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James Harris, DVM

Cockatiel longevity and mating habits

I have had my cockatiel for 21 years and he has been an excellent companion and friend.

My question is: How long will he live? I’ve been told 16 to 25 years with lots of exercise. I notice he does a lot more napping now than he used to. However, I do not usually clip him so he gets a lot of exercise flying around the house.

He has fathered 38 babies over the years with only one mate (who I sadly lost when she became egg bound). I bought him two more mates over the years but he wanted nothing to do with them; do they mate for life?

Also, in the last year we’ve bought two budgies, which chase him out of his breeding box, where he likes to sleep at night. They are just curious and seem to want to play, but he wants no part of it. I am afraid he may think he is not wanted anymore and this may lead to his demise.

--Gord and Julia McLeod, Surrey, BC Canada,


You’ve been lucky to enjoy your cockatiel for so long. On average, cockatiels live 14 to 16 years, but they can live much longer with good care. I have several cockatiel patients in their early twenties and one that is 29 years old! None of us is St. Peter, able to predict how long we’ll be here, so enjoy each day with your feathered friend.

Some birds, including swans and geese, mate for life. Parrots, including cockatiels, do not. Just like people, they look for a compatible mate before settling down. When birds in the wild don’t get along, they leave and find a different mate. Pairing up captive parrots is trickier. It’s a little like marriage: You can’t tell if it’s going to work until you try it.

As for the aggressive budgies, consider respecting your older cockatiel and letting him enjoy his twilight years in peace. Give the budgies their own cage.

Dr. James Harris James Harris, DVM is owner and medical director of the Mayfair Veterinary Clinic in Sandy Bay, Tasmania, Australia. He founded Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, Calif., and has served as medical director and chairman of the board for the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Berkeley. Dr. Harris' numerous professional honors include California and National Bustad Companion Animal DVM Awards.

ParrotChronicles.com. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.


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