One of the primary differences between parrots and cockatiels is where they are found in nature. Parrots are widespread throughout various tropical locations. Cockatiels, on the other hand, are the smallest variety of the cockatoo species, and are native to the outback wetlands and bush of Australia. The two birds also vary in size and color, lifespan, and intelligence, as well as sociability as far as pets are concerned.
Parrots span a wide range of varieties and sizes, with many being bigger and having brighter plumage than the average cockatiel. Colors for parrots often include bright reds, greens, and yellows, whereas the color range for cockatiels is focused on gray with orange highlights. Special breeding in cockatiels also produces white with yellow highlights around the crest and head area. Parrot sub-species often include the cockatiel, though it is more accurately classified as part of the cockatoo family of birds. Budgies, or budgerigars, more commonly referred to as the parakeet, are also a popular choice for a pet bird. Budgies are one of the few parrot species that are smaller than cockatiels.
Lifespans for parrots and cockatiels vary considerably. While cockatiels, if cared for properly, can live to be 15 to 20 years old in captivity, parrots such as the African grey live to be 50 and macaws can live to be 60 years old. In the wild, a typical lifespan for a cockatiel is 12 to 14 years.
When comparing the intelligence of parrots and cockatiels, the larger parrots rank the highest. Since they live longer and have more sophisticated methods of interaction, they tend to bond with one caregiver most strongly, and can be more demanding. Their level of communication is more sophisticated than a cockatiel, especially with species such as the amazon, African grey, and white cockatoo.
In terms of sociability and choice as a pet, parrots and cockatiels are suited to different lifestyles. Cockatiels are gentle, quiet, and easygoing birds, and, if the babies were hand-fed, they bond with people readily. Parrots have a longer period of adjustment, however, before they bond with a pet owner. It is also true that if a cockatiel is ignored for long periods of time, it can easily become neurotic, which is much less likely with a parrot. Male cockatiels will bond with people much more than the females, and are more prone to mimicking whistles.
Both parrots and cockatiels are considered good all-around pets. Since cockatiels cost much less than parrots and live shorter lives, this can be a beneficial fact if considering them as pets for children. Small parrots like budgies are comparable to cockatiels in many ways, whereas the larger parrots are a pet that, if properly cared for, will become a lifetime companion for the owner.