Cockatoo vs Cockatiel (Which is Better)

Last Updated on December 22, 2023 by Ali Shahid

When deciding between a cockatoo and a cockatiel as your feathery friend, each bird brings its charm. Both are popular pets, known for being clever and friendly. Yet, there are crucial distinctions that might sway your choice. Cockatoos, being larger and more sociable, demand more attention. 

They form strong bonds with their owners but can be a bit high-maintenance and noisy, which might be challenging for those with limited time or tight living spaces. On the flip side, cockatiels are smaller, easier to care for, and generally more laid-back. Their calm personalities make them a hit among both seasoned and new bird owners.

In this discussion, we will step into the intriguing world of cockatoos and cockatiels, comparing their size, looks, lifespan, temperament, and care needs. We’ll also tap into the experiences of owners of both types of birds, providing valuable insights to help you decide which bird aligns better with your lifestyle and preferences. So, let’s embark on this captivating journey to uncover the distinct qualities of these charming birds and discover the ideal companion for you.

Cockatoo vs Cockatiel

General Comparison of Cockatoos and Cockatiels

Size and AppearanceLarger (30 to 60 cm, 300 to 1,200 g)Smaller (32 cm, 80 to 100 g)
LifespanUp to 70 years (domesticated)16 to 25 years (in a cozy home)
PersonalitySocial, affectionate, high-maintenanceFriendly, sociable, laid-back
Care and MaintenanceHigh-maintenance, regular grooming, attentionLow-maintenance, daily spot-cleaning, attention
Time CommitmentLow maintenance, daily spot-cleaning, attentionLess demanding, easier to handle
CostsHigher initial and monthly expensesRelatively more affordable to buy and maintain
ProsIntelligent, playful, striking appearanceFriendly, low maintenance, affordable
ConsLoud, high-maintenance, potential for damageLong lifespan, daily commitment, noise-sensitive

Cockatoo vs Cockatiel: Size and Appearance

Cockatoos and cockatiels, both part of the Cacatuidae family, have some big differences in how they look and their size. Cockatoos are generally bigger, around 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in) long, and weigh between 300 to 1,200 g (0.66 to 2.65 lb). Their feathers aren’t super colorful like some other parrots, usually being black, grey, or white. Sometimes, you’ll see a bit of yellow, pink, or red on their crest or tail.

On the flip side, cockatiels, which are the smallest in the cockatoo family, are much smaller and slimmer. They’re about 32 cm (13 in) long, including their long tail feathers, and weigh between 80 to 100 g (2.8 to 3.5 oz). Cockatiels mostly have grey feathers with noticeable white flashes on the edges of their wings. Male cockatiels have a yellow or white face, while females have a grey or light grey face. Both males and females have a round orange area on their ears, often called “cheddar cheeks.”

The size difference between cockatoos and cockatiels affects how much space they need. Because cockatoos are bigger, they need larger cages for their physical comfort and mental well-being. For example, the big Moluccan and Umbrella cockatoos need cages that are 30 to 36 inches deep, 48 inches wide, and 72 inches high. On the other hand, cockatiels, being smaller, need less space. Still, they need a roomy cage for flying around horizontally, with a good size being at least 24 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 24 inches high for one bird.

Cockatoo vs Cockatiel: Lifespan

Cockatoos and cockatiels, both part of the parrot family, have different lifespans. In the wild, cockatoos can live around 40 years, but when they’re domesticated, they might reach up to 70 years. Some of these birds have even hit nearly 100 years. On the flip side, wild cockatiels usually live 10 to 15 years, but in a cozy home, they can stretch that to 16 to 25 years. The oldest known cockatiel made it to a respectable 36 years.

The extended lifespans of these feathery pals, especially when they’re your pets, mean you’re in it for the long haul. Owning a pet like a cockatoo or a cockatiel is like signing up for a marathon of care and attention. It involves keeping their diet on point, regular trips to the vet, and making sure they stay mentally sharp for their well-being.

