Cockatiel vs Parakeet – Most Important Differences

If you are looking to choose between a cockatiel vs a parakeet as a pet, this guide will help you make the right call. We discuss behavioral, physical, and other differences between the two.

Getting a pet bird can be one of the best decisions of your life. But getting the right one that will suit your lifestyle, family, and space is just as important a decision to make.

Are you confused between a cockatiel or a parakeet as a pet?

Interestingly, both of them happen to be different species of parrots and share several similarities. But they also have a few key differences that may mean that one bird suits you better than the other.

Both cockatiels and parakeets (also known as budgies) happen to be among the most popular pet birds in the world.

So, I figured I’d write down this article to help out those struggling to decide which one would make a better pet.



About Cockatiels and Parakeets

Parakeets and cockatiels share the same ancestry, which you might guess from their somewhat similar appearance and body structure.

Both these birds have short, curved beaks, like all parrots. Modern birds in these groups look quite different from their ancestors in the wild and are more colorful.

Neither of the two is native to North America – they originated in Australia. These wild bird species were brought to the UK and bred by pet traders.

Eventually, different varieties of parakeets and cockatiels reached the US and Canada too.

In both species, the males can talk much better than the females. In terms of identification, the cockatiel’s crest is an important feature.

While the beautiful crest on a cockatiel’s head is quite prominent, this feature is entirely missing in parakeets.

Both species of parrots can be quite colorful and come in a variety of color combinations.

However, while blue and green are the most common parakeet colors, a majority of the cockatiels have yellow and/or grey feathers.



Cockatiels also happen to be significantly larger than parakeets, which is another major difference.

Ultimately, both cockatiels and parakeets are affectionate birds and make great pets.

Specifically, choosing males or females might be a bit of a challenge. Gender identification is very difficult in many species of birds under both groups.

Studies in developmental biology have identified both parrots and cockatiels as altricial species. In the following sections, we’ll be exploring more about these beautiful birds and how they differ.

Cockatiels vs Parakeets: Summary of Key Differences

Behavioral Differences

Before getting a new pet, it’s always a good idea to consider its behavioral tendencies and characteristics.

This applies to any pet, not just birds. Some pets require more attention, while some are easily pleased.

Some species are great to have around children, while some can be quite aggressive. Let’s check out how cockatiels and parakeets differ in this regard.

Which one is easier to care for?

You should never get a pet unless you can provide it with the necessary care.

Some birds are relatively difficult to care for, and can quickly become a liability if you aren’t prepared. Between parakeets and cockatiels, neither do well in isolation.

They can get lonely and depressed rather fast, which means it’s a bad idea to get these birds if nobody is at home for most of the day.

When leaving them alone at home for a few, you should provide them with enough toys, food, and water.

However, cockatiels are slightly easier to care for as they don’t get bored as quickly as parakeets.

Which one is more energetic?

This is an aspect where the two birds differ greatly. Cockatiels are relatively laid-back. While they do love interacting and playing with people, they also spend a lot of time in solitude.

It’s quite a common sight for cockatiel owners to find their pets sitting quietly and preening their feathers.

Parakeets, however, are quite the opposite. These birdies are extremely social and energetic, always ready to play.

Before you get a parakeet, consider the birds will have someone to play with every couple of hours.

While they aren’t annoying for your neighbors, parakeets are much noisier than cockatiels.



Who talks more?

Both budgies and cockatiels have impressive vocalization capabilities, which is a big reason behind their popularity as pets.

However, as mentioned earlier, the males are much better at talking than the females.

Between the two groups, parakeets possess superior talking skills compared to cockatiels.

Apart from pronouncing the words more clearly, they’re also capable of memorizing a much larger vocabulary.

Before you jump to conclusions on this matter, you should note that male cockatiels are also capable of whistling – something that parakeets cannot do.

Wild cockatiels (males) whistle to attract females as a part of the courtship ritual.

If your priority is to get a bird that’s great at talking, parakeets are a better choice. However, if you’d like to get a bird with a beautiful whistle, go for a cockatiel instead.

Who is more affectionate?

