Cockatoo Vs. Cockatiel (A Comparison)



Cockatoo Vs. Cockatiel (A Comparison by


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Cockatoos and cockatiels are among the best birds a bird enthusiast can ever have. Despite being two different birds, they have some physical similarities, causing people to mistake them for the same. 

To find out how these birds differ, we will dive into the differences between a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel. 

Key Takeaways

Choose a cockatoo if:

  • You want a highly sociable and affectionate feathered companion
  • You want a bird with excellent speech abilities
  • You want a large bird
  • You want a bird that is easy to train
  • You want a long-time companion
  • You want an intelligent bird that can learn complex tricks

Choose a cockatiel if:

  • You want a bird that does not take up a lot of space
  • You want a bird that is a bit quieter than other parrots
  • You want to take care of a bird that is easy to feed
  • You want a colorful and sweet feathered companion
  • You want a less expensive pet
  • You want a calm pet

Cockatoo Vs. Cockatiel: A Quick Overview

Comparing a cockatoo vs. cockatiel will reveal that both fall under the same avian classification – the Cacatuidae family. 

You can recognize cockatoos through their curved beaks and prominent crests. They are usually white, black, or gray. Cockatoos may have bright-colored plumage, but they are generally on their tail, crest, and cheeks. 

The pros of taking care of a cockatoo:

  • cockatoos are affectionate
  • they have a high level of intelligence
  • provides great companion and entertainment
  • easy to learn when trained

The cons:

  • picky eaters
  • screams loud, especially when bored

Cockatiels have different color patterns and a crest thinner than that of cockatoos. They are small birds with dark eyes and long tails. A powder covers the feathers of a cockatoo.

The pros of taking care of a cockatiel:

  • cockatiels are easy to train
  • does not scream as loudly as other talking birds
  • not as expensive as other pet birds
  • can live for a long time

The cons:

  • sensitive and prone to health issues
  • requires a large cage

This article will compare a cockatoo to a cockatiel and discuss their characteristics. At the end of this post, you will better understand these birds to help you choose which one to have as a pet. 

Cockatoo Vs. Cockatiel: A Comparison Of Characteristics

Cockatoo Vs. Cockatiel explained at
A cockatoo sits reviewing its domain.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of birds a pet owner can take care of, but cockatoos and cockatiels are among the most popular choices. The reason for their popularity is primarily their appearance. But while both birds are great as pets, it is essential to note that they have different personalities, needs, and care requirements. 

Cockatoos and cockatiels are both fantastic pets. While there are similarities in their appearance, there are also visual differences separating a cockatoo from a cockatiel.


The most recognizable difference between cockatoos and cockatiels is their size. According to the Murdoch Research Repository, an adult cockatoo measures about 30 cm to 60 cm (12 inches to 24 inches). 

However, it is worth noting that this size may vary, depending on the age and type of a cockatoo. Some cockatoos are small, so they are harder to differentiate from a cockatiel. On the other hand, some types of cockatoos are large and require a vast space as pets.

Cockatiels are much smaller than cockatoos. According to avian care experts, the average size of an adult cockatiel is 28 cm to 33 cm (11 inches to 13 inches). Considering this measurement, a cockatiel is only half the size of a cockatoo. 

Cockatiels are small, regardless of their species, making them easy to take care of. While they also require a large enclosure, they still take up a smaller space than cockatoos. 

A cockatiel is an excellent choice if you are looking for a feathered companion that does not require ample space in your home. 


Cockatoos are more social and affectionate than cockatiels. They easily trust their caretakers, thus forming solid bonds and requiring attention. 

The social nature of a cockatoo causes it to demand a lot of time doing activities outside its enclosure. Exercises are essential to keep it occupied, and it will often want to perform them with its caretaker. But the good thing about cockatoos is they can tolerate being alone occasionally despite their demand for attention. 

When comparing a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel, you will also notice that cockatoos are notoriously loud. They constantly scream when bored or trying to get your attention. Fortunately, you can correct this behavior through training.

On the other hand, cockatiels are a lot calmer than cockatoos. While they thrive well by interacting with their caretakers, cockatiels do better when paired with a mate. For this reason, getting a pair of cockatiels is ideal when planning to have them as pets.

