Cockatiel vs Parakeet: 5 Key Differences to Decide Which is Right for You

Written by Deborah Bagley
Published: March 12, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/tatchai
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Cockatiels and parakeets are two of the most popular pet birds in the world. They’re both extremely friendly not only to other birds but also to humans. In addition, they’re easy to train and as curious birds, can be a lot of fun to watch! However, there are important differences between these two birds that include their lifespan, size, and coloration. Let’s dive into the differences that separate cockatiels vs. parakeets to decide which bird is best for you!

Comparing cockatiels vs. parakeets

Cockatiel vs Parakeet
Cockatiels and parakeets are two of the most popular pet birds.

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CockatielParakeet (Budgerigars)
SizeWeight: 2 oz to 4 oz
Length: 12 inches to 14 inches
Weight: 1 oz to 1.5 oz
Length: 7 inches
Color Most common colors are grey and yellowMore variation in colors that includes yellow, green, blue, and white
Diet Seeds, flowers, nuts, fruits, legumes, berries, grass seeds, pellets, cerealsSeeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers
VocalizationQuieter than other parrot species, but will mimic words and phrasesMore vocal and will tweet songs and mimick sounds and words they’ve heard
Lifespan 10 to 15 years on average with the oldest cocktail on record having reached 32 years old.5 to 15 years on average. The oldest parakeet on record lived to be 29 years old.

The main differences between cockatiels and parakeets

The main differences between parakeets and cockatiels are their appearance – with cockatiels having distinctive crests on their head that aren’t found on parakeets. In addition, cockatiels are generally larger than parakeets and are most commonly found in grey and yellow while parakeets have a wider variety of colors.

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It’s important to note that the term “parakeet” is broadly used to describe small and medium-sized parrots. It’s most commonly associated with budgerigars – or “budgies” – a small parakeet that’s a popular pet. So in our comparisons below we’ll mostly focus on how budgies compare to cockatiels.

Cockatiel vs parakeets: Color Differences

cockatiel vs parakeet
Gray and yellow are the two most common cockatiel colors!

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Cockatiels and parakeets come in many colors. The most common color of a cockatiel is grey with a yellow head and orange cheek patches but there are at least 9 variations in color. A popular color for cockatiels is Lutino which is a lovely combination of bright yellow and white. To know if you have a girl or boy cockatiel you need to look at the color of specific parts of their body. These can vary depending on the breed of cockatiel, but for wild cockatiels, males have yellow heads while females have mostly grey heads with some hints of yellow.

Parakeets are a variety of different colors, such as yellow, green, blue, and white. Blue and green are quite common colors. Their faces are generally yellow in color and they have violet cheek patches, they also have six black throat patches. Parakeets have a fleshy spot above their beak called a cere, this is how to tell who is a girl or a boy. On a boy, the cere is royal blue and on a girl, it can range in color between white and pale brown. Like with cockatiels, the number of color mutations that have been bred into parakeets can make determining their sex difficult.

Parakeets appear in more color variants that can include green and blue.

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Cockatiel vs parakeets: Diet

Both cockatiel and parakeet diets are very close and they can share the same food if you were to have both types of birds in your home. Cockatiels and parakeets need commercial food made up of grasses, seeds, grains, and dried fruits and vegetables. Fresh vegetables, like lettuce, carrots, and squash, and fruits, like berries, oranges, and bananas are good food choices. Always remove any uneaten fresh food before it spoils. Parakeets and cockatiels appreciate their fresh fruit and veggies being cut up. Budgies shouldn’t get too many high-fat sunflower seeds so they don’t get too chubby. Fresh water should be available at all times.

It’s important to note that some foods should be avoided for both species. For example, chocolate is highly toxic for both parakeets and cockatiels. Other foods that are harmful include fried foods, salty foods, and dairy products.

Cockatiel vs parakeets: Which is larger?

Cockatiels are larger and longer than budgies. On average, cocktails reach a length of about 12 to 14 inches while budgies are only about 7 inches long. It should be noted that other parrots often called “parakeets” such as the princess parrot will grow larger than cockatiels. Budgerigars are on the smaller side of birds known as parakeets.

Cockatiel vs parakeets: Lifespan

Buying a pet bird can be a long-term commitment, so it’s important to understand the lifespan differences between parakeets and cockatiels. Cockatiels generally live 10 to 15 years. Many factors can affect their lifespans, such as whether they have a companion, their enclosure size, and their diet. The oldest recorded cockatiel on record was named Sunshine, and lived to be 32 years old.

On average, parakeets have slightly shorter lifespans than cockatiels. Budgies in particular have one of the shorter lifespans among parakeets, with them living 5 to 10 years when well-cared for. Other parakeet species can live longer, with monk parakeets, golden parakeets, and rose-ringed parakeets all living more than 20 years on average in captivity.

Cockatiel vs parakeets: Vocalization

cockatiel vs parakeet
Budgies love a good hour left out of their cages.

iStock.com/Alina Lebed

Both cockatiels and parakeets are able to talk. Budgies are more likely to interact with you and speak more often. They both will mimic whistling and other sounds they hear. With cockatiels and budgies, males learn to talk, while the females generally do not.  However, neither species is as talkative as larger parrot species such as Macaws.

Why cockatiels and parakeets can make good pets

Cockatiel and budgies are wonderful uncomplicated pet birds. They are the two smallest parrots who are quiet enough to live in an apartment or condo. These two birds also are much less destructive than larger parrots and they are by far the friendliest and easiest to train.

Budgies and cockatiels are also relatively inexpensive to have as pets and are a great choice for families or seniors. They’re both birds that enjoy companionship, are happy to live together and will chatter and whistle with each other. Budgies appreciate having another budgie to share their home with, however, if you have two they may bond more with each other than with their humans.

Which is the best pet for you? Cockatiel vs parakeet

Which bird is the best pet has a lot to do with the owner’s lifestyle. Parakeets are a good choice for someone who is home a lot and who has the means to provide a good variety of toys for their bird. Parakeets need the stimulation and interactivity that toys provide. Budgies need a good hour of playtime and also time outside of their cage to explore and play. Also, parakeets are noisier than cockatiels because they chatter, whistle, and sing all day long.

Cockatiels are a better choice for someone who prefers their pet to be busy only during certain times of the day and who needs alone time. They are generally ready to play and interact in the morning and in the evening. Cockatiels are a bit quieter than budgies are and appreciate the alone time to contemplate and preen.

Just remember, getting a pet bird if you are largely gone most of the time is a really bad idea. Birds need interaction and affection.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are cockatiel vs parakeets in the parrot family?

Both cockatiels vs parakeets are the two smallest members of the parrot family. All parrots have a hooked bill in order to crack open seeds.

How are cockatiels and parakeets similar?

Parakeets and cockatiels love to interact with their humans and are easy to hand train. They also both appreciate having toys to play with and time outside of their cage. They both are highly trainable and smart. Cockatiels and parakeets are particularly good pets for apartments and condos because they are not loud, and they stay quiet at night which makes them very good neighbors. Budgies and cockatiels are natives of Australia.

How are cockatiels and parakeets different?

Parakeets do not like to be left alone preferring company. They like to chatter, whistle, and sing all day long. Cockatiels are fine spending time alone, they also like your company but on their terms. Cockatiels also are vocal usually during morning and evening and largely quiet during the day.