Cockatiels The Perfect Parrot for Everyone


If you want a small hookbill that is a
prolific breeder and popular as a pet,
the Cockatiel is for you. Breeding and
raising Cockatiels is a great way to
"get your feet wet" with raising exotic
birds and at the same time make a little
money while doing so. The Cockatiel
can be considered a "bread and
butter" bird. They are always there
producing babies, both under favorable
and unfavorable conditions.
Cockatiels are found throughout
Australia, except for the eastern seaboard.
The gray Cockatiel is found in
the wild, while many mutations are
now available due to artificial selections
made by man. Although there
are many mutations of Cockatiels, the
pied, cinnamon, pearl and lutino are
the most common. There is also the
cinnamon-pied, pearl-pied and cinnamon-
pearl-pied. In addition, whiteface
mutations have recently exploded
in popularity. The white face
comes with the same mutations as the
normal Cockatiels: pearl white face,
pied white face, cinnamon pied white
face, etc. Albino Cockatiels are often
confused with the lutino. The albino
is a mutation of the whiteface and is
exclusively white with red eyes. The
lutino also has red eyes but has more
yellow in its color and has an orange
cheek patch. An easy way for the beginner
to recognize the difference
between a normal Cockatiel and a
white face Cockatiel is knowing that
the normal Cockatiel has orange cheek patches while the white face 

has no orange cheek patches.
There are so many theories and
practices concerning sexing Cockatiels
that it can become confusing. I
will concentrate on what works best
for me. I attempt to sex Cockatiels that
are at least six months old, but the
older they are, the easier they are to
sex. At six months, the gray, cinnamon
and pearl male birds will molt
and grow yellow feathers on their ·
heads. The pearl male will also lose
the pearl markings and become like a
gray Cockatiel. The hens will keep the
same coloring as immature birds. The

adult lutino can be sexed by catching
the bird and checking under the
wings and on the tail. Females will
have yellow bars on their feathers,
while these are absent in the males.
This is fairly accurate, but I have seen
a couple of birds that have had the
markings of the opposite sex.
The pieds can also be sexed by the
method above (although it's not 100
percent accurate), but I prefer vent
sexing. The only problem with vent
sexing is that it can be tricky. Usually,
if the bird is a female you can fit your
index finger between the pelvic
bones, while the male's pelvic bones
are closer together. The problem with
this, though, is that females that are
not ready to lay have pelvic bones
that are close together. I solve this by
putting all my pieds in a large flight
with nest boxes when they are about
a year old. The females usually start
laying quickly, thus opening their pelvic
bones. Remember, six months is
tl1e minimum age to sex Cockatiels;
the older the Cockatiel, the easier it is
to sex.

A sure-fire way of sexing Cockatiels
is to have them surgically sexed or
chromosome sexed. However, chromosome
sexing is expensive if dealing
with a large number of birds. It
can be advantageous, though, to surgically
sex young birds that are kept
back for breeding stock, in order to
keep only the birds wanted and to sell

the excess birds.
I normally set Cockatiels up to
breed when they are at least a year
old. Cockatiels can either be bred as
individual pairs in single cages or colony
bred in flights. I incorporate both
of these methods and find advantages
and disadvantages to both. I set the
Cockatiels up in the fall and let them
breed until the beginning of summer.
I put the nest boxes in around the first
of September and pull the boxes
around late May. Our summers here
in central California can be brutal so
breeding in the summer months is
avoided. Cockatiels will usually breed
year-round if given the chance, so a
breeding system based on your climate
would be advised. As mentioned
above, I give the birds three
months off, during which I pull the
nest boxes out of the cages and

I usually let new pairs of Cockatiels
pick their own mates. I do this by
placing an equal number of males
and females in a flight with several
nest boxes. Then it is up to my observational
skills and quickness to catch
the bonded pairs! Usually the pair can
be found in the box together, especially
at dusk and dawn. If I am breeding
for a certain mutation it is sometimes
unavoidable to have to pair
birds up "artificiallY:' This is done by
putting the pair in an individual cage
with no nest box for at least a few
weeks in order for the pair to get acquainted.
A nest box can then be installed.
In colony breeding, four pairs of
Cockatiels are placed in a flight that
measures 4' x 8' x 10'. Six nest boxes
are hung toward the back of the flight
in different locations.