Similar to cockatoos, these birds need time outside their enclosure. If you do not have much time to spend with your pet, you can get another cockatiel to fulfill their social needs. A pair of cockatiels will play, groom, and eat together, so they will remain busy without your presence. 

If you can commit a lot of time to taking care of your feathered companion, a cockatoo is a great pet due to its sweet personality. 


When comparing the colors of a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel, it is evident that the former is usually plain-colored. As mentioned, cockatoos may have bright feathers on their cheeks, tail, wings, or crest. However, their solid-colored feathers will always be more dominant than the bright ones. 

Meanwhile, cockatiels are more colorful and have brighter feathers. Cockatiels usually have gray bodies, orange to red cheeks, and yellow heads in the wild. However, these birds mutate in captivity, causing their colors to change. 

Apart from color, the beaks and tails of these birds also differ. Cockatiels have smaller beaks and longer tails than cockatoos.

Cockatoos and cockatiels also can produce a refined and scaly powder covering their plumage. This powder is called dander, a form of insulation that protects these birds against water damage and heat loss. 

Furthermore, a cockatiel is a fantastic choice for a pet if you want a colorful and fun companion. 


Another thing that pet owners look for when comparing a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel is their speech and vocalization abilities.

One of the reasons why bird enthusiasts choose cockatoos as pets are due to their ability to mimic human speech and sounds. With consistent training and patience, your cockatoo will learn and speak words using their sweet and soft voice. 

However, the speech abilities of a cockatoo depend on its type and how much you train it. But even without training, cockatoos will learn to speak by listening to TV, radio, or other people talking. 

If you are training a cockatoo, it is worth noting that it will initially babble or scream when trying to mimic speech. In the long run, the sounds it makes will be more understandable.

According to Jack W. Bradbury, some species of cockatoos are smart enough to associate words with meanings, allowing them to answer specific questions genuinely.

Similarly, cockatiels are capable of talking. While not as good talkers as cockatoos, cockatiels will learn words and phrases through training or by constantly hearing certain words. Male cockatiels are also better at mimicking words than female ones.

To train a cockatiel to talk, it is ideal to allow them to master one word or phrase before moving to another. Repeat the words you are teaching your feathered companion to speak and move to another.

If you want a pet bird that is good at talking, a cockatoo is better than a cockatiel. 


Both cockatoos and cockatiels are smart birds. You can teach them how to speak certain words and praises and train their behavior. But if you have to distinguish which is more intelligent, a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel, a cockatoo is the winner.

Besides learning human words, cockatoos can also learn how to perform complicated tricks and tasks. Some cockatoo caretakers were even able to teach their birds how to use simple tools. 

Cockatoos are also smart. You can teach them how to count. However, the ability of cockatoos is limited to simple tasks and tricks. 

Moreover, a cockatoo is the best choice if you are looking for a brilliant feathered companion. 


A cockatoo vs. cockatiel’s diet is mainly different. 

Domesticated cockatoos usually eat specially formulated pellets. You can also occasionally feed them with the following:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • sprouts

In the wild, cockatoos like eating seeds. For this reason, it is ideal to include seeds in your cockatoo’s diet.

However, domesticated cockatoos cannot eat a lot of seeds. Most commercial seeds you can purchase in pet shops are high in fat, so they can cause nutrient imbalance to your feathered companion. 

Meanwhile, cockatiels are small birds that do not require as much food as cockatoos. They will thrive on:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • grass seeds
  • berries
  • leafy greens 

In addition, these birds do not need many pellets as they are herbivores. 

A cockatiel is suitable for you if you want a pet that does not have a complex diet.

Popular Species As Pets - Learn about the cockatoo vs the cockatiel at
Friendly Cockatiel Parrot Sitting On Owners Finger

Look at a cockatoo vs. cockatiel scientifically. You will discover that cockatoos have more species than the latter. Cockatiels are monotypic, so while domesticated cockatiels vary in color, they belong to a single species. 