While both cockatiels and parakeets can be affectionate, it’s especially true in the case of the former.

Cockatiels are particularly fond of head scratches – another reason to choose cockatiels when buying pet birds for your kids.

This doesn’t necessarily mean parakeets aren’t affectionate. However, most of them aren’t a fan of being cuddled.

There are exceptions, and you can find affectionate parakeets too, but cockatiels are the clear winners in this aspect.

Which one is noisier?

Now, noisiness is a common problem that parrot owners have to face. The same applies to cockatiels and parakeets too, but they’re among the relatively less noisy parrot species.

Other parrots, like macaws and Amazon parrots, are far noisier and can even draw complaints from your neighbors.

With that said, cockatiels are a better choice than parakeets if you’re specifically looking for a pet parrot that isn’t too noisy.

While they’re louder than parakeets, the latter tends to keep chattering incessantly. You might also want to note that for both groups of birds, the females are much quieter than the males.



Which one is smarter?

Cockatiels and budgies are very close when it comes to smartness, though cockatiels are slightly more intelligent.

Between the two, cockatiels can outsmart parakeets most of the time. However, both are equally capable of keeping you entertained with tricks.

It depends on how well you train the birds.

Which one is likely to bite you?

If you’re afraid of getting bitten, you should consider getting parakeets rather than cockatiels. While cockatiels are usually affectionate, they can also get aggressive at times.

It’s easy to end up getting bitten by a cockatiel if you pet it for too long or when it doesn’t want to be petted.

Cockatiels don’t generally bite with the intent to hurt, but when they do, the bite is strong enough to draw blood.

Parakeets, however, are far gentler and very unlikely to bite. If you have kids who might try to pet and cuddle the birds often, parakeets are a safer option.

Who is easier to train?

Both cockatiels and parakeets are easy to train. You can teach them a variety of tricks to perform or words to speak.

However, as I mentioned previously, cockatiels are slightly more intelligent. This allows them to learn faster and makes them more trainable.

Physical Differences Between Cockatiels and Parakeets

Now that we have covered the behavioral differences between cockatiels and parakeets, let’s check out their physical differences.

Rest assured, both of them are quite beautiful and can keep children entertained

Which bird is bigger?

Cockatiels are notably bigger than parakeets, which is something you should consider regarding cage size.

Parakeets grow up to around 7 inches on average, while adult cockatiels grow up to 12 – 14 inches long from the top of the head to the end of the tail feather.

That is, cockatiels can be twice the height of parakeets, although the sizes vary from one species to another.

An average parakeet weighs between 30 and 40 grams, while the average weight of a cockatiel ranges from 70 to 120 grams.

The wingspans, however, are much closer – 12 inches for parakeets and 14 inches for cockatiels.

To sum up, cockatiels are larger birds and might need larger cages. In this regard, note that English Budgies are much larger than American parakeets.



Are cockatiels or parakeets more colorful?

Although both are colorful birds, parakeets outshine cockatiels in this aspect.

Gray and yellow are the most common colors you’d see in cockatiels, although cockatiel breeders have come up with more colorful species through mutations.

They typically have white wing patches and red or deep orange patches on the cheeks.

Parakeets, on the other hand, are bright and colorful. They come in a much wider variety of colors, with green, blue, yellow, and white being the most common.

Parakeets bred in captivity are much more multicolored than wild parakeets. There are currently around 18 cockatiel mutations, while you can find Parakeets in 30 different colors.

Who needs more physical activity?

Remember I mentioned that parakeets are more energetic than cockatiels? As you might expect from it, they also demand much more physical activity between the two.

While cockatiels are laid back and love spending time sitting in a corner, parakeets would fly around the room every time they get out of the cage.

Make sure to provide your parakeets with enough perches and swings in the cage. You should also take them out of the cage once in a while and let them run or walk around.

Which bird lives longer?

As a thumb rule, larger birds tend to live longer than smaller species. Being the larger of the two, cockatiels live much longer than parakeets.

An average parakeet lives 10 to 12 years, but some can also live up to 15 years. Cockatiels usually have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years but may sometimes live longer.



What food does each bird take?

