Cockatiels are small, crested parrots native to Australia, with an average size of just 12 to 14 inches long. These intelligent avians can learn to talk, although not all of them do. Your orange-cheeked 'tiel can live for upwards of 20 years, so he's a long-term commitment.
Age and Lifespan
In the wild, cockatiels live for 10 to 14 years, but those in captivity can easily live for 20 years or longer. Guinness World Records lists Pretty Boy as the oldest confirmed cockatiel, who died in 2004 at the age of 29 years. With proper nutrition and exercise, your bird will be around for a long time.
A good diet is the most important thing you can do to keep your cockatiel around for a long time. In the wild, cockatiels eat a variety of foods, so mimic his natural diet to keep your bird healthy. Start with good quality commercial cockatiel pellets and supplement with fresh fruits and vegetables, such as apples, grapes, spinach and lettuce. Cockatiels can be picky eaters, so start your pet early on a varied diet to get him accustomed to it. They do eat insects in the wild, so a small amount of protein such as plain yogurt or cooked eggs is fine. Remember to chop up or shred all fresh food into small bites.
Exercise is as important for a healthy life for your ‘tiel as it is for you. His cage will not be large enough to afford him proper exercise, so you will need to allow him at least one flight – preferably two – each day. He should be trained to stand on your finger first. One good training tip is to feed him after the exercise session in his cage so he’ll go back into it easily.
Just like your cat or dog, your cockatiel will need an annual vet visit for a checkup. Stay alert to changes in behavior and droppings. These are intelligent and social birds who also need mental stimulation, so provide a variety of toys and rotate them weekly. A depressed bird may stop eating and can starve to death. ‘Tiels need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night to stay healthy, so make sure your cage placement allows for this.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.