On the other hand, a cockatoo has 21 species. However, the most popular species kept as pets are:

  • Cockatoo Umbrella – known for its large size, white plumage, and dominant crest. One of the sweetest and most patient cockatoos an avian enthusiast can have.
  • Moluccan Cockatoo – also known as salmon-crested cockatoo due to its white, orange, and red-colored crest. Unlike most active and inquisitive cockatoos, Moluccans are shy, cautious, and solitary birds.
  • Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo – this cockatoo species is almost the same as the cockatoo umbrella, if not for a sulfur-yellow crest and yellow wash feathers under its wings. Bird enthusiasts compare this bird’s intelligence to a 1 to 2-year-old child. Sulfur-crested cockatoos can quickly learn words and phrases.
  • Lesser Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo – similar to the sulfur-crested cockatoo but smaller in size, hence the name.

If you want various options when choosing a feathered companion, a cockatoo is better than a cockatiel.


According to a professional trainer and author, Risa Teitler, a cockatoo can live for up to 50 years. But these birds can live even longer in captivity. The reason is that they have a constant supply of food given by their caretakers and do not have any predators to harm them. 

On the other hand, cockatiels live a shorter lifespan. According to experts, cockatiels have a lifespan that ranges from 15 to 25 years.

A cockatoo is an excellent choice for avian enthusiasts looking for life-long company. 


Cockatoos are listed as an endangered species. You can legally purchase them from a breeder, but domesticated cockatoos do not reproduce well in captivity. For this reason, they are challenging to find and buy. 

A cockatoo vs. cockatiel, the latter is less expensive. 

Cockatiels breed and reproduce quickly, whether in the wild or captivity. So, there are countless cockatiels available in the market, which is more than the demand for them. This ratio of supply and demand causes the cockatiel’s price to be low. 

More About Cockatoo Vs. Cockatiel

Cockatoos and cockatiels are related, as they both belong to hundreds of species of parrots. However, this fact does not mean that all their characteristics are similar. A cockatoo may have an attribute that a cockatiel does not have and vice versa.

  • Eyes – some cockatiels have red eyes, with their faces featuring a yellow hue. One example of this bird is the lutino cockatiel. According to Dale Thompson, the director of the Aviculture Institute Canyon Country, a lutino is a form of cockatiel mutation. Cockatiels with lutino syndrome lack melanin, making their feathers white and their eyes red.

Unlike cockatiels, cockatoos only have two eye colors. The male ones have red eyes, while the female ones have brown.

  • Footedness – similar to how humans choose their dominant hand, cockatoos also select their dominant foot. The majority of cockatoos are left-footed. They use their left foot to hold their toys or grip better on perches.

Which Is Easier To Care For, A Cockatiel Or A Cockatoo?

To identify which bird is easier to take care of, it is essential to compare the care requirements of a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel. 

Enclosure Requirements

Birds generally require large enclosures, so you have to expect these birds to be space-consuming. 

Cockatoos love to move around. For this reason, you have to provide it with a cage that measures as large as possible. According to The Cockatoos: A Complete Guide To The 21 Species, this cage should not be smaller than 7 meters (23′) long, 4 meters (13′), and 2.5 meters (8′) wide.

Placing a cockatoo in a confined space can cause them to become bored, stressed, and even to fall ill. 

Moreover, a cockatiel is smaller than a cockatoo, so it does not require as much space. However, you still need to provide it with a cage that is enough to accommodate hanging toys, perches, and food and water bowls. The bird should still have ample space to fly around its enclosure.

Activity Requirements

Between a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel, the latter requires less activity time inside and outside its cage. A cockatoo needs at least 3 hours of playtime with you while roaming freely outside its enclosure. 

Activities and exercises are crucial for these birds to keep them happy and healthy. 

Failing to give your pet cockatoo enough activity time will cause them to become bored, which leads to constant screams. 

Providing your cockatoo with activities includes regular one-on-one bonding time and letting them play with toys. 

On the other hand, a cockatiel does well even without a regular bonding session with its caretaker. If you intend to keep a cockatiel inside its cage all the time, you can either provide it with a companion cockatiel or various toys and activity options. Still, it is always better to give your feathered companion freedom by allowing them to fly around your home. 

Physical Care And Grooming

Birds usually produce oils to cover and protect their plumage. But as mentioned, if you compare a cockatoo vs. a cockatiel, you will see that both birds produce feather powder. 

