Avian Expert Articles

Cockatiels Are Cockatoos, Too

cockatiel faceYou might have a cockatoo in your home without even knowing it! Yes, your diminutive cockatiel—the most popular pet bird in the US—is related to the much larger cockatoo. Seriously; there are 21 species of cockatoo and the cockatiel, also referred to simply as the ‘tiel,  is one of them. The cockatiel is thought to be one of the earliest offshoots of the cockatoo lineage, and, when you take a closer look at the cockatiel, you’ll start to see the cockatoo connection.

Crest feathers that they can raise up or down? Cockatiels and cockatoos both have them. That adorable way your cockatiel’s cheek feathers cover the side of the beak when he or she is relaxed? That’s a classic cockatoo pose. Cockatiels and cockatoos are also known for their powdery down feathers. If you share your home with a ’tiel or a ’too, you might notice that they leave an “imprint” of themselves if they bump into a mirror or window, or that housing them anywhere near electronics might mean extra dusting.

cockatoo‘Tiels As ‘Toos

After a bit of debate among taxonomists, the cockatiel was ultimately placed in the monotypic subfamily Nymphicinae (a monotypic species is one that doesn’t not include a subspecies). The cockatiel is now classified as the smallest of the Cacatuidae (cockatoo family). The ‘tiel also falls under the definition of parakeet. But before you start thinking of the smaller, commonly colored blue or green little bird—more accurately referred to as a budgerigar, or budgie for short,—know that parakeet simply means “long-tailed, small- to medium-sized parrot.” Interestingly, it is believed that the cockatiel’s decrease in size, compared to others in the cockatoo family, is a morphological consequence and accompanying change of ecological niche, which is the scientific way of saying that a species evolved to match a specific environmental condition.

All said, there are 21 species of cockatoo. They differ from other parrots not only because of their crest, but also because of their colors. The most popular pet cockatoo species are mostly white, and include the umbrella cockatoo (Cacatua alba), Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), and Goffin’s cockatoo (Cacatua goffini). There are also black cockatoos, such as the palm cockatoo ((Probosciger aterrimus), and red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii), as well as gray ‘toos, of which the cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) is one, along with the gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum), even pink cockatoos like the Major Mitchell’s cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) and Galah cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapilla).

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2 thoughts on “Cockatiels Are Cockatoos, Too

  1. this article is correct in stating that a monotypic species has one species that is not subspeciated but the text states “monotypic subfamily Nymphicinae” which is different. Subfamilies are higher groupings and usually include a number of genera. What makes the cockatiel even more special is that this higher monotypic taxa designation means there is not only one species but only one genus with the one species Nymphicus hollandicus….!

  2. The article does not mention the fabulous looking Moluccan cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis).

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