Cockatiel vs Cockatoo - How To Tell Them Apart & Key Differences in Appearance, Size & Behavior

cockatoo vs cockateil featured image

Cockatiels are among the most popular pet birds in the world and are relatively easy to breed. These adorable little birds are often mistaken for cockatoos by most people.

If you fall into this category of people, then this article should give you a second thought…

...and maybe even a handy trivia fact or two to impress your friends.

There is a difference between cockatoos and cockatiels with the easily spotted one being their size. Cockatiels are smaller and known as miniature cockatoos.

More on this in a bit...

I’ll even get into more details on the size, appearance, life span and other aspects where there is a difference to make things crystal clear.

Cockatoo and Cockatiel Bio Datalarge white cockatoo

Like you might have guessed, cockatoos and cockatiels are all under the same classification. Just like with English and American budgerigars (parakeets).

Specifically, they are all birds in the Cacatuidae family, with cockatiels being the only birds in the Nymphicus genera. And ‘tiels are also the smallest in the family which consists of 21 birds.


As stated earlier, the first difference you will spot between an adult cockatoo and a cockatiel is their size. It’s no surprise since they are the smallest among cockatoos, with sizes ranging from 12-13 inches.

Cockatiels are like babies when you compare their size to that of full-grown cockatoos which is between 12-24 inches. At this measurement, a cockatiel is only about a quarter or half the size of cockatoos.

But in the case a younger cockatoo hasn’t reached its full size, you can know which is which by assessing their appearance...


yellow cockatiel

First off, the feather colors of cockatoos are most times solid or plain, with only a few patches of other colors. Most times, the predominant colors are either white or black while you may also find a gray or pink color on rare occasions.

On the flip side, cockatiels are brightly coloured and have different shades.

However, wild cockatiels are usually gray with patches of white on their wings and green or yellow on their tails.

But cockatiels kept in captivity have a color mutation that is on a whole new level compared to that of cockatoos or wild cockatiels. Some of them are white face pied, cinnamon pearl, pearl pied, and white face gray.

Another difference in appearance between a cockatoo and a cockatiel is their physique:

Cockatiels have a much smaller beak than cockatoos which is quite logical since they are smaller.

But cockatiels have a longer tail-type which makes up about half of their body, while the cockatoos have a shorter tail.


Cockatoos live longer than cockatiels in the wild or captivity. Some species, like the sulphur-crested cockatoo, can live longer than 100 years.

However, wild cockatiels only live for up to 25 years, and those in captivity live for an average of 14 years.

But they can reach 20+ years if they are well taken care of by their owners, as explained here.

large white cockatoo sitting on floor


In terms of personality, cockatoos are far more social than cockatiels and are more affectionate to their owners.

Unlike cockatiels, a cockatoo will need much more time out its cage with its owner and might become depressed if left alone for too long. But cockatiels, though good with people, can cope with being left alone.

Also, cockatoos are very noisy compared to cockatiels. I’ll talk about that in detail in the next section.

In general, cockatiels are much calmer birds than cockatoos.

Vocal Ability

As said earlier, cockatoos are louder birds and also mimic their owner’s words better than cockatiels.

‘Tiels have a softer voice and make more bird sounds rather than talk. Even when they talk, their words are harder to understand than that of cockatoos.

On the other hand, cockatiels are more likely to imitate household sounds than cockatoos.


Of all the 21 species of cockatoos, cockatiels are easily the most popular pet bird.

Thanks to their small size and calm personality, they are easier to care which makes a great choice for both the old and young bird owner.

On the other hand, larger cockatoos are less common with the sulphur-crested cockatoo and umbrella cockatoo being the most popular among them.

two cockatiels perched together


Without a doubt, cockatoos are way more expensive than cockatiels.

‘Toos are also more expensive to care for and shelter for than cockatiels because they are larger birds.

A cockatoo can cost from $1,000 to $25,000 depending on the species. Perhaps another reason why they are less popular as pet birds since they can cost a fortune. Plus, their cages need to be larger too.

On the other hand, cockatiels cost a more economical price of $80 to $250 compared to cockatoos. Their cages are smaller and more affordable as well.

Can A Cockatoo And A Cockatiel Be Kept Together?

Keeping a cockatoo and a cockatiel together isn’t the best of ideas in my opinion.

Yes, they can stay together as long as the cockatoo isn’t aggressive to the smaller bird.

But cockatoos can be territorial, which means that sooner or later, they might harm the cockatiel or even kill the other bird.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully you learned something new today about these wonderful parrots, whether their telltale appearance differences or drastically different prices.

What is your experience with ‘tiels & ‘toos? Let us know which one you have had as a pet in the comments below!

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  • My mom and sister had an umbrella cockatoo (my sister still owns the bird, but she’s moved out) and the hand raised him. He attacked my face when I was about 6, and he did it while I was sleeping on the couch (I think my room was being renovated at the time), and from what I heard from my mom, he also attacked my baby nephew. I still have a scar on my face to remind me why not to get a larger bird, especially unpredictable ones. My experience with ‘tiels is very limited because the last one my parents owned was when I was maybe 4. I don’t really have many memories of her, I just remember that she existed, and I’m getting my own ‘tiel here soon

    Ashton on

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