For this reason, you must regularly bathe and groom these birds to prevent dander from building up their feathers. It would be best if you also misted these birds every day.

Apart from regular baths, cockatoos and cockatiels need nail and beak trimming from time to time. They cut their nails and beaks in the wild using hard surfaces like tree bark and seeds. But as they do not have access to these materials in captivity, you need a professional animal groomer to prevent their beaks and nails from overgrowing. 

Common Illnesses

Cockatoos are not overly sensitive birds. For this reason, their common health issues usually root in stress. Exposure to stress can cause behavioral problems in a cockatoo, such as picking their feathers or self-mutilation.

Failing to take care of these behavioral issues early on can lead to skin infections and other more severe health problems. For instance, your cockatoo may develop beak and feather disease. This viral infection causes feather loss, weight loss, pneumonia, diarrhea, and death. Cockatoos may also develop fatty tumors due to poor diet and nutrition.

Cockatoo vs. cockatiel, a cockatiel is more sensitive and thus develops more health problems than a cockatoo. For instance, feeding your cockatiel more seeds than fruits and greens can result in fatty tumors and nutrient deficiencies. Besides these health issues, a cockatiel may also suffer from the following:

  • Fatty Liver Disease – overfed cockatiels are more susceptible to this illness. But even if your feathered companion has a healthy diet, exposure to toxic pesticides and household cleaning solutions can result in fatty liver disease. A veterinarian must promptly check if you notice abnormal plumage coloration, slow beak growth, and abnormal black spots on your cockatiel.
  • Respiratory Issues – if you are a smoker and your cockatiel keeps inhaling secondhand smoke, there is a big chance of developing respiratory distress. Exposure to aerosol sprays, scented candles, and essential oils may also affect your bird’s breathing. 

Symptoms of respiratory issues in cockatiels include wheezing, sneezing, and coughing. These symptoms may become severe if not given treatment early on, causing your feathered companion to develop pneumonia. 

  • Giardia – Giardia is a protozoan that infects the intestinal tract of your cockatiel and lives inside it. Cockatiels usually get this infection from the water they are drinking. For this reason, it is crucial to keep its water bowl and drinking water clean all the time. 

Giardia causes extreme itchiness and diarrhea in cockatiels. If you notice your cockatiel picking under its wings aggressively, chances are it has giardia and needs immediate medical care.

Which Is Easier To Care For?

So, which is easier to take care of between a cockatoo and a cockatiel? The answer would be the latter, as it does not require much attention. It would thrive alone if you provided it with toys and exercises. It is also ideal to occasionally replace a cockatiel’s toys to prevent them from becoming bored. 

Cockatiels are very affectionate with their caretakers, sometimes borderline obsessed. So, a cockatiel would be a fantastic pet. If you want a bird, you can leave home while you do your chores outside the house.

True enough, a cockatiel is sensitive and prone to health issues. But providing them with a clean environment and nutritious food will easily allow you to avoid dealing with health problems. 

These Articles May Also Interest You:

  1. White, N.E., Phillips, M.J., Gilbert, M.T.P., Alfaro-Nú ñez, A., Willerslev, E., Mawson, P.R., Spencer, P.B.S., Bunce, M., The evolutionary history of cockatoos (Aves: Psittaciformes: Cacatuidae), Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (2011). doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.03.011. Accessed February 2, 2023.
  2. Pet Supplies Plus. Cockatiels. Accessed February 2, 2023.
  3. Bradbury, Jack W.. “11. Vocal Communication in Wild Parrots” In Animal Social Complexity: Intelligence, Culture, and Individualized Societies edited by Frans B. M. de Waal and Peter L. Tyack. Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2003. Accessed February 2, 2023.
  4. Thompson, Dale R. “Cockatiel Mutations.” AFA Watchbird 9, no. 4 (1988). Accessed February 2, 2023. 
  5. Caring For Your Cockatiel. Accessed February 2, 2023.
  6. Teitler, Risa. “Understanding Cockatoo Personality.” AFA Watchbird 17, no. 1 (1990). Accessed February 2, 2023. 
  7. Edward John Mulawka. The Cockatoos: A Complete Guide to the 21 Species. McFarland, 2016.’s%20enclosure%20be&f=false. Accessed February 2, 2023.

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