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Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus

Natural Range

Cockatiels are endemic to Australia and are the only member of their genus. While their range covers most of the country they prefer the drier inland areas and West coast. They are nomadic and flocks will move between scrublands, grasslands and open woods in search of food.


Wild cockatiels feed on a variety of seeds, fruits and greens. The proportions of each will vary greatly depending on availability. The wild diet is relatively easy to replicate in captivity due to the availability and affordability of seed. While cockatiel seed mix provides a sufficient base for a diet, specifically formulated pellets also ensure the birds receive all of their required essential nutrients. In addition to seed mix and pellets, fruits and vegetables are also provided including: spinach, beans and peas, broccoli, apple and pears, and strawberries or blackberries.

Click the play button below to hear what a Cockatiel sounds like.

CREDIT: Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. PHOTO: Karen Presser. AUDIO: Tayler Brooks.


In wild populations breeding typically occurs in response to suitable periods of rain as this is a precursor to food abundance. In captivity where adequate food should always be available this can allow cockatiels to breed all year around. However it is recommended that hens be limited to two clutches per season as continuous breeding can be detrimental to the health of the birds (through depletion of calcium and other minerals). Nest boxes should be provided in spring and early summer and then be removed at the end of summer to ensure that breeding does not continue.

Cockatiels can lay up to three clutches per season with each clutch containing 4-7 eggs. The eggs take 21-23 days to hatch with the female undertaking the majority of the incubation. Once hatched juveniles take 4-5 weeks to fledge and then become fully independent after another 3-4 weeks. Cockatiels typically reach sexual maturity at 16-18 months of age.
Cockatiels like most Australian parrots nest in tree hollows. In captivity each breeding pair should have available a nesting box that mimics these hollows. The base of each box should be covered in a layer on untreated saw dust or wood shavings.

Typical Behaviour

Cockatiels are social animals which naturally live in flocks so should be given every opportunity to interact to avoid becoming bored or stressed. One simple method is to provide a range of natural wooden perches for them to spend time preening one another. Another is the provision of baths as in the wild large flocks (often numbering in the hundreds) can be found gathering at watering holes.

Other artificial methods of enrichment are also used including swings and ladders made from untreated natural fibres and woods. Pine cones can also be used as a form of foraging enrichment if treated properly. 

Fun Facts

  • Cockatiels use their distinctive crests to express their moods. If the crest is extended vertically the bird is alert or excited. If the crest is positioned halfway upwards when the birds are tired or in a relaxed state. When the crest is held flat against the head the bird is upset or defensive.
  • Cockatiels are the smallest member of the cockatoo family (Cacatuidae).

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