If you are going to be owning a bird for the first time, you may want to take a close look at the cockatiel. This family friendly bird is the perfect choice for beginners, since it is easy to care for and adaptable. Most cockatiels are happy to cuddle up to their owners, especially if it means they’ll be getting a neck scratch, but they also can be fairly good talkers and whistlers.
While cockatiels are one of the best smaller talking birds, they certainly aren’t on the same level as the African grey. Your bird will have a high, little voice and will be able to learn about fifty words if you work with it consistently and it has the desire to learn to talk. Some cockatiels simply prefer to whistle and will learn several complicated tunes, but will refuse to say as much as ‘Hello’ to their owners.
If you have family members with allergies or asthma, they may be affected by the dander your cockatiel sheds. These birds, like African greys and cockatoos, have quite a bit of dander. If you decide to get a cockatiel despite the possibility of allergies, be prepared to spend time each day misting your bird’s feathers to help keep dander down. You may also need to consider buying a plexiglass cage to keep your bird from spreading seed hulls, dander and dust where it would irritate your family’s allergies.
If you decide that a cockatiel is right for you, you will need to make another decision – which color mutation you want. Cockatiels have been raised in captivity for so many years that it is no surprise that they come in a wide range of colors.
The standard grey cockatiels are the most common. Males have a bright yellow face with orange cheek patches when they mature. Cinnamon cockatiels are an attractive tan color mutation. Male cinnamons also develop a yellow face and bright orange cheek patches as they mature.
Pearl cockatiels have white pearl-like spots on their wings and chest. However, when males mature, they lose their pearl spots. Normal pearls look like grey cockatiels and cinnamon pearls look like cinnamon males.
Pieds are also very popular. These birds have grey, cinnamon, or pearl splotches on yellow or white bodies. A clear pied is almost all yellow with color on the wings.
Lutino cockatiels, whiteface and yellowface cockatiels are also available. Lutino cockatiels, with their bright yellow coloring, are very popular pets. However, of all the cockatiels, lutinos are the most high strung, often given to ‘frighting’ for no apparent reason. There are exceptions, but for a first bird, you may want to consider a different color mutation.
Finally, once you choose your cockatiel, you will need to select the right cage for it. Although you do not need to be concerned about having your bird bend wires with his beak, you do need to take a close look at the cage spacing. If your bird can stick his head through the bars, it may decide to stick it back in through another set of bars instead of simply sliding it back out.
More than one cockatiel has gotten stuck doing this and it can prove fatal if the bird is not discovered in time. For this reason, be sure you look for a cage designed for cockatiels. The spacing between the bars should never be wider than 3/4 of an inch (1,91 cm).