Cockatiels - How Long do they live?


by J. Howard Brown

Recently I was shown an article in an American magazine, written by Graeme Hyde, about a cockatiel in England that reached the ripe old age of 28 years, considered to be a record.

"Cheekie" the 30-yr-old Cockatiel - Nymphicus hollandicus. Photo by & courtesy of Michael Ashton, Brisbane Qld

This article, plus surveying a few friends prompted the following "age is all in the mind: - so 'tis said". It applies also to our feathered friends seemingly. Thirty this year and still going strong! When people come to buy a cockatiel you can bet you’ll be asked - "how long do cockatiels live?" The living proof is there for all to see - a cockatiel who is 30 years old this year (1997), in good feather, sprightly, active and alert.

For nigh on 30 years I have daily cleaned, changed and fed this "family member" (at least a baby would have been able to do for itself ere this). This treasured pet has never been out of its cage, (the cage is 30 years old and looks pretty good too) but in spite of this is a happy little soul, always responsive to lots of attention and ready to whistle and talk. When younger he would recite his address and phone number and quite a few lines of poetry. He still chatters away but not as frequently or clearly as of yore, possibly due to the fact we don’t have as much time to devote to keeping him amused.

As the years have passed I’ve often wondered what it is that has kept him so healthy through the years.

Could it be his diet? "Cheekie" has always been fed a diet of small seeds only, a mixture of canary, panicum and two millets, plus a dish of shell grit, a daily sprig of parsley and occasional treats (like daily) of pieces of potato crisps and cheese biscuits. Enjoys his weekly spray from the hose and laps up lots of tender loving care.

Last year he shocked us by suddenly looking very seedy - tail bobbing and gasping as though his last hour had come. It so happened it was a public holiday but I was so concerned I took the liberty of ringing my Vet at home - who immediately responded to my tale of woe and arranged to meet me at his surgery. Examination revealed he had a broken wing. How, I wouldn’t know!! The only explanation being he must have fallen off his perch during the night (it must have been some dream). He was obviously in pain and was given a pain killing injection but due to his age it was decided not to stress him further by strapping it up but to let the wing heal naturally. A few days later and he was back to his normal bright self and apart from a slightly droopy wing, in fine fettle. He rests most afternoons lying length-wise along his perch with his broken wing (now healed) acting as a balance. Even so one would never guess he was going on 30 years young.

Platinum Cockatiels - Nymphicus hollandicus. Photograph by & courtesy of Mr Michael Ashton, Brisbane

It was in 1982 I retired, having then had "Cheekie" for a number of years and become completely rapt in Cockatiels, I felt I would now have the time to try breeding some myself. First I had a circular aviary constructed with a domed roof (cost the earth) which I felt would complement my garden. Next and knowing very little about mutations, I ordered what I thought was to be a pair of 'yellows' (Lutinos).

My disappointment was great when they arrived and I found the cock was a grey split to Lutino, Pearl and Pied (which didn’t mean a thing to me then), the hen was yellow. For this pair as I recall, I paid well over $100 which was a special price just for me. I still hankered after a pair of 'yellows' and so out I went and bought a yellow cock for $125 (the then going price) to put with the hen.

Fate was playing tricks with me - when I went to change over my grey cock bird I discovered he was sitting on 6 eggs so my new purchase was consigned to another small aviary. In the first 12 months my original pair bred 24 chicks.

There was nothing for it but to try and sell them. I advertised in the Saturday paper, praying I would get no replies but through that one ad I sold all 24 birds - (how times have changed). How I hated every one of those buyers and how I agonised over parting with those beautiful chicks.

How much did I get for them back in 1983? As memory serves me from $35-$55, certainly nothing less than $35. The chicks were a mixture of Lutinos (with no bald patches), Pearls, Pied and Normals. That original cockbird, now 17 years of age is still giving me regular nests of 4 and 5 big healthy chicks. He has had 3 Lutino Pearl hens and is now on his 4th.

His original name was "Derby" but perhaps it should have been Henry the way he’s going - (Henry VIII).

Some of Howard's Aviaries. These are full height at the back with a walkway and suspendeds at the front.

When I started back in 1982, I was determined to have only one aviary but little did I realise that aviculture can become a disease - I now daily service 23 aviaries and cages. Whilst I have expanded my collection and added a number of other native parrots species to my collection, I still have a very soft spot for the beautiful little Cockatiel. This is a little bird, when given the care and attention they deserve, will return two fold your time and effort and remain a constant source of pride and delight in your ownership.

Over the years I've been involved in the breeding of Cinnamons, Platinums, White Face, Pieds and other mutations and have always found a ready market for any birds I had to sell.


Update on Cheekie by Howard Brown (March 2000)

The Parrot Society has received a number of enquiries both nationally and internationally, asking for an update on Cheekie, my old pet Cockatiel.

I am happy to report Cheekie is doing well and showing little sign of his advancing years.  At 33 years now he is living up to his name of Cheekie - interested in everything that goes on around him, well feathered, looking spry and very active.

Certainly over the past few years I have become more cautious of those chill winds and sudden temperature changes.  For his comfort and protection I've been keeping him more and more indoors away from draughts and any unexpected drop in temperature or predators.  He still likes his weekly shower and water games with a light hose sprinkle.  This serves to clean and freshen up, not only Cheekie, but his cage which after 33 years also looks quite smart.

With a little extra care and attention I'm hoping he'll be around for quite a few years.  It's certainly been a happy and rewarding commitment of over 33 years.  After all this time he has notched a place in my life style and if he wasn't around would be sorely missed.

Would you like more information on Cockatiels, see Michael Anderson's article parts 1 and 2.

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