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Cockatiels

Cuddly, outgoing and comical are just three reasons why the cockatiel is the No. 1 pet bird in America. Cockatiels are also talented whistlers, and male cockatiels in particular are known for their whistle serenades, which can be directed at their favored person, their favorite object or their mirror reflection. When not whistling or keeping themselves busy foraging for food and fun around the cage, cockatiels often enjoy spending their downtime snuggling on their favored person’s shoulder. A healthy, well-socialized cockatiel can make a great family pet and is also ideal for apartment living.

Native Region / Natural Habitat

Cockatiels are native to the semi-arid regions of Australia. This open environment might be a reason why cockatiels don’t have the ear-piercing screech of parrots originating from dense rain-forest habitats. Wild cockatiels fly to the ground to forage for food. Cockatiels readily breed in the wild, and they are also easy to breed in captivity, which makes them widely available as pets at a lower cost than most other parrot species. Wild cockatiels are always on alert for predators and are light sleepers. A pet cockatiel might have an occasional night-fright episode, where it thrashes around the cage at night as if startled. You can help your cockatiel find its way back to its perch by leaving a night light on in its room.

Personality & Behavior

The position of a cockatiel’s crest feathers can tell you its mood. Straight-up crest feathers can mean the bird is startled or highly curious. A defensive cockatiel will hold its crest feathers flattened close its head, and it might be especially stressed if it also hisses. A relaxed cockatiel will have slightly held back crest feathers, as well as fluffed cheek feathers and you might also hear it contently grinding its beak.

Toys designed to be destroyed by small beaks are perfect for cockatiels and include pieces of paper, cardboard of soft wood or non-toxic rawhide to chew up. Cockatiels also like toys with hard-plastic elements, such as beads to fiddle with. Male cockatiels often seek out mirrors and other reflective items to whistle to. A cockatiel might be inclined to fly down from its cage or playgym onto the floor, so be extra cautious whenever your bird is out of the cage so you don’t step on it and that other pets, such as cats or dogs, cannot get to it. A female cockatiel might seek out a dark, enclosed area to nest in, such the corner of a cabinet or behind furniture (even if there is no male cockatiel present), so keep these areas off limits. Cockatiels can be taught to whistle back to you on cue but generally aren’t known for their trained tricks.

Speech & Sounds

Cockatiels are more inclined to whistle than talk. Male cockatiels are more likely to talk than females, and some can learn to speak a few words or phrases. Cockatiels tend to chirp rather than screech, and their relatively lower noise volume makes them a good apartment pet. Your cockatiel might chirp a contact call if you leave the room in an attempt to keep in contact with you.

Budgies

The budgie, or budgerigar, is most commonly referred to as the more generic term “parakeet” in the United States.  The wild budgie is similar to the birds we see today in pet shops, though smaller (between 6 and 7 inches long), and only found in the nominate color, green. Its Latin name means, roughly, “song bird with wavy lines,” which is a pretty good description of this popular bird.

Naturalist John Gould and his brother-in-law, Charles Coxen, brought Budgies to Europe around 1838. Europeans became charmed with the birds, which bred readily, making them a staple pet in wealthy homes. The Budgie was displayed at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium around 1850, and began to gain in popularity, not only with the wealthy. Australia banned exportation of Budgies in 1894, and the Europeans had to breed their existing stock in order to continue the hobby. The budgie found its way to America in the late 1920s, but didn’t experience real popularity until the 1950s. Today, it’s the most popularbird in the world.

Native Region / Natural Habitat

The budgie is native to Australia, where it still dominates the grasslands in large, undulating flocks. The wild budgie is similar to the birds we see today in pet shops, though smaller, and only found in the nominate color, green.

The nomadic wild parakeet is found in large flocks that are always on the search for water, which is limited in the scrublands, the habitat that makes up much of the Budgie’s natural range. They breed in the rainy season when water and food are plentiful, and nest in hollowed out trees or tree limbs. They can be pesky to farmers, and are especially dangerous to grain crops.

Personality & Behavior

The Budgie is often underestimated as a hands-on pet. It is certainly good as a “watching only” pet, especially if kept in pairs or in a colony, but it’s easily hand tamed and can become a loyal, loving little friend to a patient owner. Budgies are social birds and won’t do well in a life of isolation. Budgies housed together do remain friendly if given enough contact, though a lone parakeet is often the best choice if you want a “pet-quality” bird.

Parakeets are okay with children if the children are respectful of them. This small bird can easily become victim to a raucous child. Adult supervision with any pet is advisable. This bird’s beak isn’t as powerful as some of the other birds of its size, but it can certainly hurt little sensitive fingers.

Speech & Sounds

The Budgie is the best talking bird among the parrots, able to learn words, phrases, and whistles easily. One Budgie has been recorded repeating more than 1700 words! The males are the best talkers, though females can learn a few words and can also whistle well.

Caique

Well known as the clown of companion birds, caiques are loved by bird fanciers for their outgoing nature and ability to make people laugh with their playful antics. The proper way to pronounce caique is “kai-eke”-don’t ask for a “cake” at the bird shop, or they might point you to the nearest bakery!

If the African grey parrot is the intellectual of the bird community, and the macaw is the show-off, then the caique is the clown. Caiques have been called clowns more often than Barnum and Bailey have had shows in three rings, and for good reason-the clown is a truly appropriate metaphor for this medium-sized mischief maker.

Two species of caiques are commonly kept as pets: the black-headed caique (Pionites melanocephala) and the white-bellied caique (Pionites leucogaster). The yellow-thighed caique, a subspecies of the white-bellied, is also kept as a pet, though it is less common in the pet trade. The black-headed and the white-bellied caique have a similar appearance, with a few obvious distinctions. They both are about 9 to 10 inches long, and their color composition is relatively simple, with “sections” of the bird in green, orange, yellow, and white.

The black-headed caique has, obviously, a black head and black beak, while the white-bellied has, you guessed it, a white belly (so does the black-headed, incidentally), horn-colored beak, and a bright orange and yellow head. The caique is a stocky bird, surprisingly heavy for its size, as most new owners will point out.

 

Native Region / Natural Habitat

Caiques are native to South America.

Personality & Behavior

Aside from the caique’s striking appearance, its personality is the primary reason for its rise in popularity. Caique owners rave about this plucky, active, little comedian. Most bird owners know that they will have to accept the good, the bad, and the “ugly” part of bird ownership when they take on a feathered companion. The caique makes a wonderful pet, but it’s not perfect. They can be stubborn and beaky, and very willful. But they are so cute, it’s difficult to fault them. Keep a very watchful eye on your caique if you have other birds in the house-they are known for bird-on-bird aggression, and care should be taken that the caique does not injure another pet bird.

Toys are a staple of the caique’s energy-diet. Caiques are always “on the go” and love to play with toys, especially toys that they can demolish. Be sure to have a steady supply of new toys on hand to replace the old ones when they become ragged or are disassembled. You’ll have to experiment with several types of toys to find your caique’s favorites. Fortunately, there are many types of toys on the market to choose from, but make sure that they are safe before you give them to your caique.

Speech & Sounds

Caiques can’t compete in a noise contest with a cockatoo, but they are not quiet, by any means. Their noise level is moderate, and will only bother your more “sensitive” neighbors. They are not known for their talking ability, but can learn to whistle and cluck very well. A talented caique will talk, but its mimicking does not rival that of the better talking species.