2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Birds

A wild cockatiel
A wild cockatiel
Conservation status

Least Concern (LC)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Cacatuidae
Subfamily: Calyptorhynchinae
Genus: Nymphicus
Wagler, 1832
Species: N. hollandicus
Binomial name
Nymphicus hollandicus
( Kerr, 1792)

Psittacus hollandicus Kerr, 1792
Leptolophus hollandicus

The Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) is a diminutive cockatoo endemic to Australia and prized as a household pet.


The cockatiel (also recognized as the Quarrion and the Weero)is a small parrot relating to both the Psittacidae and the Cacatuidae families. Like other cockatoos, as for example the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, the cockatiel has an erectible crest. Cockatiels and cockatoos in general also share other features, such as the facial feathers covering the sides of the beak, which are rarely - if ever - found outside the Cacatuidae family. In contrast to most cockatoos, the cockatiel has long tail feathers, roughly making up half of its total length. These feathered friends originate from the outback regions of inland Australia, and favors the Aussie wetlands, scrublands, and bush lands. The cockatiel's distinctive pointed yellow crest is held erect when startled or excited, while a crest slightly tilted indicates a relaxed state of mind.

Female hand-raised cockatiel of typical coloring, age 15.
Female hand-raised cockatiel of typical coloring, age 15.

The plumage is generally mid-grey, lighter underneath, with an almost perfectly round orange patch of feathers covering the ear opening (usually referred to as a "cheek patch") and a prominent white blaze on the wings. A row of yellowish spots can be found underneath the wings of female cockatiels, but not on the males. Some other mutations exist, such as the Lutino, which lacks black and grey colour, being a light yellow colour overall. Female Lutinos also have barred tail feathers. Both the cock and the hen have yellow facial feathers: the female has a yellow wash around the beak and eye, in the male, yellow covers most of the head and the fore part of the crest. Male cockatiels are very protective and nurturing of their offspring and are known to be very capable of raising their newborns if the mother is unable to.

Cockatiel lifespans in captivity are generally given as 15-20 years , though it is sometimes given as short as 12-15 years and there are anecdotes of cockatiels living as long as 30 years, the oldest reported being 36 years old when it died. .


A captive-bred heavily pied cockatiel.
A captive-bred heavily pied cockatiel.

This is the only species in its genus Nymphicus. Its relationships were long disputed; it was usually placed into a monotypic subfamily Nymphicinae or even allied with the broad-tailed parrots. But while most other cockatoos are 500 mm to 600 mm in length, cockatiels are normally 300 mm to 330 mm. There are several significant characteristics that ally cockatiels with cockatoos though, including an erectile crest, a gallbladder, and powder down patches.

Mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequence data (Brown & Toft, 1999) has finally resolved the question of its affinities by placing it closest to the "dark cockatoos" of the genus Calyptorhynchus. The unusual, parakeet-like appearance is a consequence of the decrease in size and accompanying change of ecological niche. In spite of all its unique adaptations, features such as the dark plumage, the barred feathers of the female and the orange cheek patch are clear morphological indications of its affinities. Sequence analysis of intron 7 of the nuclear β- fibrinogen gene, on the other hand, indicates that it may be as distinct yet as to warrant recognition of the Nymphicinae rather than inclusion of the genus in the Calyptorhynchinae (Astuti, 2004?).

The cockatiel's scientific name Nymphicus hollandicus reflects the experience of one of the earliest groups of Europeans to see cockatiels in their native habitat. Travellers thought they were so beautiful that they named them after the mythical creatures, the nymphs (Nymphicus means literally "little nymph"). The species name refers to New Holland, an old name for Australia.

Cockatiels are native only to Australia where they are found largely in arid or semi-arid country, but always near water. Sometimes hundreds will flock around a single such body of water. To farmers dismay, they often eat crop. They are absent from the most fertile southwest and southeast corners of the country, the deepest Western Australian deserts, and Cape York Peninsula. They are the only cockatoo species that can breed in their first year.

Cockatiels as Pets

A pet Cockatiel.
A pet Cockatiel.

Cockatiels are popular household pets in many parts of the world. They are actually the most popular bird species kept today. Today all pet cockatiels are bred in captivity, as Australia no longer permits the export of native wildlife, whether endangered or not. Pet cockatiels have been bred to have many different colorations (called mutations). Mutations include lutino, pearl, cinnamon, pied, fallow, recessive and dominant silver, whiteface, pastelface, yellowcheek, and olive or 'spangled.'

Mutations can appear both individually or in a wide variety of combinations such as lutino pearl, whiteface pied, and whiteface lutino (which is often called albino, but is not a true form of albinism). Still fairly hard to find is the rather new 'olive' mutation. An olive cockatiel does not actually have green pigment to its plumage, but rather an overlapping pattern of yellow and grey that create the illusion of a greenish cast.

Many mutations retain the black eyes, beak, nails and grey feet of the normal grey cockatiels, however the lutino, cinnamon and fallow mutations have pink to deep plum red eyes, pink toenails and feet, and a horn colored beak. While most mutations persist into adulthood for all cockatiels, certain mutations like pearl are molted out in the males and retained in the adult females. Sex-linked mutations such as lutino and cinnamon have a higher ratio of female offspring to male due to the mode of inheritance from parents to offspring. Some, very rare mutations manage to change the eye colour of the bird to ruby red, however this is very rare and very few professionals can boast accomplishing this.

If hand-fed as chicks, cockatiels can form strong bonds with their owners. Otherwise quiet birds will frequently make contact calls with their owners, calls that sometimes can be quite loud if the person is out of sight. The cockatiel can, infact, grow so attached to its owner that it will try to 'protect' the owner from anyone that tries to come near it by biting and taking it very seriously. Their popularity as pets is in part because of their calm and timid temperament, to the point that they can even be bullied by smaller but more confident birds such as Budgerigars. Great care and supervision should be provided when mixing cockatiels with other birds. It is not uncommon at all for a larger or smaller bird to maim the cockatiel, creating life-long disabilities and potentially life threatening injuries. However, some cockatiels can "scrap."

Although cockatiels are part of the parrot order, they are better at imitating whistles than speech. Some do learn to repeat phrases, and the males are generally better at mimicry than the females. Cockatiels can mimic many sounds, for example the bleep of a car alarm, a ringing telephone, or the calls of other bird species such as blue jays or chickadees. Also loud weather like thunder.

A Cockatiel with an erect crest
A Cockatiel with an erect crest


Cockatiels are a popular choice for amateur parrot breeding along with budgerigars. This is due to both the easiness of getting the birds to breed and the fairly low cost of the equipment needed

Retrieved from ""