Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder)
Posted Jun 26, 2013
I might be a little biased in my title - I just adore cockatiels. They were the third species of bird I've ever owned, and the first one to capture my heart in a way I didn't know a bird could. I still can't get over my first cockatiel, who died from a kidney tumor. I don't really get teary eyed over deceased pets, but thinking about my Angelito can still bring me to tears.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Appearance: I love cockatiels because they are small to medium birds (so size-wise, they're just my size), but mostly, they have that adorable little sun patch on their cheek. Not all cockatiels have this, of course - there is a white-face mutation where the 'tiel is white with no sun cheek. There is also pastel variations, in which the sun patch is muted. But for me, I like my 'tiels with a sun patch on their cheek, and a crest on top of their head full of expression and character!
Friendly to owner - it depends on the bird and your willingness to work with them. I often work with my tiels - talking to them, teaching them to step up, eating with them (even letting them eat from my dish at times), and keeping mind of their moods and behavior. Of the four 'tiels I've owned, three were very friendly and loving. My current tiel, however, is rather aloof. If I want to spend time with him, it has to be on his terms. I work with him on occasion, but he can be rather difficult - hissing at me or just running away from me. That's not to say that he is not hand tamed, but he's a little more content to be left alone on some days.
Friendly with Family - the thing with birds is that they can attach to one person - the rest are of no consequence. If the family members are willing to work with the bird or even just talk to him on occasion, the bird may be friendly. The most my birds would ever do, however, was sit on someone else's hand. That may have been a fluke, though, since most people are completely put off by the idea of being anywhere near a bird...
Trainability - 'Tiels are eager to please! They tend to be very curious towards their human if worked with, and by extent, may learn a few whistles and tricks from their owner. If the owner is willing and has a good relationship with their bird, I see a cockatiel being able to learn quite a bit from their owners.
Activity Level - This is one of those things that it depends on the owner how active a bird can be. If a bird is really curious and loves his owner, he may want to constantly be in the middle of the action. Birds are flock animals, after all! I see many birds, however, that do nothing all day but sit by their favorite toy - they may not be engaged enough by their owner. Then there are birds like my current 'tiel who, with the right environment, can finds ways to cause mayhem. 'Tiels are curious - given the chance, they can have a very high activity level! You just have to make sure they don't chew apart your valuables because of it.
Song-vocal quality - I love a 'tiel's voice. It's not screechy (usually), and can be very sweet. I adopted my current 'tiel because he had a very melodious quality to his voice. If I could describe the 'tiel's song in a few words, I would have to say, "curious whistlers".
Song-vocal frequency - Oh, man. My other 'tiels were never such a problem. But my current tiel? He can reach a pitch when he screams that reverberates my ear drums. It might just be a luck of the draw thing - most tiels I've heard sound like whistling squeak toys and have a very tolerable volume. But my tiel now? I dread talking to him sometimes because I'm afraid he'll start screaming.
Mimics sounds-words - Cockatiels are good whistlers: it fits very close to their natural song voice to begin with. You can teach a tiel a whistled tune with enough patience and repetition. They don't have a good word repetition, however. If they do mimic words, it's usually very hard to tell what they're saying. However, I've had my tiels do a whistle version of a word! For example, when I used to call for my dog "Sadie" to come in at night, I would hear my tiel whistle two notes that sounded remarkably like how I said "Sadie", just without the syllables attached.
Health/Vigor - unfortunately, cockatiels are very popular pets, and they have become widely overbred. They are prone to kidney tumors (like the one that took my first tiel's life), and live an average of about 5 to 8 years, when they have the potential to live 20 to even 30 years! My godmother's cockatiel lived to be almost 30! But they are a hardier species than budgies are, and if issues are caught on time and they are treatable, I've had my birds bounce back from illness! My current tiel survived a skin tumor and removal or about 1/3 of the skin on his breast.
Maintenance/care - Cockatiels are pretty hearty birds, and you don't need to jump through hoops for them, usually, to keep them nice and clean. Be sure to give them activity style toys, shredders, maybe even foot and chew toys as well. Give them several different sized perches made of different kinds of materials for them to choose from, or their feet will suffer for it. Tiel's prefer to climb, so a tall cage is better than a long cage. And tiels love to explore, but be sure to keep an eye on them, as they can pick things up off the floor you never noticed was there, and ingest things that are bad for them.
Seasonal aggression - During spring/summer, when the days are longer and they begin to go into hormonal mode, their temperament might change. I've had one tiel become even more interested in me, while another one started plucking his feathers out of sexual frustration. It depends on the bird, so keep an eye on them. One thing that is pretty consistent, though - if your bird lays an egg, they will become HIGHLY territorial. I've been bitten by friendly birds and had other birds chased away when my females laid eggs. They don't have to have a mate or be fertile for the females to get protective - they just do, and it's not pretty. They will break skin if they bite you, even if they have never done it before. Oh, and when they start laying on their eggs, be prepared for having to clean up a horrible mess. Birds will hold in their excrement when they are on their eggs, so when they get off of it, they have hours worth of excrement to pass all at once. It smells horrible and makes a terrible mess. The best way to avoid this is to try and mimic winter season as much as possible so they don't lay eggs in the first place.
Low cost to own - Initials costs may run you quite a bit, but they don't really cost too much on a daily/monthly basis. They don't eat too much, and can eat fresh fruits and veggies you have on hand anyways, as well as grains and such. I buy special pellet food for mine, which is pretty costly, but better than seeds, any day. The time when cost becomes a lot is when they get sick. Avian medicine is a specialty in the animal world, and so it can get expensive very quickly. Just be sure to keep an eye on your pet so a problem doesn't get too out of control too quickly!
Overall, I think cockatiels have the charm and charisma to win most people's hearts - my fiance actually wants to get another cockatiel now that he's gotten to know mine, whereas before, he never liked the idea of having birds! Nurture their curiosity, spend time with them, and enjoy them while they are here, because they can disappear from your life so fast and unexpectantly. But they could also be around for a lot longer than you planned! So be wise in their care, and love them lots!