What’s more, these birds might even outlive their owners, a thought that weighs heavier on the minds of older pet owners. That’s why it’s smart for potential bird parents to have a solid plan for their pet’s care, just in case they can’t do it themselves down the road.

Cockatoo vs Cockatiel: Personality and Social Nature

Cockatoos and cockatiels, both part of the parrot family, bring unique personalities and social behaviors that deeply influence an owner’s life. Cockatoos are social butterflies, forming strong bonds with their owners. 

They’re smart, affectionate, and love to play, needing careful attention and stimulation to avoid mischief. Often nicknamed “velcro” birds, they crave constant company and might get a bit demanding, displaying behaviors like non-stop screaming or destroying their cage if they feel neglected or rejected.

On the flip side, cockatiels are the cuddly, outgoing comedians of the bird world. Especially the males, they’re fantastic whistlers and enjoy snuggling on their favorite person’s shoulder during downtime. Social and playful, they thrive on interacting with their owners but being smaller, they should be handled gently.

These feathery friends impact an owner’s life in a big way. Cockatoos, with their constant need for attention, can be high-maintenance and demand a lot of time. They might not be the best fit for owners with tight schedules. Cockatiels, on the other hand, are more laid-back and are often recommended as great beginner birds, suitable for families, including those with young kids. They’re less demanding, making them easier to handle for a wider range of owners.

Cockatoo vs Cockatiel: Care and Maintenance

Because of differences in size, temperament, and lifespan, caring for these two parrot species involves distinct needs that can considerably impact an owner’s investment of time and money.


Cockatoos are renowned for being super social, needing loads of attention and interaction. Regular grooming is a must, including a gentle feather spray. Since they love to chew, wooden chews are essential to keep them entertained. Yearly health check-ups are important. Cost-wise, the initial price can range from hundreds to thousands. Monthly food expenses hover between $30 to $50, with vet visits averaging $100 to $300 per year. Factor in another $100 for toys and supplies.


Cockatiels, generally seen as low-maintenance, need daily spot-cleaning and freshening up their habitat. Regular washing of food and water bowls is necessary. Bedding and liners should be swapped out at least once a week. While not overly demanding, they do need attention and variety in their diet to live a healthy life. Their menu includes birdseed, pelleted food, veggies, fruits, and the occasional treat. Cost-wise, keeping a cockatiel is relatively affordable at around $20 to $30 per month. The upfront cost for a cockatiel is in the range of $50 to $150.

Time Commitment and Costs

The time and costs involved in caring for each bird differ significantly. Cockatoos demand substantial time and attention due to their highly social nature. The associated costs, covering food, vet visits, toys, and supplies, are relatively higher. Cockatiels, on the flip side, require less time and are generally more budget-friendly to maintain. However, daily care and a varied diet are still necessary.

Cockatoo vs Cockatiel: Pros and Cons

Cockatoo: Pros and Cons


  1. Intelligence and Playfulness: Cockatoos are smart and playful, picking up tricks easily and often mimicking human speech.
  2. Affectionate Companions: These birds are social butterflies, forming strong bonds with their owners. They’re affectionate and need a lot of human interaction.
  3. Striking Appearance: Cockatoos catch the eye with their beautiful feathers and impressive flying skills.
  4. Hardy: Cockatoos are tough birds, able to handle different climates.


  1. Loud: Cockatoos can be noisy, which might be bothersome in certain living situations.
  2. High Maintenance: These birds need a lot of care, both physically and mentally. Without attention, they can get a bit destructive.
  3. Potential for Damage: Cockatoos love to chew, and that habit can lead to significant damage to furniture and other belongings.
  4. Cost: Owning a cockatoo can be pricey. They need a spacious cage or outdoor aviary, and the expenses for their diet, toys, and medical care can add up.

