Cockatoo vs Cockatiel – What Is the Difference? [6 Main Differences]

Cockatiels and Cockatoos are birds with a lot of differences. Just by looking, you can already tell one apart from the other. Thus, if you need to distinguish which, it should be relatively easy to do so. The first thing you need to do is examine the appearance. However, if you’re still uncertain afterward, observe their behavior as well.

The first thing you’ll notice is their size, as cockatiels are smaller. In fact, many people consider these as mini cockatoos. 

Now, if you’re someone who plans to buy one or the other but torn between, this article may help you.

If you read further, you will learn six primary differences between these two. Moreover, it will make things easier for you to decide which one you prefer more.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Are cockatoos and cockatiels the same? 

First and foremost, cockatoos and cockatiels aren’t the same. Of course, they belong to the same family, but they aren’t the same in many aspects.

Cockatiels belong to the family of cockatoo. Thus, in simple terms, cockatiels are one of the many species in the family.

Cockatoo, on the other hand, comes with many other species, but they often the same.

As I said, they are not the same but looking at these two birds; you can also see some aspects being the same. 

First, since they belong to the same family, their appearances have some similarities.

They also share the same diet and nutrient requirements, although there would be a few variations in serving sizes.

While they also differ in behavior, some habits and actions of these two somewhat mirror each other.

Before we begin, you might want to check out also our other related articles about comparing cockatiels with other bird species:

Well, and now that we know a bit about these two birds let’s get into their differences more.

How to tell the difference between a cockatiel and a cockatoo?

If you’re someone who isn’t familiar with cockatiels and cockatoos, you may find it difficult to tell which is which. Thus, you may want to take some time learning the six primary differences between these two. 

Here’s a rundown of things you can check to determine a cockatiel and a cockatoo.


Appearance is the first thing that you’ll notice between cockatiels and cockatoos. There are many differences in this aspect, and you can tell it at a glance.


Now, the first thing you’ll notice in appearance is the size. In short, cockatiels are way smaller in size than cockatoos.

Thus, if you see these two together, you can tell the smaller is the cockatiel and the cockatoo the bigger.

The thing about cockatoos is that their size may vary depending on the type. However, in general, they can grow up to 26 inches tall. 

Cockatiels, on the other hand, only grows at a maximum of 14 inches tall. For this reason, if you prefer a smaller bird, cockatiels are your choice.

Take note, though. A cockatoo can also be smaller than a cockatiel at its young age. Therefore, it would be best to consider other things as well.


Aside from size, you can also differentiate these two in their colors.

Cockatoos’ colors vary by species as well. The critical thing here is that they have solid colors and only have a few small patches around. In general, a cockatoo’s base color is either black or white.

Contrary to the solid color, cockatiels have a colorful appearance. Wild cockatiels are gray with white patches on wings and green and yellow patches on their tails.

To make it easier for you, you’ll see that a cockatiel is the one which is smaller and more colorful. The bigger one having a more solid color is a cockatoo.


The last thing to notice when it comes to appearance is the tail. Cockatiels have a specific bottom, which can help you identify easier if you’re still quite confused.

Generally, cockatiels have very long tails, making up about half of their length. Further, when they fly, these tails flap open and spread out like a fan.

Now, let’s take into account their lifespan.


If you’re looking for a long-term companion, your odds are better with cockatoos than cockatiels. The reason is that the former has a longer lifespan than the latter.

A cockatiel’s lifespan in captivity ranges between 16 to 25 years. Still, it can also happen that it’d be shorter as 10 to 15 years, depending on the environment and the caring method.

A few reports state that cockatiels live as long as 32 years, with the oldest being 36 years old. However, getting that old comes a bit rare.

On the other hand, cockatoos can be your life-long companions, as almost all species have a longer span.

Take a look at each of the species’ lifespan:

  • White cockatoo: 40-60 years
  • Gala: 40 years
  • Sulfur-crested cockatoo: 20:40 years
  • Red-tailed black cockatoo: 45-50 years
  • Carnaby’s black cockatoo: 25-50 years
  • Baudin’s black cockatoo:25 – 50 years

Out of all species, the white cockatoo, also known as Umbrella cockatoo, can live for as long as 60. In fact, some of these cockatoos can even live for up to 70 years with proper care.

However, most of these sensitive birds don’t live that long. They are prone to infections and self mutilations as they age.

Still, in comparison to cockatiels, you can have a long term companion with cockatoos.


Some pet owners care more about behavior than appearance. Thus, temperament is vital as you choose your pet between cockatoos and cockatiels.

The first thing you’ll notice is that both birds can imitate household sounds. Both pets can imitate the noise of a car outside and even a ringing phone or doorbell. 

