Cockatiel: Nymphicus hollandicus:

nymphicus: like a nymph; hollandicus: Gmelin used the scientific name appropriately, because Australia was known as New Holland at that time (1788).

Description: The normal male is greyish blue. The head and crest are yellow. Ear markings are orange-yellow. There are white wing coverts. The yellow on the head and crest is less bright in the female. The ear markings are darker, the white wing coverts are somewhat greyish. The eyes are brown, the beak is greyish-blue, and the feet are dark grey. The female has yellow on head and crest and is less bright. Forehead however, is brighter than that of the male. Dark ear marking. White wing-coverts are greyer.

Size: 12 to 13 inches (30-33 cm), tail 5 1/2 to 6 2/3 inches (14-17 cm). Weight: cock, 2 5/8 to 3 2/3 ounces, (80-102 g), hen, 3 1/8 to 3 1/4 ounces (89-92 g). Leg band: about 13/64 inch (5.4 mm) Wingspan can be between 12 and 16 inches.

Particulars: This species makes excellent aviary birds, and even a beginner should have little difficulty in keeping a pair of them. Not only are they endowed with beautiful colouring, but with a noble crest and a fine build as well, making them great favourites among aviculturists.

Voice: Cockatiels whistle the entire day, and the male in particular is capable of perfectly imitating all kinds of other bird songs. A colleague once wrote me. "All the while I was thinking that my Pekin Robin was whistling his tune when I noticed that it was my cockatiel which was singing so beautifully. The Cockatiel will bravely remain on its perch, even during feeding.

Nest: In hollow limbs or holes in thick branches or tree trunks of (mainly) eucalyptus, sometimes only 3 feet (1 m) above the ground. Sometimes more than one nest is found per tree. In the wild as well as in captivity, cockatiels are excellent breeders. The hen lays four to seven, normally four to five, 1.1 by 7/8 inch (28 x 22 mm) eggs, which take 20 days to hatch. The male sits on them during the day, and the female at night. When the young are approximately 30 days old, they leave the nest but will continue to be fed by both parents for some time. The floor of the nesting box should measure 10 by 10 inches (25.5 x 25.5 cm), the height, 1 foot (30 cm), the entrance should have a diameter of 3.5 inches (9 cm), placed about 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) beneath the roof. Cockatiels are not fussy about the form of their nursery, and you can use old (but not warped) wood less than 1 inch (1.9 cm) thick to construct nest boxes that should last for many years. Just below the entrance hole, fix a perch 7 inches (18 cm) long and about 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) in diameter, so that it protrudes both inside and outside the nest box. The box floor can be covered with a 1.5 to 2 inch (4-5 cm) layer of damp peat, mixed with a few wood shavings. In the middle of this layer, press a hollow with your fist to create a place where the hen can later place her eggs. This depression prevents the eggs from rolling about too much.

Distribution: Found in Australia, particularly in the interior, but rarer along the coastal regions. Imported into Tasmania, though their wanderings apparently also have led them there.

Remarks: Their menu should consist of the following: panicum millet, canary grass seed, oats, lots of greens (particularly when there are young in the nest), especially privet leaves, eggs, soaked seeds, bread, a few mealworms, ant eggs, and slices of apples and carrots. The young, which resemble the female initially, often stick their little heads out of the nest, making a peeping "sissing" noise. It is a good idea to make the nesting box so the bird sitting on the eggs will have its head at the height of the box opening; do not make the opening too high up. Place a thick layer of peat and wood shavings on the bottom of the box. In any case, do not use a nesting box where the entrance is too low, because cockatiels have the habit of leaving the nest when they are startled. When the bird on the nest has the opportunity to see everything that is happening around him or her, you will experience little trouble with deserted nests. You can be sure of good breeding results only when you house your birds in a roomy aviary by themselves. It speaks for itself that you should not disturb them when they are breeding; nest inspections, therefore, should be avoided unless you happen to have hand tamed birds that are not bothered by your peeking in the "nursery." If your garden aviary has a good night shelter, you can leave your cockatiels outside during the winter. Finally, I would like to point out that cockatiels often make outstanding foster parents for Platycercus and other Australian parakeet species.

Mutations: During the last few years, the breeding of color mutations in cockatiels has attracted a great deal of attention. Well-known mutations are pied (harlequin or variegated), which is autosomal recessive, as is silver, white face (charcoal), and fallow. The pearl (laced or opaline) is sex-linked recessive, but after 6 to 12 months the males moult into normal (= wild color) grey adult plumage. The females retain their pearl markings. The cinnamon (fawn or isabel) is also sex-linked recessive. Cinnamons, like the autosomal recessive Fallows, are born with red eyes. However, the Cinnamons get dark eyes within a week, whereas the Fallows retain their red eyes. The Lutino and Albino are both sex-linked recessive.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.