Pied Cockatiel
Nymphicus hollandicus

   Pied Cockatiels are beautiful pet birds with large, random blotches of color on their bodies!

   The Pied Cockatiels can be any color that occurs in a solid color cockatiel. The amount and placement of the colors vary widely from one bird to the next. The coloration of the PIed Cockatiel is a result of feather pattern change rather than a color change. The Pied Cockatiel is also known as the Variegated Cockatiel, Harlequin Cockatiel, or Pied Tiel.

   The pied affect is a striking combination of the colors in a random pattern of patches or blotches. This would be combinations of whites and greys on gray colored birds while it would be combinations of yellows and cinnamon’s on Cinnamon Cockatiels. The most spectacular birds will have a symmetry in the placement of these blotches,unfortunately that is not a predictable outcome when breeding these birds. Because of the variation of the patterning that occurs, the difference between a male and a female is almost indiscernible as well..

   The Pied Cockatiel was the first cockatiel mutation to be established. Its history is vague, but it is known that the Pied was established by a Mr. D. Putman of San Diego, California, USA prior to 1951. After his death hIs stock was acquired by a Mr. Hubbell who continued the breeding program, and at the same time a Mrs. R. Kersh was also building up another strain.

   Cockatiels are probably the most popular of the parrot family with their main competition being the Budgerigar (referred to as the Parakeet in the United States). They are hardy, easily handle changes in their home, and are easy to breed. On top of that, keeping a cockatiel as a pet is easy because they are not noisy parrots and they are comfortable when left alone for long periods of time.

   Cockatiel’s evolved as nomadic creatures, surviving in a variety of diverse and rugged habitats. They are constantly on the move, changing locations with the seasonal fluctuations of food and water supplies. This native habitat and their adaptive behavior has made them well suited as pets.

For more information about the care of Cockatiels see:Guide to a Happy, Healthy Cockatiel

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Psittaciformes
  • Family: Cacatuidae
  • Genus: Nymphicus
  • Species: hollandicus

Scientific Name

   Nymphicus hollandicus


   Pied cockatiels are a strain developed by breeders and is not seen in the wild. Grey cockatiels are found over most of Australia except the coastal areas. They are not found in Tasmania. Tasmania, an island state of Australia, has many of the parrots found in Australia but the cockatiel is not present there. It is thought that though they are one of Australia’s fastest flyers, their flying strength is apparently not sufficient to help them bridge the waterway that separates the island from the Australian mainland.


   Cockatiels are considered parrots, as can be seen by the shape of their beak. Cockatiels are probably the most popular of the parrot family. They are closely related to the Cockatoos, and like Cockatoos they are members of the Cacatuidae family.

   As members of the Cacatuidae family they too have an erectile crests. This cute little crest will be held erect when they are stimulated and excited, flattened when they are feeling angry, defensive, or submissive, and somewhere in between when they are in their normal ‘hanging out’ state. Unlike the other members of this family, however, they have long tails. The tail makes up about half of their total length and gives them more of a parakeet type appearance

   The genes that create patterning of the Pied Cockatiel or Variegated Cockatiel, does not have any visual affect on coloring but rather affects the distribution of the coloring. The pied affect is a striking combination of whites and greys in a random pattern. (This would be combinations of yellows and tannish greys on cinnamon colored birds.) The amount and placement of the colors vary widely from one bird to the next.

   See descriptions of sexual differences for this pet bird cockatiel below, under the breeding cockatiels section.

Size – Weight

  These birds get up to 12 inches (30 cm) and weigh 3 to 4 ounces.

Care and feeding

   Good sized bird cages are a must for good cockatiel care. A roomy cockatiel cage is required unless the bird is to be let out for extended periods. The cage for a cockatiel should measure a minimum of 24″ length by 18″ high and 18″ wide. This will leave enough room for several toys and still give the bird room to fully stretch his/her wings without hitting them. Many birds can spend most of their time on a playpen or parrot perch. Bird food consists of a variety of sprouts, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and commercial pellets.

See About Cockatiels: Housing and About Cockatiels: Care and Feeding for more information.

Social Behaviors

   Cockatiels travel in flocks in the wild and this influences cockatiel behavior in captivity. Their social ‘flock’ disposition along with their native habitat makes them well suited as pets. They are hardy, adapt easily to change, and are easy to breed. A big plus is that cockatiels are not noisy and can be left alone for long periods of time. They make a very loving and devoted pet if bonded properly.

   For taming cockatiels and cockatiel training, see About Cockatiels: Handling and Training.


   Common bird activities for cockatiels, they like to climb and play. Cockatiel bird care includes providing lots of bird toys and excercise. Give them plenty of time outside the cage if possible, a playpen works well for this. Many cockatiels can learn to talk and whistle, especially the males.

   See About Cockatiels: Activities for more information.


   Cockatiel breeding can be a very rewarding experience. Cockatiels will readily nest provided they have a nest box and some material to construct the nest from. They lay one egg every other day until they have laid about 5 eggs. The incubation period is 17 – 22 days. After hatching the young birds will open their eyes at 9 days of age.

Pied CockatielPhoto © Animal-World:
Courtesy David Brough

   This is a good time to start hand feeding if you don’t want to incubate the eggs yourself. Incubation and raising the chicks yourself requires dedication since the young chicks will need feedings every two hours for the first couple of weeks. Likewise, you can pull them from the nest earlier than 9 days, but with greater risk to the chick and greater effort on your part with frequent feedings. After about 18 days the orange cheek patch will appear on the babies. At about 30 days they will look like adult birds, and will fledge at about 35 days of age.

   For more information on cockatiel breeding, see About Cockatiels: Breeding/Reproduction.

Sexual differences

   There are a lot of opinions about how to sex these birds but usually they are just indicators and not sure ways to tell. Because of the variation of the patterning that occurs in the Pied Cockatiels, the difference between the male and the female is almost unnoticeable. A DNA test will be your best bet to know what sex your pet is.

Potential Problems

   The cockatiel health is easy to maintain as these are very hardy birds, but for all pet birds there are potential problems For optimum bird health care for your cockatiel, it is good to know what signs of illness to be aware of.

   For information about cockatiel health, see About Cockatiels: Problems.


   The Pied Cockatiel or Variegated Cockatiel is one of the readily available and affordable cockatiels for sale. There are also lots of different color mutations readily available including lutino, pearl, cinnamon, and white-faced varieties.

 Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) perched in a tree (Image Credit: Bidgee, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)