Tell me about cockatiels

So, the wifey just got a new bird- a grey male cockatiel who looks much like this. At least, we think he’s male based on his size and markings. We’ve named him Crow after the MST3K character.

She used to work in a pet store many years ago, so she’s got some background, but I’ve never had a bird or ever really spent time around them.

Cockatiel/pet bird fora are full of contradictory information, although they all seem to agree that we ought to leave him mostly alone for about a week.

So… I’ve got some basic questions. Feel free to add any other helpful advice!

  1. Are the sandpaper perches bad for their feet? One source says they’ll cause foot injuries, others say they’ll keep claws trim.

  2. Is bird litter bad? A couple of sources say it will trap too much moisture. I can’t imagine it could be worse for the bird than newspaper, and there’s a cage-base thingy to keep him from standing in it.

  3. How long should he be left alone before we start socializing him? He’s hand-fed but not hand-raised, whatever that means.

Yep, that’s almost certainly a male.

Don’t leave him completely alone - what they really mean is caution in not handling him too much. DO talk to him. DO put his cage where he can see what you’re doing. You want him to be around you as much as possible, while still making sure he feels safe. Maybe drape a towel over half his cage or set it next to a wall so he doesn’t feel too exposed (they are a prey species, so they’re a little paranoid by nature) but you definitely want him to get used to seeing what you’re up to.

However, do not have him in the kitchen if you cook with non-stick cookware. If heated too high it gives off a gas lethal to birds. Boiling water temperatures are OK, but non-stick broiler pans and the like are big no-no’s for bird owners.

Well… if you don’t have them you’ll need to learn to clip his claws. Or wind up paying a vet to do it. If you do use sandpaper perches you must replace them when they get ragged so he doesn’t get a toe caught in it.

He should have perches of different sizes. Either in his cage, or available to him when he has outside the cage time.

Yes, bird litter bad (my opinion). Use newspapers. Moisture evaporates much faster from newspaper liners than from “bird litter”.

Talk to him from day one. Get him used to your presence. Is he “finger-tame”? That is, will he step up on your finger with the “step up” command and a finger offered just in front of his tummy?

Cockatiels often like to sit on shoulders or heads. Encourage this (I have a couple old flannel shirts I wear because, well, they’re birds and they crap - they now recognize these shirts on sight). Once they get comfortable doing this they will never want to leave. Have patience. You want your bird to associate you with a kind voice, food (yes, you can give him treats when he’s on your finger/shoulder), and interesting things to watch (mine like to watch me play video games, for example). We leave the TV and radio on during the day for the birds when we go out and they have to stay in their cages - it provides stimulation. Once they get that socialized they’ll likely start imitating whistles or words on their own. We’ve never made any special effort to get ours to talk, but they won’t shut up. We just give them lots of social time.

Any other questions?

My first parrot was a cockatiel (male also). They are great pets. Some thoughts:

  • I kind of left him alone, only visiting once or twice a day, for the first week. He seemed kind of in a daze when I first got him home - didn’t do much exploring in the cage. So I just let him be. But I did go in to change his water and add food.
  • One of the first ways I “socialized” was by handing him seeds that had dropped onto the floor. Although he had plenty of food in his dish, he seemed keen to take it from me. You might try that.
  • I’ve been told bird litter is not good. Not about the moisture, but that the bird may try to eat it. I just used newspaper for the full 18 years.
  • Although my cockatiel lived for 18 years, I learned later that I was feeding him a pretty poor diet: mainly seeds. You will want him on a pellet diet for best nutrition. Seeds are pretty much “candy” (high fat, low nutrition) which is why they are so well eaten. But just as you wouldn’t allow your kids to eat candy for all their meals, you certainly don’t want to do the same for your bird.
  • My bird was VERY affectionate once he warmed up. He wanted to be with me, or at least know what I was doing at all times. Parrots are very social in general, and cockatiels seem to be particularly affectionate.
  • The one thing to be aware of is that cockatiels, for whatever reason, are prone to “night terrors”: freaking out in the cage during the night. Mine did this maybe twice a year. You need to turn on the light, let him out (where he’ll continue to freak out - I kept mine unclipped and he do a couple laps around the room), and then settle him down. Never figured out what triggered it, but just be aware this can happen. Turns out to be a cockatiel thing.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask. Cockatiels are great birds, and I think you’ll enjoy yours.

Thanks, guys!

cormac, he’s behaved exactly the way you describe so far (he’s been in the cage for about 5 hours)… he’s barely moved, except once when I turned on the ceiling fan… he moved to a lower, more distant perch… and away from the bars when I tried to stick a millet thing in there for him.

However, one thing has gotten a huge response- he’s in the office, and I played him a YouTube video of a cockatiel singing the chocobo theme from Final Fantasy.

He went a bit nuts while that was on- he picked up the melody in about five minutes. Still a bit iffy on the rhythm, and he was getting awfully loud so i turned it off.

Well this thread is cementing my idea that I’d love to get a tiel someday. Not anytime in the near future but I’d think within a few years. Just out of curiosity, what would be a normal start up cost for a new bird owner, bird included.

We paid $60 for him at a chain pet store, plus $70 for a 40" x 30 x 20 cage, plus another $30ish for sundries (food, vitamin supplements, etc.)

