The cockatiel’s distinctive erectile crest expresses the animal’s emotional state. The crest is dramatically vertical when the cockatiel is startled or excited, gently oblique in its neutral or relaxed state, and flattened close to the head when the animal is angry or defensive. The crest is also held flat but protrudes outward in the back when the cockatiel is trying to appear alluring or flirtatious. In contrast to most cockatoos, the cockatiel has long tail feathers roughly making up half of its total length. At 30 to 33 cm (12 to 13 in), the cockatiel is the smallest of the cockatoos which are generally larger at between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 23.5 in).
Wild cockatiels, Australia
The “normal grey” or “wild-type” cockatiel’s plumage is primarily grey with prominent white flashes on the outer edges of each wing. The face of the male is yellow or white, while the face of the female is primarily grey or light grey, and both sexes feature a round orange area on both ears, often referred to as “cheddar cheeks”. This orange colouration is generally vibrant in adult males, and often quite muted in females. Visual sexing is often possible with this variant of the bird.
Cockatiels are relatively vocal birds, the calls of the male being more varied than that of the female. Cockatiels can be taught to sing specific melodies and speak many words and phrases.