What Is The Difference Between A Cockatiel and A Cockatoo?

Well besides looking different, here is the difference between a cockatiel and a cockatoo.

difference between cockatiel cockatoo

Although you can’t mistake which is which, you can see that cockatiels and cockatoos belong to the same family.

The cockatiel is the smallest member of the cockatoo family.   They have a lot of the same characteristics, and most of the experts say that the cockatiel is really just a tiny cockatoo.

There are 21 species of cockatoos within the family of birds Cacatuidae, and cockatiels are the only members of the Nymphicus genus. Cockatiels are the smallest birds in the cockatoo family and are one of the most popular pet birds bought worldwide.

bare eyed cockatoo


Here are some of the characteristics that cockatiels share with cockatoos.

  • They both have crests on top of their heads;
  • Some cockatoos, as well as the cockatiel hens, have bars on the undersides of their tail feathers;
  • The color combination of white, yellow and grey doesn’t occur in adult parrots, but does in cockatoos;
  • In both cockatiels and cockatoos the male and female birds alternate incubation duties and both parents feed the chicks;
  • Cheek patches also occur in some cockatoos;
  • Cockatiels and Cockatoos both make similar noises while eating;
  • Cockatiels and cockatoos both make dramatic sweeping beak movements and then hold their heads back when drinking water;
  • The first down feathers of both cockatiels and cockatoos are yellow.  They don’t shed these down feathers, instead, they turn into powdery feathers which produce a waterproof powder later on.
  • In both cockatiels and cockatoos, the first plumage changes completely after the first molt;
  • Both sets of chicks remain partially bald before their feathers come in;
  • Cockatiels and cockatoos show fear in similar ways.  They crouch low, hiss, rock from side to side, fan their tails and lift the front part of the wings while keeping the wingtips close to the body.

So, What Is The Difference between a Cockatiel and a Cockatoo?

Here are a few:

  • Cockatiels are about half to a quarter of the size of other cockatoos and have much smaller beaks.
  • Some species of cockatoo can live more than 100 years, while cockatiels have an average lifespan of about 14 years in captivity and 25 years in the wild.
  • Cockatiels are generally calmer and easier to keep than other larger cockatoos.
  • Large cockatoos require larger cages and more playtime outside the cage to remain stimulated enough to be mentally healthy and happy, whereas cockatiels don’t require as much attention.
  • Cockatoos are way more expensive to purchase than cockatiels.
  • Cockatoos learn to talk more clearly than cockatiels.
  • Cockatoos are mainly white, salmon or yellow in color, while cockatiels vary from grey to mottled, to white, to yellow and can even be mixed. Click here to read more about cockatiel mutations.

Click here for more cockatiel history.

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