Basic Information Sheet: Cockatiel

Cockatiel – Nymphicus hollandicus


Natural history

Cockatiels originate from the non-coastal regions of Australia. The free-ranging population is very large, and the IUCN lists this species’ conservation status of “least concern”. Cockatiels probably represent the smallest of the cockatoos, although there is some controversy surrounding this classification. Cockatiels are common as aviary birds and they make excellent pets.


Class: Aves

Order: Psittaciformes

Family: Psittacidae

Nymphicus hollandicus

Physical description

The cockatiel is a small parrot (approximately 32 cm or 12.5 in) with an erectile crest and long retrices or tail feathers.


The standard or wild type cockatiel is predominately grey with yellow, orange, and white accents. Many color mutations exist including lutino, cinnamon, fallow, whiteface, pied, silver, olive, yellow cheek, and pearl.

Sexual dimorphism

Male cockatiels have yellow foreheads, throats, crests and cheek patches with orange ear coverts. Females have much less yellow and a barred pattern underneath the wings. Males have solid black plumage under their wings.
Sexual dimorphism is most obvious in the standard or wild type cockatiel. Until maturity at 6 months of age, coloration will resemble that of a female including yellow or white bars on the ventral surface of the wings.


  • Cockatiels are granivores and frugivores. Free-ranging birds feed on grass seeds, grains, berries, and other fruits.
  • Feed companion birds a varied diet to decrease the likelihood of obesity.
  • Since psittacine birds hull seeds before ingestion, they do not require grit. In fact, some individuals will overeat grit when ill putting them at risk for impaction.
  • All-seed diets are deficient in protein, vitamins, and minerals including calcium and vitamin A.


  • Provide frequent water baths or showers to maintain normal skin/feather quality and to help control powder down dust.
  • Cages should be at least 20-24 in (50-60 cm) long and wide.
  • Perch diameter should be approximately 5/8 and 1.5 in (1.6-3.8 cm). Provide at least two perches placed far enough apart that the cockatiel can fly or glide. Sand paper perch covers are very abrasive to the feet, and are not recommended.
  • Cage bar spacing of 0.5-0.75 in (1.3-1.9 cm) is recommended.


  • Cockatiels are sociable birds.
  • Cockatiels can have traumatic “night frights” which usually involve the bird thrashing around its cage in extreme fright.
  • Foraging is an important part of normal daily parrot activity. Teach and encourage pet birds to play and forage.

Normal physiologic values

Resting heart rate (beats/min) Approximately 206
Respiration (breaths/min) 40-50
Temperature (average)* Approximately 41.8°C 107.1°F
Body weight (g) 80-125 Average 90
Mean life span  (years) 12-15 Up to 25y has been reported.
Sexual maturity (months) 6-12
Weaning age (days) 47-52 Parent-raised chicks
Fledgling (days) 32-38
Mean Incubation (days) 19-21 Both the male and the female incubate the eggs.
Number of eggs laid per clutch 3-8 Average 5
Weaning age (days) 42-52
Water intake (average) 13.6 ml/day Considerable individual variation exists
Target environmental temperature Mimic natural environment. Household temperatures of 70-80°F (21-27°C) are generally acceptable, however healthy birds can tolerate hot and cold temperatures.
*A routine avian exam does not include measuring body temperature.

Anatomy and physiology

Anatomic traits of Order Psittaciformes include:

  • Communication of the right and left nasal sinus
  • The only avian tongue with intrinsic muscles
  • Simply syrinx
  • Craniofacial hinge of beak is a synovial joint
  • Ceca absent
  • Gall bladder often absent
  • Zygodactyl foot: two toes pointed backward and two pointed forward


Cockatiels may be restrained by holding the head between index and middle fingers. Support the body with the palm of the hand as well as the thumb and little finger.


Use a 27-gauge needle and 1 to 3-mL syringe to draw blood from the right jugular vein. Collection of up to 1% of body weight is acceptable in healthy patients.

Preventive medicine


Intramuscular (IM) Reasonably safe, most accurate.
Inject middle of muscle mass.
Ideal location –Pectoral muscle mass
Subcutaneous (SQ) Large volumes can be injected, poor absorption. Location:  Inguinal or precrural fold
Intravenous Effective, narrow safety range. Right jugular vein or brachial vein is most commonly used.
Alternative option: superficial metatarsal vein.

Important medical conditions

Infectious Diseases

Non-Infectious conditions

Lutino cockatiels are at increased risk for health problems.

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Adams M, Baverstock PR, Saunders DA, etal. Biochemical systematics of the Australian cockatoos (Psittaciformes: Cacatuinae). Australian J Zool 32(3):363-377, 1984.

Beynon P (ed). BSAVA Manual of Psittacine Birds. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1996. 7-9, 37. Print.

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Harrison GJ, Harrison LR. Clinical Avian Medicine and Surgery, Appendix 4, Philadelphia; W.B. Saunders; 1986. P.662.

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IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. IUCN Red List Web site. 2010. Available at Accessed June 12, 2011.

Lafeber Company. The Cockatiel. Lafeber Pet Birds Web site. Available at: Accessed May 16, 2011.

Low R. Parrots in aviculture: A photoreference guide. Pickering, Ontario; Silvio Mattachione & Co; 1992. P. 82.

Morgan D. Bird Care. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications; 2005. Pp. 15-16, 17-18.

O’Malley B. Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of Exotic Species. Edinburgh: Elsevier Saunders; 2005. Pp. 156-157.

Tully TN. Birds. In: Mitchell M, Tully TN (eds). Manual of Exotic Pet Practice. St. Louis, MO: Saunders; 2008. Pp. 270-271, 276.

To cite this page:

Pollock C. Basic information sheet: Cockatiel. January 7, 2012. LafeberVet Web site. Available at