Cockatiel: Pros and Cons


  1. Friendly and Sociable: Cockatiels are generally friendly birds that like hanging out with humans. They can be trained and are known to be quite sociable.
  2. Low Maintenance: Compared to other birds, cockatiels are pretty easy to take care of. They’re less likely to wreck things or need as much attention as some other parrot types.
  3. Affordable: Cockatiels are generally easier on the wallet to buy and look after than many other birds.
  4. Gentle Disposition: Cockatiels are known for being calm and gentle, making them a solid choice for bird beginners.


  1. Long Lifespan: Cockatiels can live for 20 years or more, so having one is a long-term commitment.
  2. Daily Commitment: These birds need daily interaction and care. They need time out of their cage every day and can be a bit demanding.
  3. Noise Sensitivity: Cockatiels are sensitive to noise and can get bored easily. They also make some dust and can be a bit messy.
  4. Space Requirements: Even though they’re smaller than many parrots, cockatiels still need a decent amount of space. Their cage should be at least 2 feet on all sides.

Cockatoo vs Cockatiel: Owner Opinions

Cockatoo Owners’ Opinions

When it comes to choosing between a Cockatoo and a Cockatiel, insights from experienced bird owners shed light on the matter.

1. Reddit User:

A Reddit user, initially eyeing a Cockatoo but ultimately going for a Conure, painted a vivid picture of Cockatoos as the neediest parrot pals. They stressed that owning one demands a significant time investment, cautioning those not ready for the commitment to reconsider the choice.

2. Parrot Forums

Over on Parrot Forums, another prospective owner sought wisdom from those who already had Cockatoos in their lives. They were after the real deal — the daily highs and lows, the pros and cons. Their plea was for unfiltered truths to avoid big mistakes, both for themselves and their feathery friend.

3. Parrot Behavior Consultant

Pamela Clark, a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant, weighed in on the misconceptions surrounding Cockatoos in a blog post. Contrary to common belief, she argued that Cockatoos aren’t any less suitable as human companions than other parrots. The catch is, they need specific care and surroundings that not everyone might be ready to provide.

Cockatiel Owners’ Opinions

1. Reddit User:

One Reddit user shared their experience with their cockatiel, describing it as a tiny bundle of personality. They emphasized the importance of not underestimating any bird, cautioning against thinking of them as low-maintenance pets. The user pointed out that many cockatiels end up in shelters because people treat them as if they were disposable.

2. YouTube User:

In a video titled “Cockatiels as Pets: 7 Reasons NOT to Get One!” by BirdNerdSophie, the user expressed their thoughts on the matter. They discussed how cockatiels tend to seek attention, even when the owner is busy, and highlighted the challenge of dealing with the dust they produce, which can create a mess at home.

3. YouTube User:

Another video, titled “5 Worst Things About Owning A Cockatiel,” focused on the downsides of having a cockatiel as a pet. The user mentioned that one of the challenges is the bird’s clinginess, noting that while it can be endearing, it may become inconvenient when the bird demands attention at inconvenient moments.


Cockatoos and cockatiels both make great pets, but they have their own unique qualities, requirements, and things to think about. Cockatoos are bigger and more social, needing lots of attention. 

They are known for being loving but can be a bit demanding and noisy. On the flip side, cockatiels are smaller, easier to take care of, and generally more laid-back, making them a popular choice for all kinds of bird owners.

But, having either bird is a big commitment. They need proper care, like a good diet, regular check-ups at the vet, and activities to keep their minds busy. Plus, they live a long time, so you need to plan for their care even if you’re not around.

Before deciding, think about your lifestyle, how much time you can give your pet, and if you can handle their need for social interaction. Also, consider the cost – both birds have specific needs like special food, toys, and maybe even a big cage or aviary.

Ultimately, choosing between a cockatoo and a cockatiel should come from understanding what each bird needs and being sure you can provide that. It’s wise to do your homework, talk to bird experts, or chat with people who have experience with these birds before making your choice.


  • Ali Shahid

    Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.

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