Cockatiel Feather 

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Know Your Cockatiel Articles














Cockatiel feather

             Feather is one of the most important component of a birds. Feather is not just for bird to fly, it also very important for the bird to maintain the body temperature and for some birds, the colour and patent of the feather is very useful for camouflage purposes.

            Cockatiel feather may different from other bird feather. I will describe this topic based on my experience and my observation with my cockatiel.


Colour patent of the feather

             The original colour of cockatiel (the wild cockatiel in Australia) is grey. The colour is different between a male cockatiel and a female. The brighter and more colourful feather especially I the head and their face. In original colour, the female cockatiel have light grey colour all their body. There was some ‘barred’ and ‘dot’ of light yellow in their tail, wings, leg and the abdomen. In her face there were some light red at her chin. Or a male cockatiel, the colour of their feather is somehow different. The feather of a male cockatiel have darker colour. This different can be seen especially below the tail and the wing area. In the face, the male cockatiel have brighter colour. His face is mostly yellow. He will have a bright red colour in the feather in his chin.

            There are main different between the colour patent in cockatiel and cockatoos feather. In this family, their feather didn’t have ‘green’ pigment. In other word, there will be no cockatiel with ‘green’ colour in the feather. This charasteristic which is same with cockatoos 9cacatu0 family has make some of the scientis in ealiar day intent to classified cockatiel into cockatoo family.


            Cockatiel is the only ‘parrot’ other than cockatoos family which have crest. Cockatiel crest is consist of this feather on their head which can be seen clearly when cockatiel is exited fear, or emotional. Normally their crested is about 4cm to 5cm in length. Cockatiel which is keep in a crowded aviary normally will have shorter crest, because most of them is damage. If you want to buy a cockatiel you can somehow guest their previous cage and maintanance condition by observing their crest 9this is not all the case as there are lots more reason which can damage their crest feather).

 Wing feather

             Feather in the wing is useful to cockatiel because this will help them to fly and this feather also can keep their body warm. We can categorized wing feather to two category which is primary wing feather and secondary wing feather to two category which primary wing for flying purpose, while the secondary wing feather is more as support of primary wings and also warning their body.

             Cockatiel didn’t have wing for soaring or flying very fast. There wing is somehow broad (broad wing is useful for bird, which live in dense forest, while long wing is useful for bird who live in open are, you can get better picture of this if you study bids of prey and how falconer use different species of bird of prey in different type of terrain for falconry purpose)

            Primary wing is the feather from the tip of the bird wings. Cockatiel have about 7-9 primary wing feather. This feather is attach to different bone while the secondary feather is the set of feather which is nearer to the bird body. Normally if we want to clip the bird wings, we will clip only the primary feather and didn’t ‘touch’ any of secondary feather by cutting the primary feather, the bird will not able to fly but it can still ‘glide’ down and not hurting it self. This is because the secondary wing feather can act like their ‘parachute’ for the birds.

Tail feather

             The cockatiel is the very important reason why the scientis didn’t classified cockatiel into cockatoos species. Cockatiel have long tail comparatively with their body length where by the cockatoo have ‘short’ tail.

            Cockatiel have XX pair of tail feather whereby each pair have different length compare to other pair. The feather pair in the middle of the tail is the longest and it become shorter and shorter toward outside of the tail. Normally I will able to recognized the cockatiel which is adult cockatiel and have their first  molt by observing the longest tail. In perfect condition where their tail didn’t damage we can see that adult cockatiel will have a pair of tail feather the middle feather which is obviously longer compared to the second pair and the rest. The different tail feather s very useful for cockatiel in assisting flying activities. They use their tail feather as a balance factor and as a ‘brake’ when they are flying.

            Similar with the crest, the tail feather also can be use to check the condition of a cockatiel a cockatiel that is too active to ‘clim’ will have damage tail feather if the cockatiel I home in a mall (to small) or too crowded cage, normally their tail feather will damage.



             Molting is the process of changing their feather. Most of the bird will have molting season whereby their feather will ‘drop’ more than usual. Normally molting will happen once a year.

            Cockatiel will loss their feather I small quantity (like we loss our hair) all year round, however every year they will have one molting season. Molting will occurred I some period of time and this time we can see that the cockatiel will loss their wings and tail feather (normally they don’t)

            A young cockatiel will start to molt when they reach 6 month of age. The first feather that will change is feather around the head, back of the neck, follow by the feather at their body. Wing and tail father will be the last to molt. Normally by the time the young cockatiel is at the age of 10 to 12 month, all their feather have been molt.

            The first molt (for normal grey colour cockatiel) will show us whether the cockatiel is a male or female. This is because before the first molt, the young cockatiel will have feather similar to the female cockatiel (which the different is their colour is paler and the wing and tail feather is shorter). There was someone asking me whether the cockatiel will look prettier after the first molt…and my answer is definitely yes…from my perspective, young cockatiel especially male cockatiel will look more ‘handsome’ after their process.


       I hope this section can help or assist you in some way to understand you Cockatiel better. There are lot of Books that elaborate Cockatiel behavior in detail. Check out some great book about Pet Cockatiel here or at



Cockatiel Books and Video Tapes from Avian Publications

The Complete Pet Bird Owner's Handbook (Revised Edition) by Dr. Gary A. Gallerstein

Avian Medicine: Principles and Application (Abridged Edition) by Dr. Branson Ritchie, Dr. Greg Harrison, Linda Harrison & Dr. Donald W. Zantop



22 December 2003

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