Normal grey Cockatiel


Cockatiels are curious birds that will snoop around and climb into nooks and crannies, bookcases, cabinets and other tight spots to investigate. These pet birds also enjoy tasting the food their owners are eating. Beak tapping occurs with some cockatiels, where the bird taps their beak on a food dish or perch to get the attention or to motivate someone to let the bird out and play. Night frights are a common occurrence with this pet bird when some shadow in the window or noise from outside startles them. To avoid or minimize night frights, move their cage away from the window so shadows do not startle them and keep a dim light plugged in the bird room. If you went to Australia to look at cockatiels in the wild, you’d find a predominantly gray flock. They still have the yellow heads (the males) and orange cheek patches but their body color is gray. Many cockatiels offered as pets come in this “normal grey” color. The color of gray can vary from cockatiel to cockatiel. In the US, we use the English/Australian spelling of the word gray when referring to the color type of the cockatiel.

Behavior / Health Concerns

Cockatiels will sometimes hiss and sway as a way to intimidate someone they see as an intruder. Cockatiels often swing down beneath their perch to spread their wings for exercise, and they are also known for performing stretching exercises. In the wild, these birds are ground foragers. As pets, cockatiels pick up seed and other food that has dropped to the bottom of their cage. To keep cockatiels from eating their droppings, it is recommended that there be a grate at the bottom of their cage. Common medical concerns for cockatiels include upper respiratory and fatty liver diseases. Keeping your cockatiel on low-calorie, balanced diet will minimize the chances contracting fatty liver disease. Giardiosis, an intestinal parasite is another common medical condition in these birds. The fungal disease aspergillosis usually affects a cockatiel’s sinuses, lungs or air sacs. Cockatiels like to shred or chew the paper lining at the bottom of their cage, however, males and females do this for different reasons. Female cockatiels shred paper during certain seasons for hormonal purposes, preparing her nest site. Males chew on paper to entertain themselves and to satisfy their chewing urge. Cockatiels will “flirt” with each other. Females spread their wings while hanging upside down to get noticed and male cockatiels strut around singing a special melody while standing upright with their wings held out to the side. The male will move up to and away from the female until she signals approval by going into a crouching position on the perch, elevating her tail feathers. Female cockatiels commonly become chronic egg-layers if they are fed a seed and fruit diet because the fat in seeds encourages egg laying and the limited diet is deficient in vitamins and minerals. Egg binding is an emergency female reproductive disorder in which the bird cannot pass the egg out of her oviduct and vent blocking her excretory system.

Expert Advice

“Milder temperament than other parrot species. They make very sweet family birds and are less prone to ‘psychological problems’ than other psittacine birds.”

Liz Wilson, CVT, CPBC

“In my opinion this is the bird of choice for children. Try to buy a male (it is worth the money to have them DNA sexed, you can usually sex these birds by particular feather characteristics but that cannot be done until the bird is just over 6 months of age) because females often become chronic egg-layers which can become extremely expensive and heart breaking as well. Cockatiels commonly have Chlamydiaphila and Giardia, both of these are zoonotic diseases, so proper testing should be done. The males are great talkers! Females rarely, if ever, talk. One other medical problem that comes to mind is articular gout. They are superb flyers, so wing-feathers trims are a must, as with all pet birds in my opinion. However some of these guys can fly even with all of their flight feathers trimmed, so be careful. I love cockatiels. My first bird was a handicapped cockatiel because her mother had removed her toes in the nest box. I made her special perches [that were] flat with felt covering and she did just fine.”

Samuel Vaughn, DVM, Dip. ABVP – Avian Practice

Breed Details

Scientific Name:
Native Region:
12 to 13 inches
Life Expectancy:
15 to 30 years
Noise Level:
Moderate. Males usually sing to attract a mate or at the beginning and end of the day, while females chirp to get the attention of their owner or mate. Males are known for being more vocal than female cockatiels, whose chirping is softer.
Talk / Trick Ability:
Moderate, a 25-word vocabulary is said to be the average. These parrots will imitate household noises such as the microwave, telephone ring or dog bark.