Cockatiels - Part 1

 

by Michael Anderson ©

From notes taken by Jude Vaughan during Michael Anderson’s address at the Parrot Society of Australia’s General Meeting - revised by Michael Anderson 1998.

Reflecting the Past

Platinum Cockatiel - Nymphicus hollandicus. Photograph by & courtesy of Michael & Robyn Ashton, Brisbane

When I began in Cockatiels in 1986, my aviaries consisted of three flights and six pair of Cockatiels, being Pieds, Pearl Pieds and a Lutino, worth approximately $40 each. There were no Platinums, Cinnamons or Whitefaces to be seen.

1988 saw Platinums generally available here in Brisbane for $150 each. Platinums were then called Cinnamon, or Lacewing Cinnamon in the case of Pearled Platinum because of some brownish tones. Confusion reigned when the true Cinnamon appeared and we had two different mutations with the same name.

Australian Birdkeeper in 1988 featured one page of classifieds relating to birds for sale, of which only one ad was for Cockatiels. By comparison, in 1996 some eight pages, covering 120 classifieds, featured 30 for Cockatiels which is indicative of this species growing popularity.

Again, on reflecting the year 1989, Cinnamons from Western Australia were commanding $1,300 per pair. Likewise, this year saw West Coast Silvers bringing $1,000 a pair -- however, some were disappointing and were more grey than silver -- a rather diluted version of the Normal.

My first Whiteface were obtained in 1990 for $1,000 each. They were very hard to get and some of these early 

Whiteface Cinnamon Cockatiel - Nymphicus hollandicus. Photograph by & courtesy of Michael & Robyn Ashton, Brisbane

Whiteface were poor breeders. Whiteface were still selling for $1,000 each in January 1995. However, prices are now down to $100 - $150 each with a premium being paid for multi-mutations.

In the early 1990’s the Pastel Silver appeared and showed itself to be a quite beautiful true silver coloured bird - greatly improving in so far as quality and breeding results, through regular outcrossing.

Other Developments Since 1986

  • The formation of three specialist Cockatiel Societies

  • The importation of English Whiteface stock introducing another Cinnamon mutation

We’ve seen a lot of development, new colour variations and general interest over the past 10 years, however, the focus on breeding too many birds has undermined their value.

Here I refer not to Whiteface and expensive mutations, but the average coloured Cockatiel which 10 years ago sold for $40 ea. We are now getting less money simply because far too many are being bred and we are undermining the value of our efforts.

Aims for the Future

It is time for aviculturists to take stock and seriously consider the following points:

By producing fewer but better birds we achieve:

  • less overcrowding
  • fewer related stress problems
  • less strain on breeding stock
  • happier, healthier birds selling for a more realistic price
  • a better image for aviculture

Don’t breed what you can’t sell or properly accommodate.

Showing

This aspect of Cockatiels is in its infancy in Australia and will certainly be something to look forward to in the future. A major highlight for 1997 is possibly a visit to Australia by well-known breeder, genetics guru and show judge, Linda Rubin from the United States.

Some of the Most Common Problems Seen by Vets

Physical trauma caused by incorrectly cut wings

  • (Which can include such things as causing the bird to land awkwardly or heavily resulting in broken wings, legs, sternum or blood feathers.)
  • I suggest cutting all but the last 2 primary feathers, all secondary feathers and no coverts. In this way, the bird still has some ability to more gently land if it takes flight and blood feathers have some protection if the wing is bumped.
  • Nothing is certain in this world, so don’t count on a pet bird’s clipped wing being 100% safe. Birds are renowned for taking flight if startled, causing a lot of heartache for owners and potential danger for the birds. In open spaces your pet can generate a lot more speed than in a confined room, and this may be just enough for it to achieve flight.
  • Best to let your Cockatiel have some supervised freedom in a safe room in the house.

Heavy Metal Poisoning

This has definitely been a recurring problem in recent years and you must be vigilant in checking the quality of new wire being used on your aviaries, neutralising it by scrubbing with vinegar and a brush then rinsing off. Also look for spiky or globular bits on the wire, caused by the galvanising process and remove these before the vinegar process. If you don’t remove them - your birds will with potentially disastrous results!

Also observe your birds, especially when placing them into a newly constructed cage or aviary. If there is any sign of lethargy, vomiting or general malady take the bird to your nearest avian vet for treatment. Birds treated early have a far greater chance of survival.

Sinusitus

Watch out for nasal or eye discharge or droopy eyelids especially in young birds.

Megabacteria

A couple of years ago, the problem seemed quite significant. In the past 12 months, whilst Megabacteria is still around, it has been dramatically reduced due to the successful treatment with Fungilin.™

Housing

Parents: Cinnamon (h) with Normal/Cinnamon/Pied (c). Young: 2 Normals & 1 Pearl - Nymphicus hollandicus. Photograph by & courtesy of Michael & Robyn Ashton, Brisbane

Suspended aviaries have certainly proved themselves popular of recent years, however, on one side of the ledger you have them costing less to manufacture and being easy to clean but on the down side there appears to have been more zinc poisoning possibly due to increased contact with wire due to smaller cramped aviaries, more feather plucking and predators may harass the birds more easily.

Ideally face your aviaries in the arc formed from North to East as this affords the best use of sunlight for the open wire section of the aviary, be it full height or suspended. This also ensures that the shelter area provides the best protection from the South and West where most of our bad weather comes from here in south-east Queensland.

Consider incorporating a solid partition between say every three flights in a bank which will reduce the contact birds have with each other and in the case of disease, may help reduce the spread, should there ever be a problem.

Plant trees for shade, shelter, windbreak and aesthetics.

Most importantly, secure your aviaries to the ground. Don’t be like me when just recently a bank of six aviaries ended up on its roof. Luckily no harm to the birds but certainly not something you want to happen. This is especially appropriate now as we head into the storm and cyclone season.

Go to Cockatiels - Part II by Michael Anderson or read about Cheekie, our member's 30-year-old Cockatiel.

© Article under Copyright with the author, Michael Anderson, and cannot be reprinted without written permission.

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