pearl male might retain some of the pearl markings.
  • Albino – They are also known as Whiteface Lutinos. Unfortunately, because they are pure white, you can’t figure out the sex based on coloring.
  • Yellowface – The Yellowface cockatiel has the same coloring as the Gray, just minus the orange cheek patches. Males have yellow faces and lose the tail and wing barring, and females have gray faces and keep the barring.

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!

The Ultimate Guide to Cockatiels

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.


Behavioral Differences

When you can’t tell by the coloring, there are certain differences in behavior between the males and the females.

Blue Cockatiel
Image Credit: Birute Vijeikiene, Shutterstock


Male cockatiels are much more vocal than females. They tend to be quieter or don’t sing at all when they are young, but once they are around 6 months of age, they start singing and whistling and mimic certain sounds.

Females are less likely to vocalize, but that doesn’t mean that they never sing—they’re just a little quieter than the males.

Mating Behavior

Males are more likely to strut around—you’ll see them sticking their chests out while strutting and engaging in singing at the same time. You’ll see them lift their wings frequently while whistling and singing. They might also try to mate with other objects and toys. You can try placing a mirror in your cockatiel’s cage as males will be quite fascinated with their reflection, whereas females will lose interest quickly.

Females don’t take part in this type of showing off but will instead droop their wings down, raise their rear end, and make soft cooing sounds.


Personality Differences

Parakeet Cockatiel
Image Credit: ariesa66, Pixabay


Female cockatiels tend to be rather reserved and shy and might hold back if there’s a lot of noise and activity occurring. They will stay back and observe and make ready to fly away if they believe there is a threat.

They love cuddling up on their favorite human’s shoulder and will seek out your companionship a lot of the time. Many females can also be rather spunky.


Male cockatiels are typically curious, outgoing, and love to show off. They are definitely noisier and will also enjoy spending time with you as you go about your business. Males will gravitate to the parts of the cage where there is the most activity, including other birds and people.

He’ll even become animated both in hopping around as well as in whistling to get your attention. Male cockatiels are also not shy to display their dislike of anything, whether it’s for food or not gaining your attention.

DNA Testing

The last resort is to get a DNA test done for your cockatiel if you can’t go by any physical or behavioral characteristics. You will need to either pluck a feather from your bird’s chest or take a blood sample (which can be accomplished by clipping the quick in the bird’s nail). You can ask your vet for a DNA kit, or you can order one online. You might be more comfortable asking your vet to gather the sample for you.

You can also have your vet try to sex your cockatiel but, in some cases, it can prove very challenging even for the most experienced veterinarians.


Summing Up

Female Cockatiel Male Cockatiel
Quieter, might screech more Whistle, call, and mimic sounds
Shy and reserved Seeks attention
Seek companionship from favorite people Will call out to greet you
Wary of strangers, might hold back Will come forward where there is activity
Raises up her tail, droops wings, lowers back, and coos Puffs out chest, struts, sings, attempt to mate with toys
Mirror isn’t too interesting Fascinated by a mirror
Gray face with barring on wings and tail Yellow face and no barring


Final Thoughts

So, in some cases, it might be relatively easy to identify whether or not your cockatiel is a male or female, but in others, it’s almost impossible short of a DNA test. In many ways, unless you’re planning on breeding your cockatiel, knowing the gender doesn’t really matter. Having a great relationship and taking excellent care of your pet is what truly matters in the long run.

Featured Image Credit: wasi1370, Pixabay

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