From what I’ve found reading up on various parrots, food sharing is one way they bond with mates, family, etc. So feeding him by hand has more importance in some ways than just eating out of a bowl. I wouldn’t advise feeding them everything they eat by hand, but sharing food with the birds seems an important part of socializing with them (we usually make sure ours get a bit of what we’re having for dinner, as long as it’s safe for birds. Just a bite or two each.)

Fresh foods like fruits and vegetables are good for them, too. But - VERY IMPORTANT - no avocados, chocolate, or eggplant, they are all TOXIC to parrots.

Actually, my cockatiels are relatively standoffish compared to some of the birds I’ve had. This also varies from bird to bird, they are individuals.

Yes, one of mine had this when he was younger (and once in awhile has a “relapse”) We keep a nightlight on, it seems to help, but if your cockatiel has night terrors really the only thing to do it turn on the lights and let him settle down again. Be reassuring, speak softly to him.

Cockatiels can learn words, but generaly only a very few. They are, however, great mimics for music, especially whistling. YouTube has scads of whistling cockatiel videos.

Yep, that’s typical.

Some color variations do cost more, but and ordinary yellow-headed grey 'tiel (wild color) is about $70 for a hand-raised/tame bird. White-headed 'tiels seem to be getting more common (they’re just like the “wild color”, but with no yellows or oranges).

Budgies (parakeets) are also prone to night frights. Both 'tiels and budgies are open-grassland (or semi-arid scrub) birds.

I’ve heard a fascinating and plausible-sounding explanation, but don’t know if it’s true. The theory is that in open grasslands, a predator approaching at night is almost certainly on the ground – and with no trees, flying (even in the dark) is not as dangerous as waiting to be eaten, so open grassland birds evolved to take off when disturbed in their sleep. (Of course a cage prevents this, and they whack into it and hurt themselves.)

By contrast, in a jungle, the trees and foliage are so dense that a bird flying blindly in the dark would be likely to maim himself almost immediately; therefore dense jungle birds stay put as long as they can and hope silence protects them.

Amazons and some other deep-jungle parrots are reportedly less prone to night frights.

Thus the thinking is that cocktiels aren’t “cowards” or necessarily more prone to being scared at night, but that they’re more prone to flying blind when they DO get scared, because that’s where the evolutionary payoff is, in an environment with few trees.

Cockatiels seem to love music. And they love to dance, too.

He looks really cute. It looks like he’s got blusher on.

And the dancing cockatiel was adorable, Lynn.

So far, I’ve played him the following songs, in addition to the chocobo theme mentioned above… stuff he liked is marked with a +.

AC/DC - Big Balls
Pavarotti - Nessun Dorma +
Alan Parsons Project - Sirius - he liked the intro part (that the Chicago Bulls come out to) but not the song itself
Abba - Fernando +
7 Seconds of Love - Ninja +

Actually, that’s a cockatoo, which is a larger (and somewhat related) bird than a cockatiel.

But yeah, 'tiels love music, too. When my white-head, Sydney, gets into one of his nervous-anxious-moody periods we play soothing music for him and he really enjoys it. As do the other birds. He seems to like New Age and piano best. Poor Sunshine, though, is afraid of my husband’s tuba. The other two will sit on the horn while he plays, but Sunshine is convinced it’s going to eat him. (It didn’t help Sunshine at all the day Griffin slid into the tube - ohmigod! it ATE her! - but Griffin was totally unfazed and we had to discourage her from taking another trip down the brass “slide” back into the tuba)

Speaking of imitating sounds, my brother’s girlfriend had a cockatial who learned the sound of her car trying to start in the winter with a dying battery. He would sound like the engine winding down as the battery got weaker and weaker all the way to the final click sound when their was not enough power to crank the starter. It was funny as hell and pissed her off, like the bird was making fun of her predicament.

One of mine imitated the smoke alarm. I ran into the kitchen thinking there was a fire and then realized it was the bird. I think I yelled something about the boy who cried wolf at him.

They do love to slide. I had another tiel who would climb to the top edge of the paper when I was reading it and then slide down.

There’s a cockatiel in the house next to the house of one of my students. When we play in the backyard, we can hear it calling, “Abuelo! Abuelo!” (Grandpa! Grandpa!)

Just last week, we were outside again, and the bird started saying, “whistle Pyper!” I looked at my student’s mother as if to say, “Is that bird really calling my name?” It was. It had heard the kids calling me and now it calls my name all the time!

I can never keep those two straight!

When I was growing up, we had various budgies. The one that I remember best, though, is the one who learned to say “Hey MAMA!” just as we kids did. My mother, who didn’t really like birds as house pets anyway, was less than thrilled with this bird. He was the most social budgie I’d ever had, he was always begging for chin and neck scritches. I spent a lot of time with him, just scratching his head, while he had his eyes closed and feathers puffed out, looking completely content.

While searching for the dancing bird, I found some related videos. One bird sang the Chocobo theme from the Final Fantasy game series. One could sing the Imperial March from Star Wars ESB. Lots of stuff like this, birds enjoy music and dancing. Or at least the parrot like birds enjoy music and dancing. They love to party.

Dammit. Now I really want to get a pet bird. But I have three cats, and I suspect that getting a bird would NOT be a good move.

Bumping to post a picture.

Behold, Crow in all his yellow-headed glory!

Oooh, thanks for the pic (finally :)), Really Not All That Bright! Oh my, he is a handsome guy. Please keep us informed as to how he’s doing, etc. :slight_smile: Yay!

Erm. Watch out for the smart ones.