Parakeets and Cockatiels: A Comparison

  • Time to read: 9 min.

Are you in the market for a new pet bird and can’t decide between a parakeet and a cockatiel? In this article, we take an in-depth look into these birds. Read on to find out how they differ and which is the best for you.

While both birds belong in the parrot family, parakeets are among a few parrots smaller than the cockatiels. Generally, the size of cockatiels is between 12 to 14 inches, while budgies range between 5 to 11 inches (1).

Comparing Parakeets And Cockatiels

Cockatiels and parakeets are birds adapted to the desert. Their ability to survive in conditions that are not very ideal could be why they are great aviary and companion birds. While they can consume vegetable diets and enjoy socialization, they have survived all-seed diets and sometimes neglect.

Unlike larger parrots, these birds can be released from their cages and allowed to fly around apartments and homes. One may choose a budgie over a cockatiel because they are smaller. Their size also correlates with their life span. It means cockatiels live longer.

The age span of budgies is 10-15 years, while that of cockatiels is 15-20 years. However, note that this could vary on factors such as illnesses and accidents. It is also possible for birds to outlive their age span. 

Which Bird Is Better, A Parakeet Or A Cockatiel?

Both of these are incredible birds, and it’s no surprise that one may encounter challenges when picking one over the other. However, the idea is to have adequate details about them to help narrow down your choice. 

Both parakeets and cockatiels are in the parrot family. They are also friendly in nature, which makes them perfect pets. Parakeets are also known as budgerigar-‘budgies’ for short. These birds are third among the popular pets worldwide. That is after dogs and cats (2). 

Quarrion and weiro bird are other terms used to refer to the cockatiel. Like the parakeet, they are native to Australia. Cockatiels are popular as caged birds and are only second to budgies (3). 

Most people opt for budgies because they are very affordable compared to other pets. Parrots, in general, are fascinating primarily because of their ability to mimic human speech. While parakeets can do this, they can imitate different sounds without training. These include tone of text messages, squeaking chairs, and creaking doors.

Unlike cockatiels, budgies are naturally playful and active. It means having a larger cage for them would be ideal. Fitting their toys, nest, and food dishes inside the cage would be easy. A 20x12x8 inch cage should be the minimum dimension of a perfect cage (4). 

Thanks to their high energy, budgies require a lot of attention. Getting them in pairs will be great as they will keep each other company. Also, budgies dislike physical petting. If you insist, they may bite. It makes cockatiels better if one is looking for a companion bird. They enjoy physical touch (on the neck and behind ears), and they only throw tantrums when mating. 

Other than enjoying the physical touch, cockatiels have low energy. It means they are calmer when compared to parakeets. 

Note that maintenance may be higher with cockatiels than parakeets as they are naturally messy. Their feathers produce powdery dust that may stain accessories and cages. Spraying the bird (or bathing them) every week will help groom them. 

One will also be required to clean the cages regularly. Fortunately, most of their cages have a bottom tray that’s removable and makes the cleaning process easier (5).

Is a Cockatiel a Parakeet?

Is a Cockatiel a Parakeet?
Is a Cockatiel a Parakeet?

Cockatiels are members of the Nymphicus genus. In fact, they are the only members. They received their name after encountering the European travelers that first spotted them. They described the birds as beautiful and accorded them their name after the mythical nymphs. 

Initially, they were considered crested parakeets. However, this was quickly dismissed after molecular studies were conducted and linked to the Cacatuidae family (cockatoo). They were further assigned the subfamily Nymphicinae (6). 

The study was conducted in 1984 and was researching protein allozymes. The conclusion saw a closer relationship of cockatiels with cockatoos than any other type of parrot. 

Similarities in biological features are undeniable, making the relationship more evident. They include having a gallbladder, a suppressed cloud layer, an erectile crest, and the presence of facial feathers at the sides of their beak. 

With this, it’s safe to say that cockatiels are not parakeets. In fact, the distinction between cockatiels and parakeets is made more transparent with other differing characteristics, such as their color. 

Budgies Are Beautiful

Budgies are brightly colored parrots. They have undergone captive breeding since the 1850s, which is responsible for the diversified body coloring. These birds are green and yellow in their natural habitat, and they have black scalloping on their wing feathers and back. On their cheek, you will recognize a blue patch (7). 

Their young ones look like adults and are only duller. Also, young budgies have dark brown eyes while adult budgies have white or yellow eyes. Since being bred in captivity, their color variations include mauve, grey, white, and olive, among others.

On the other hand, the primary color for wild cockatiels is standard grey. You find that standard grey remains the dominant color in most cockatiels despite mutations due to captive breeding (for pet trade). 

Their bodies tend to be medium-grey, with the abdomen and chest being a bit lighter than the back. Male cockatiels have yellow faces, while female cockatiels have white faces. However, they both feature cheek patches that are round and orange in color. 

Some of the color mutations include: 

– pied (grey areas of the body replaced with off-white or yellow lipochrome pigment)

– pearl or laced (tiny ‘pearls’ created by spots of different colors along with their feathers)

– albino (no feather pigmentation).  

