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Cockatiels are the smallest member of the cockatoo family, Cacatuidae.cockatiel

Endearing Characteristics:

For such a little bird, cockatiels can be really enjoyable companion parrots. Many a cockatiel has been seen snuggled up against the neck of his or her owner.  A hand raised bird is often inclined to enjoy head scratches and some do learn to talk. Typically the male cockatiel have a reputation for picking up sounds more so than the females do. Because cockatiels make a whistling sound naturally as part of their courtship display, teaching a male cockatiel to whistle a specific tune is often a realistic goal. The female cockatiels are not known for being as open to picking up talking or whistling. These tiny birds are big on personality and are equally trainable as any of the larger species of parrots.

Interesting Facts and Quirks:

Cockatiels are mostly ground foragers. Because of this it is important to provide a shelf, access to the bottom of the cage or other flat surface for your cockatiel. Given the opportunity they will spend time exploring the ground as opposed to sitting on a perch all day.

Foraging toys that simulate foraging through grass are a great enrichment item for cockatiel. These little birds also respond well to parrot safe browse such as strands of lemon grass and bamboo.

Studies have discovered cockatiels in the wild will eat over 30 different types of grass seeds, grain and other types of seeds such as sunflower.

Cockatiels are almost always found in a flock situation in the wild. They are a parrot species that often responds well to the presence of another cockatiel or even a mirror. Sometimes access to the mirror can work well as reinforcer for training cockatiels.

Typically smaller parrots do not live as long as larger species. This is true for cockatiels. However there have been cockatiels that have lived as long as 28 years in captivity.

Cockatiels are one of the few parrot species that are sexually dimorphic. This means the male cockatiel and the female cockatiel look different. One noticeable distinction is that female cockatiels have stripes or bands on the underside of their flight feathers. Male cockatiels do not. For many parrot species a DNA test must be performed to confirm the sex of the bird.

A common myth that has been circulating for many years about cockatiels is that your bird will not learn to talk if you whistle to it. It has also been stated that if the cockatiel lives with another bird it will not learn to talk. Both of these statements have been proven to be false.

When it comes to training your cockatiel, millet spray is your best friend. Save this special treat for training and you will find your cockatiel will be an eager participant in training sessions. To learn some behaviors you can train your cockatiel to do, try the DVD “Parrot Behavior and Training. An Introduction to Training.

Potential Behavior Problems:

Female cockatiels can become relentless egg layers. This can become a medical problem for some birds. One problem is that they can become calcium deficient. Be sure to provide access to a calcium source such as cuttlebone to help prevent this.

You can also avoid providing anything that stimulates egg laying such as nest building materials, long hours of daylight and extra fatty diets. If the problem is persistent it is worth visiting your avian veterinarian to explore some medical intervention options.

Cockatiels are also prone to something called “night frights.” During a night fright episode a cockatiel will thrash and flap frantically within the cage. It is as if the cockatiel is startled by something and reacts by trying to escape. When owners turn on the light to investigate, they often find a panting, wide eyed bird. The bird will sometimes continue to thrash for a few seconds even after the lights are turned on. It may take a few minutes before your cockatiel will relax enough to go back to sleep. Sometimes cockatiels will break blood feathers during these panic flights. Fortunately night frights can often be prevented by having a night light close to your cockatiels cage.

Even though cockatiels are small they can also exhibit behavior challenges seen in larger species, such as screaming for attention. The cockatiel scream is much more tolerable than other species of parrots. But ideally you will want to avoid this behavior problem or address it if it happens. You can find more information on how to stop a parrot from screaming for attention at "Stop Screaming for attention".

As mentioned, cockatiels do like to explore the ground. Do supervise your cockatiel if he or she is allowed to roam the house. They can do a number on wood trim and electrical cords. They can also accidentally end up underfoot.

Cockatiel Training Examples:

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In this video clip a lutino cockatiel learns how to step up onto a scale. You can learn more about training medical behaviors from the DVD “Train Your Parrot for the Veterinary Exam

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