|Unique Avian Solutions
for Breeding, Genetics,
and Companion Parrots
|Copyright © Linda S. Rubin | CockatielsPlusParrots.com
|Companion Bird Articles
|INTRODUCTION TO COCKATIELS
©1999 Linda S. Rubin
CF Genetics Consultant & Panel Judge
All Photos and Articles “All Rights Reserved” by Author & Photographers
Written permission required for reprints.
First published in the June 1999 issue of BIRD TIMES magazine and on BIRD TIMES website
|c. 2011 Danielle Kuhn
|"If we were suddenly denied the pleasure of all our birds except one, we would unhesitatingly choose a
cockatiel to be that one pet." This quotation, from the widely read book Parrots and Related Birds by Henry
Bates and Robert Busenbark, epitomizes the feelings of cockatiel enthusiasts who have experienced the
unique joy of owning a tame cockatiel. In addition to its delightful, loving personality, a cockatiel is relatively
easy to tame and makes an excellent family pet and devoted companion bird. They are also easy to breed
and come in a myriad of color mutations guaranteed to fit most price budgets.
The cockatiel, Nymphicus hollandicus, is a small parrot. As the sole member of its genus, it rightfully belongs
to the cockatoo family known as Cacatuidae, sharing many of the characteristics of its larger relatives. Like
other cockatoos, the cockatiel has a retractable crest which it raises up and down in response to alarm,
excitement and other emotions. Owners can learn to understand their bird's emotional state in part, by
observing the position of its crest.
Just like cockatoos, cockatiels generate a "powder-down" which is responsible for the white powder that
gives unbathed birds a "dusty" feel. While regular bathing is highly recommended, owners should use only
plain, clean water. It is important not to administer any additives to the bath water or shower spray, because
foreign substances could interfere with the natural powder-down that protects the cockatiel's plumage.
Cockatiels generally don't defend themselves well and can be at the mercy of dogs and cats. Even small
children can unintentionally harm a cockatiel and should be taught how to properly hold the bird and gently
stroke its crest.
While cockatiels make excellent family pets, select one person, initially, to be in charge of training. This will
help the new bird to become familiar with the trainer and develop trust more quickly. Once the bird settles in
and is responding to training, it can gradually be introduced to other members of the household.
Obtain a young bird. Cockatiels are fully weaned and independent of their parents by 8 to 10 weeks of age.
This is the perfect age to tame a bird and teach it to eat a well- balanced diet.
Older birds are more difficult to train and require more work and patience. It is also more difficult to convert
an older bird to a healthier diet, if it has not learned to eat nutritious foods. If you must have an older bird, be
certain that you will have time to work with the bird on a daily basis. Training must be done consistently.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than to see a bird condemned to sit in a cage because it has not been
properly trained by its owner.
If you do not have the time to train your new bird, it is best to purchase a hand-fed baby. Hand-fed babies are
taken from the nest at 2 to 3 weeks of age and fed a formula several times a day, by hand, until the chick is
weaned. This is the best method to produce tame birds. The act of gently handling the chicks during feeding
causes the birds to become tame. They lose their fear of human hands and associate them with food.
One exception to purchasing an older cockatiel is acquiring a bird which is already tame, or was hand-fed
as a baby. However, some hand-fed birds, if ignored for long periods of time, can revert to a more wild
demeanor. It is important older that birds demonstrate their tameness by stepping up on a person's hand,
to show they have not become "hand shy." Although formerly tame birds can be retrained -- especially if
they show interest in people -- it will take time and patience on the part of the owner to work with a shy bird.
While hand-fed cockatiels are generally confident and willing to step up on a friendly hand or finger, new
owners should realize it takes time to nurture a growing relationship between you and your new bird. As you
begin to get to know each other, over time, a bond of trust will develop. Your bird will soon learn to fly to you,
sit on your shoulder, and show interest in being part of your daily activities.
Today, cockatiels are bred in great numbers and many pet shops specializing in birds offer young, hand-fed
babies, purchased directly from bird farms and local breeders. However, even if a bird is advertised as
"hand-fed," it doesn't guarantee it will be entirely tame and trusting. Some large breeders hand-feed birds in
mass production; feeding chicks as quickly as possible without spending adequate time to gently handle
each bird. Other breeders choose to raise alimited number of birds and spend more time handling chicks
during feeding, to produce tame, trusting babies. They usually feed by spoon or syringe, imitating the parent
bird's natural "chug-a-lug" head-bobbing movements, which are more satisfying to the chick. Such breeders
pride themselves and base their reputations on raising very tame, hand-fed babies.
Another advantage many breeders choose is to band their babies with closed, seamless leg bands placed
around the chick's foot. Leg bands offer permanent proof of identification and usually include the breeder's
code if the bands are registered with a national specialty organization.
The Cockatiel Foundation (CF) sells closed, coded bands to its members. A band includes a personally
assigned band code with one or more numbers and letters, the society'sinitials, the number chick, and the
current year stamped on each band. For example, CF-3R-77-99 would stand for the organization's name,
Cockatiel Foundation, the breeder's code 1R, the identification number of the chick #77, and the year the
|chick was bred, 2007. The breeder's code is kept on file with the membership/band coordinator who can trace
the code back to the breeder. The breeder would then be able to inform the purchaser about the bird's
background, according to records kept. This is an excellent safety back up should the bird ever escape, or
change hands to a new owner.
Closed banding also offers proof of pedigree. Professional breeders and exhibitors typically breed one pair
of cockatiels to a cage, to be certain that the birds they produce belong to the parent pair. The birds are
usually banded between 10 and 14 days of age with a closed, seamless leg band carrying the breeder's
code described above, which provides lifetime identification. Larger babies may be banded even earlier.
After the age of 2 to 3 weeks, it is close to impossible to slip a seamless band onto a bird's leg since the foot
has grown beyond banding size. If a cockatiel is exhibited at a show, the breeder lists the bird's band number
on the entry form, because only closed-banded birds are eligible to receive points towards their
championships for the top 10 placements at cockatiel shows.
If the breeder wishes to sell the bird, a pedigree card will include a place for the breeder to list the bird's
band code. Many hobby breeders who keep records of their birds often offer birth certificates which include
the bird's band code, color variety, date of birth, gender, family tree, and other pertinent information. CF will
soon offer its members the opportunity to purchase pedigree records and birth certificates. Qualifying
exhibitors may also earn their champion and grand champion certificates.
Closed-banded birds are definitely the way to go to assure your bird will carry permanent identification,
throughout its life, should you ever need to prove it's yours.