GETTING STARTED WITH COCKATIELS
by Linda Greeson
Except for the Budgerigar, the Cockatiel has been rated as the most popular and widely kept of the approximately 340 species of the order of Psittacines. I have no idea who did the counting or how long ago this fact was established. I would venture to guess that at present the Cockatiels are at least running neck and neck with the Budgies in this popularity contest.
Cockatiels have been well established in European aviaries for well over one hundred years and can now be found in every country where birds are bred. It is not known exactly when they were first imported, but it is recorded that they were first being bred in captivity as long ago as 1845. It is said that they became popular as pets about forty years later.
The name Cockatiel is thought to be an English adaptation of a Dutch sailor's pronunciation of the Portuguese word "cacathitho", meaning a little cockatoo. The scientific name Nymphicus hollandicus has been in general use since the 1950's. In Australia they are called Quarrion.
Although the original breeding was done in Europe, at present there are a larger number of Cockatiel fanciers here in the United States. The first mutations were developed in our country, so we can really take credit for the superior Cockatiel of today.
Some Orthinologists believe that the Cockatiel is really a Cockatoo which in the process of evolution remained behind in size and came to look more like a parakeet than a "true parrot." It also shows some characteristics of the Rosella species, although in its living habits it more strongly resembles the Cockatoo. In Australia, where these birds are very numerous, they are found in almost the entire continent excepting those areas very near the coast.
In the wild the Cockatiels usually live in pairs or in small groups of four to twelve birds. They often migrate from one feeding ground to another. It is only when the ripening grasses offer sufficient food to signal the start of their breeding season that they remain in one area for any length of time.
After the rainy season in Australia, the movement of the tall grasses is a signal of the Cockatiels' presence to their enemies. Because of this, as a defense, they routinely fly upward in quick flight. They are the fastest flyers of the Australian parrots. They have torpedo shaped bodies and long, slim, well muscled wings, making possible rapid descent to the ground in an almost perpendicular line. The bird seems to fall to the ground like a stone. Only a few yards from the ground does it spread its tail and wings, using them much like the flaps on an airplane. We notice that in the large, walk in flights where our resting birds are housed, even after many generations of domesticity, these flight habits still persist.
For the novice breeder there is no better way to start than with a few pairs of cockatiels. With only an occasional exception, given sufficient time together, these birds will accept new mates readily. Given satisfactory breeding conditions, they are generally quite prolific. Although there is considerable variation, an average of ten young can be expected each year from one pair.
Often the novice fails to plan adequately before getting started. If a little study and investigation of the birds' habits and basic requirements does no precede their purchase, all is not likely to go smoothly.
If profit is the breeder's primary motive, exploring the market for your cockatiels is an important first step. Visit local pet shops and talk with other breeders to gain an idea of what your prospective babies will bring. Be aware that supply and demand will cause great variation in prices.
Check the advertisements in your local paper, not only for prices but to gauge the number of competitors you will have for sales. A depleted checking account and a house full of young birds is not a pleasant prospect.
Practical consideration must be given to the amount of time that will be required to care for your birds and to hand feed even a few babies. In addition to becoming familiar with the hand feeding procedure in advance, someone trained to do this chore needs to be available at home at feeding times. Not all employers look kindly on buckets of baby birds being kept in the restroom.
Making a breeder of your pet bird often presents difficulties. The loving, cuddly pet who has bonded so well with its devoted owner can be expected to have a complete change of personality when placed in a breeding situation. With eggs or babies to protect, the formerly sweet little bird usually becomes aggressive, ready and willing to inflict painful bites on the hand that feeds it.
Pet birds who have been totally imprinted on people often do not make satisfactory breeders. It takes a long time for them to realize that they are birds, not humans, and to revert to their wild instincts. The length of time it takes to break the bond with a human seems directly related to how long and how close a relationship the bird had with its owner. Birds who have been hand fed, but have not had a long experience as pets are the most satisfactory choice. This type bird does not have the fear of humans that is characteristic of those not hand fed. They accept inspections of the nest and handling of their eggs and babies.
Last Updated: April 26, 2013
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