Cockatiel

Nymphicus hollandicus

"Best Choice" Pet Best Choice

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.

Source Sustainability Best Choice

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.

PetWatch 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. For more information on parrot leg bands click here.

Invasion Threat Best Choice

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.

PetWatch Recommendation:

Make sure that your Cockatiel is always kept inside an enclosure and does not have the opportunity to escape. Never release a pet into the wild.

Animal Welfare Fair Choice

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

Some Cause for Concern

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. Cockatiels may also be sold before they are fully weaned and able to eat adult food on their own. 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.

PetWatch 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.

Health Threat Fair Choice

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 rare 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 chickens and ducks; 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.

PetWatch Recommendation:

When purchasing a Cockatiel, ask for proof of a clean bill of health. Ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a certified 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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