Are Cockatiels Friendlier Than Budgies?

The kind of relationship one has with their pet bird is highly dependent on how both parties interact. The relationship-building process begins the moment the bird is brought home.

It may be days or even weeks before the bird becomes comfortable in its new environment. Therefore, they must be allowed adequate time to adjust. 

Forcing any activity with the bird may ruin the relationship early on, and one may end up having an unhappy bird. Therefore, practicing patience with the pet bird is crucial for having a fruitful relationship (8)

There are ways that pet owners can enhance familiarity and build relationships with these birds. It includes whispering, singing, whistling, and reading to them. Their sensitive hearing will cause them to lean closer and carefully listen. 

Also, sharing food is a bonding activity worth trying. Eating snacks close to the cage may have the bird joining in. 

With that said, setting up a time for social interaction with parakeets and cockatiels is necessary. As these birds are social creatures, boredom and loneliness may creep in when inadequate attention is provided.

However, as mentioned before, both of these birds have different personalities. While cockatiels enjoy the occasional petting, budgies are the complete opposite. Many consider Cockatiels excellent companions when compared to budgies (9).

While they may not be open to cuddling, they love being near their owners and are excited to see them. They often relax on their owners’ shoulders. Taming is necessary to avoid nipping. The elderly would be better suited to own cockatiels while kids would be better suited to have budgies. 

Attention Seekers

With the kind of attention that cockatiels need, it may be difficult to entertain them all through. Tamed budgies may stay close to their owners but don’t appreciate you holding them. When these birds require scratches, they fly to the owners and leave immediately.

However, training these birds to perch on shoulders and fingers is possible. When released from their cages, they can eagerly follow their owners. You can consider Budgies free spirits as they can comfortably keep themselves company. Their high energy levels make them active. And if they aren’t playing with fellow birds, they are playing with toys in their cage. 

Investing in toys and perches, therefore, is necessary. The toys should be chewable so birds can enjoy ripping them apart. Additionally, rotating toys will ensure they remain attractive to the pets.

Having cockatiels would also be a more pleasant experience for those who don’t appreciate the noise. While cockatiels are louder, budgies are good talkers, and they enjoy chirping and squawking throughout the day. 

While they may not be loud, they are undoubtedly noisy. It may either cause disturbance for the family or neighbors. On the other hand, cockatiels are quieter. While they can be very vocal at times, it’s never too much to cause annoyances.

Which Is Easier To Tame, Budgie Or Cockatiel?

Taming birds isn’t necessarily a difficult task. However, it does require lots of time and patience for success. Taming pet birds is necessary as it allows them to feel secure and comfortable in their new home. 

Birds will require time to get accustomed to their new environment. It’s essential to give them time before you embark on the taming process. Acclimating time will be more or less depending on the type of bird.

It roughly takes two weeks for this to happen. While placing the new family member in a quiet room seems ideal, some resources recommend putting them in busy house parts. This way, they will quickly become familiar with home activities and human interaction (10).

Birds being naturally skittish, one should use slow movements when approaching them. Sudden movements may stress them and cause them to be frightened. It, together with prolonged eye contact, signifies predatory behavior.

Past Experience

Birds’ past experiences also cause them to be untrusting and flighty. It includes birds roughly handled by previous owners and those who lived in tiny cages all their lives (11). 

Taming your pet birds early on will create a great bond between the two of you. Hand-fed birds are faster to tame. Therefore, one should consider buying these types of birds. Those familiar with hand-feeding are better advantaged. 

Where hand-fed birds are unavailable, one should opt for baby birds or young birds. A great way to identify them is by checking their pupils. Most young birds have large pupils that are black and lack the outer white ring found in older birds. While taming older birds isn’t impossible, it does take more time. 

You should conduct training sessions strategically. For example, a great time to train birds is during their quiet time after eating or right before they go to sleep. The sessions should be kept short. 

A duration of 15 to 20 minutes is ideal. Additionally, it would be best if you avoid distractions during this time. Reading your birds’ reactions is necessary. Once they exhibit resistance, it’s essential not to force them but instead give the training a break. 

Small birds are also easier to tame compared to larger birds. Parakeets and cockatiels being smaller birds mean training them is easy. However, cockatiels are easier to train compared to budgies (12).

Many recommend that cockatiels be placed in a calm and quiet area to adjust to their surroundings. On the other hand, many suggest that Budgie’s cages reside in a busy environment. It could be thanks to their different personality traits (13). 

As mentioned before, speaking to the birds, cockatiel or Budgie, will enhance bonding. Therefore, one should talk to them when changing their water and food. Also, finger-training the Budgie will have them believing your finger is the best perch. 

Do this by offering treats such as millets. Ensure it’s given in small quantities as millet is fatty.  

Summary

The decision to get a budgie or a cockatiel will entirely rely on preference. If looking for a smaller bird, one would be better off with a budgie. It means the cage would also be smaller. On the other hand, if one is looking for a companion bird, cockatiels would be the best choice. It is due to their low energy and their enjoyment of being petted.  

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