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What is the bird that looks like a parrot?

What is the bird that looks like a parrot?

There are several species of birds that bear a resemblance to parrots due to their colorful plumage and hooked bills. However, there is one bird in particular that is often mistaken for a parrot – the cockatiel. Cockatiels are small parrot-like birds that originate from Australia. They are extremely popular as pets and can often be found in pet stores and bird breeders worldwide. In this article, we will explore what exactly a cockatiel is, its physical characteristics, behavior, natural habitat, and care requirements as a pet.

What is a Cockatiel?

The cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) is a small parrot that is a member of the cockatoo family. They are native to Australia, particularly the dry inland areas. Cockatiels are the smallest members of the cockatoo family, reaching lengths of 12-14 inches from head to tail.

Some key facts about cockatiels:

– Scientific name: Nymphicus hollandicus
– Average lifespan: 15-20 years (up to 30 years in captivity)
– Size: 12-14 inches long
– Weight: 3-4 ounces
– Natural habitat: Arid inland regions of Australia
– Diet: Seeds, fruits, vegetables, insect larvae
– Behavior: Social, vocal, able to mimic sounds

Cockatiels are distinguished from true parrots by their distinctive crested head and rounded tail feathers. They exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females can be differentiated based on their physical appearance.

Physical Characteristics

Cockatiels share several physical traits with parrots that help contribute to their parrot-like appearance:

Colorful plumage – Cockatiels sport a grey body with bursts of orange, yellow, and white on the face, crest, cheeks, and tail. The male cockatiel has brighter cheek patches and barring on tail feathers.

Hooked bill – A hallmark parrot feature, cockatiels have a curved upper bill that hooks over the lower bill. The bill is designed for cracking seeds and nuts.

Zygodactyl feet – Cockatiels have two toes facing forward and two facing backward. This allows them to grip and climb effectively.

Large wings – Like parrots, cockatiels have broad wings suited for flights through dense vegetation. Their long tail feathers act as rudders during flight.

Crested head – A distinguishing cockatiel feature, the crest can be raised or lowered to express emotion.

Small size – Cockatiels are one of the smallest cockatoos, making them closer in size to large parrots.

Cockatiel Parrot
Grey body with orange cheek patches Colorful, often green, body
12-14 inches long 10-40 inches long
Hooked upper bill Hooked upper bill
Zygodactyl feet Zygodactyl feet
Large wings Large wings
Crested head Smooth head


In the wild, cockatiels exhibit behaviors typical of parrots and parakeets:

Social – Cockatiels live in large flocks of up to hundreds of birds. They preen each other and require social bonding.

Vocal – Male cockatiels are prolific whistlers with a wide repertoire of calls. Females make softer contact calls.

Aerial – Cockatiels are strong, agile fliers that spend much of their time airborne.

Foraging – They forage on the ground and in trees for seeds, fruits, berries, and insect larvae.

Nesting – Cockatiels nest in tree hollows lined with wood chips. The female incubates the eggs.

In captivity, cockatiels exhibit strong bonding and enjoyment of human interaction, much like parrots. They are highly intelligent and can learn tricks and mimic speech. Cockatiels are energetic and love to climb, chew, and play with toys.

Natural Habitat

Cockatiels originate from the dry, arid inland regions of Australia, predominantly in the northeast and central east areas.

Their natural habitats include:

– Savannas
– Scrublands
– Open woodlands
– Grasslands

Cockatiels favor areas with stands of large eucalyptus trees near water sources. The tree hollows provide necessary nesting sites. Drought-resistant shrubs, trees, and grass seeds provide ample foraging.

Cockatiels travel widely in large flocks to locate food and water. They can fly long distances across open terrain. Their neutral coloration camouflages them against the tans and greys of the Australian bush.

Interestingly, cockatiels are the only cockatoo species that can inhabit harsh desert environments. Their small size and flying ability gives them an advantage in dry regions.

Care as Pets

The popularity of cockatiels as pets stems from their small size, beautiful colors, playful nature, and ability to bond closely with people. Here are some key points for caring for a cockatiel:

Housing – A roomy cage, at least 18 inches wide, with horizontal bars for climbing. Provide out-of-cage playtime.

Diet – A balanced diet of fortified seed mix, pellets, vegetables, and occasional fruits. Avoid avocado, chocolate, caffeine.

Grooming – Occasional mist baths keep feathers healthy. Trim overgrown beak and nails.

Enrichment – Provide plenty of toys, perches, mirrors. Play music, give scoped vegetable pieces to forage.

Socialization– Spend time interacting with your cockatiel daily. They require attention and bonding.

With proper care, a tame, well-socialized cockatiel makes a delightful pet bird. Their small size makes them suitable for apartments. Cockatiels also enjoy living in bonded pairs for companionship. Their antics and affectionate nature provide endless entertainment.


Cockatiels offer parrot lovers a small, manageable version of these highly social and intelligent birds. Their parrot-like qualities – colorful plumage, hooked bill, vocalizations, and playful nature – make cockatiels the perfect “starter parrot”. With a little understanding of their needs, cockatiels make personable and engaging pet birds. Their similarities to parrots give cockatiel owners a taste of what parrot ownership is like in an apartment-friendly package. So for those seeking an affectionate feathered friend, the cockatiel’s parrot impersonation is sure to charm.