Cockatiel

Nymphicus hollandicus

Cockatiels are small parrots native to the Australian outback. In the wild they travel in pairs or small flocks and nest in tree cavities near water. Mated pairs form strong, long-lasting bonds; some pairs stay together for life.

In captivity, cockatiels enjoy lots of attention from their owners. They are quite vocal, and can learn to whistle, mimic household sounds, and imitate human speech. Cockatiels can live for 15 to 20 years, with some birds reported to live up to 30 years.

Did You Know?

Mated pairs form strong, long-lasting bonds; some Cockatiels stay together for life.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

Cockatiels are easy to breed in captivity, and most birds available for sale in the U.S. are captive-bred. Importation of cockatiels (and all parrots) to the United States is prohibited under the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992. Although some illegal importation may still occur, wild cockatiel populations in Australia appear to be healthy and not in danger of exploitation from harvesting or habitat loss.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet cockatiel, ask for proof that it was captive-bred. We recommend that you buy a cockatiel with a closed (seamless) leg band. Closed leg bands have to be placed on baby birds before they are three weeks old, and so are usually a good indicator that the bird is captive-bred.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Little Cause for Concern

While other species of exotic parrots have established persistent populations in the U.S., there are no records of escaped or released cockatiels surviving in the wild.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Some Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Cockatiels are intelligent, long-lived birds that require lots of attention for the 15 to 20 years of their lives. Captive-bred cockatiel chicks are sometimes taken from the nest at a very early age and hand-reared by humans, rather than allowing the parent birds to raise and feed their offspring. These hand-reared and/or immature birds may have long-term medical and behavioral problems. It is very difficult to raise a baby bird safely; hand-feeding should only be done by a professional.

Cockatiels are moderately active, may become nervous or vocal. Like all pet birds, they require frequent cage cleaning and proper nutrition (a pellet diet, not a seed diet). Females may experience reproductive problems.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before you purchase a pet cockatiel, 1) ask for proof that it was captive-bred, 2) choose a bird that was raised by its parents rather than hand-reared by a human, and 3) make sure that the bird is fully independent and able to eat adult food. Be sure to research its specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and how to maintain a healthy weight for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Cockatiels can carry the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci that cause psittacosis, or parrot fever. Psittacosis is less common in the U.S., but can be transmitted from birds to humans and is a potentially life-threatening disease. Imported cockatiels have also been found to carry Newcastle Disease, a highly contagious virus that can spread from parrots to domestic and wild birds; this disease has caused devastating, multi-million dollar epidemics in the poultry industry. Captive-bred cockatiels are not likely to carry the Newcastle Disease virus. Cockatiels are relatively dusty birds, which may aggravate the condition of persons with asthma or allergies.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet bird, ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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