However, between the two, the cockatiels are likely to do it more than the cockatoos. 

Another thing is their interaction, especially with toys. Cockatoos enjoy puzzles more than cockatiels. These toys are the ones with treats or snacks inside that they can get if they figure it out.

Of course, it isn’t something that can easily differentiate the two. In the end, it comes down to your preference.

Ability to speak

Another difference you can see comes with their ability to speak. Since both belong to the parrot family, they are well-known when it comes to speaking. 

Paying attention to the expression of these birds can determine which is which. 

Generally, cockatoos are louder, talking more, and imitating the words they hear you say frequently.

On the other hand, cockatiels have that soft and squeaky voice. For this reason, you’ll hear more of a bird-like sound than when they talk. 

Further, when they do some talking, it’s often difficult to understand, as it is a bit more rash than cockatoos.


When it comes to popularity, a lot of people tend to go for cockatiels rather than cockatoos.

The cockatiel is a specific species within the cockatoo family. In simple terms, cockatiels belong to a cockatoo family, no matter how different they are.

However, when it comes to being pets, more people favor cockatiels than cockatoos.

It’s not sure as to why cockatiels earn the favor of many. Nevertheless, more people have a cockatiel in their household than cockatoos.

Of course, it always depends on the owner’s preference. It’s just that cockatiels show a little more of a pet than cockatoos, just because many pet owners prefer them.


Now, when it comes to choosing a pet, price is one of the things to consider. In short, cockatiels are way cheaper than cockatoos.

In general, you can get cockatiels at the cost of $75 to $250. The range depends on the mutation you choose and the place where you will buy the bird.

A grey cockatiel is cheaper, especially if you are purchasing from a breeder. The price can go up when other mutations get involved.

Cockatoos, on the other hand, range from $500 to $1200. This price is relatively higher than a cockatiel’s. Further, an umbrella or white cockatoo can even cost up to $1000 to $3000.

Thus, if you plan to get a pet bird but don’t have the luxury in the budget, cockatiels are your best bet.

However, if you’re willing to pay for a more expensive option, of course, you can go for a cockatoo.

Now that we have determined all six differences between cockatiels and cockatoos let’s get into seeing these two together.

This part is for those who already have a cockatiel or a cockatoo and planning to get the other.

cockatoo and cockatiel

Can a cockatoo live with a cockatiel?

If you consider getting not one but both of these birds, asking the above question is essential.

If you plan to get these two together, you may want to consider getting a separate cage for each.

Of course, they can live together, but only under constant supervision.

While both birds aren’t aggressive by nature, there’s a risk of putting them both in a single cage without supervision.

Since cockatoos are a lot larger, they can easily injure and kill a cockatiel, even with a small play.

For this reason, it would be best to keep them in a separate place and only allow them to play together if you’re with them.

Moreover, if you’re getting these two birds, you should also learn the difference between their diet.

Can a cockatoo eat cockatiel food and vice versa?

Cockatoos and cockatiels come from a long line of parrots. Thus, while they may differ in so many ways, they share some things as well. One of these things is their diet.

Cockatoos enjoy eating a variety of food, just like cockatiels do. Both birds can eat seeds, fruits, veggies, nuts, berries, and even pellets. 

Thus, getting both birds doesn’t mean getting two different sets of food.

Of course, since cockatoos are more extensive, they can and should eat more than a cockatiel. 

In general, a cockatoo should eat about one fourth to one half of its body weight. Thus, if your cockatoo weighs 800 grams, you should prepare less than 200 grams of food per day.

Since cockatiels are way smaller, they can eat at a maximum of 50 grams of food per day.

For this reason, you can offer the same food, but you should give a larger serving for your cockatoo than your cockatiel.

Moreover, it would be best to offer food in separate bowls to avoid potential competition. Since cockatoos are larger, getting them to share with a cockatiel can lead to unwanted incidents.

To keep both pets on the safe side, consider getting two separate places for each.

However, when it comes to their meals, you don’t have to prepare two different sets, as both can eat the same kind of food.


Cockatiels and cockatoos differ in so many ways, and yet at some points, they also have things they share. There’s no telling which pet is better than the other since this aspect is a matter of personal preference.

A cockatoo may be better than a cockatiel for one, while it’s the opposite for another.

The thing here is to decide with the above difference which one will suit you the most. 

If you plan on getting both, you can also consider the risks involved.

In the end, whatever your decision may be, it will always be a matter of how you can take care of your pet in the future. 

Still, hopefully, you have learned a thing or two from this article.


Cockatoo information

Cockatiel information

Image credits – Photos by Julio Ramirez and Ursula Gamez on Unsplash

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