Thankfully, both cockatiels and parakeets eat the same foods. This is good news for pet parents who plan to have both these birds in the future.

You may feed them fruits, vegetables, seeds, and other occasional treats. Sunflower seeds are a particular favorite for both types of birds.

A general seed mix would likely be the most common and convenient choice for both types of birds.

Try to diversify the diet, including formulated pellets and veggies too. Feeding them egg white is a great way to provide them with protein.

Just keep in mind that parakeets are smaller and hence need less food than cockatiels.

Which Is More Expensive: Cockatiels or Parakeets?

Parakeets are much more affordable than cockatiels, which makes them a better option for buyers with a tight budget.

Even the starting price for cockatiels is higher than the maximum a parakeet might cost.

The price of a parakeet ranges between $10 and $60, while a cockatiel can cost you anywhere between $75 and $800. The rarer mutations of cockatiels are particularly more expensive.

Can You Put Cockatiels And Parakeets Together?

The similar dietary requirements aren’t the only commonality that makes it convenient to have both cockatiels and parakeets as pets.

You can even keep them together in the same cage.

Cockatiels and parakeets get along quite well thanks to their similarities and complementing differences.

However, don’t just put them together out of the blue. Allow them to get acquainted with each other first, introducing them to neutral grounds outside their cages.

You will initially have to keep them in two separate cages and let them get comfortable around each other.

Don’t place them together unless and until they get familiar with the surroundings and neither shows any hostility.



Which Bird Is A Better Pet For You?

By now, you have a much clearer idea of how cockatiels and parakeets differ from each other.

Coming to the point for which you’re likely on this page in the first place, which of the two is a better choice for pet owners?

Well, while both make great pets, this depends largely on your lifestyle and how much time you can put into engaging with the birds.

As you know by now, parakeets are much more playful and require more attention.

You’d be better off with cockatiels unless there is always someone at home to spend time with the birds. Parakeets are a much better choice in households with kids to play with the birds.

You should also consider their noisiness as a factor when choosing between parakeets and cockatiels.

The former isn’t quite the best option for individuals who work from home and would find their incessant chatter disturbing.

It’s mostly the varying energy levels of parakeets and cockatiels that make a difference. If you need an active and playful pet, get a parakeet.

In case you’d prefer a more laid-back one, go for a cockatiel.



Frequently Asked Questions

Are parakeets or cockatiels more affectionate?

Between the two, cockatiels are much more affectionate than parakeets. The latter would sit on your finger, but it would rather not be petted.
Cockatiels, on the other hand, love getting their heads scratched. However, petting a cockatiel for too long or when it doesn’t want to be petted might irritate the bird.

Do cockatiels like to be held?

Unlike parakeets, cockatiels usually love to be held. Just be careful not to cuddle too much – that might get you bitten.
Also, there are exceptions, and some cockatiels don’t like it when you try to hold or pet them.

Is it better to have 1 parakeet or 2?

A solo parakeet is generally easier to train and more affectionate towards humans. However, they are much happier when they have a companion to spend time with.
Especially if you aren’t at home most of the time, it’s better to get two parakeets than one.

Do cockatiel birds recognize their owners?

Yes, cockatiels have amazing social intelligence and can recognize their caretakers. They even form deep bonds with their owners.
Cockatiels don’t have a sense of smell or touch and recognize people visually, just like we do.
Your cockatiel would even be responsive to your voice and may display clear excitement when you come home after a long time.




Wrapping up

With that, we can wrap up this article. I hope you can now choose the right pet for yourself or your kids.

Ultimately, both birds are great options, and it all comes down to your schedule and lifestyle. If you want a playful, chirpy, noisy, and smaller companion – opt for a parakeet.

If you are looking for a quiet and affectionate pet that you can play with on your own terms, opt for a cockatiel.

Either way, owning and taking care of both types of birds can be a rewarding experience. You just have to make time for them in your life.

And if you are still confused, and looking for more information, read about the difference between a cockatiel and a cockatoo, or see if a cockatiel or a conure is the right choice for you.

Thank you for reading.

Other Cockatiel Resources

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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