If you’re looking for a feathered companion, there’s a good chance you’ll end up narrowing it down to either a budgie or a cockatiel. No wonder: they’re the two most popular pet birds out there. But between budgie vs cockatiel, how do you know which species is right for you?
Let’s go into budgie vs cockatiel and hopefully help you figure out the bird for you.
Budgie vs cockatiel: Similarities
There are plenty of similarities between budgies and cockatiels. For starters, they actually naturally occur in the same country. In fact, in the wild, they’re actually spotted foraging and drinking together on occasion.
Both species hail from Australia, where they inhabit rather harsh and arid habitats. This is probably why both of them have become so popular: they can survive under less-than-ideal conditions, which is unfortunately what both are often subjected to in captivity.
Some other similarities include:
- Noise levels. Although they do make plenty of noise, both are in the quieter range when it comes to pet parrots. In most cases, they should be suitable for apartment living.
- Color varieties. Both budgies and cockatiels have been selectively bred for a wide range of color varieties, although the range is wider in budgies.
- Intelligence. The two species are both intelligent, can be hand-tamed and are definitely capable of learning tricks.
- Social needs. They’re extremely social beings that require plenty of attention. They can develop a deep bond with their owner.
- Talking abilities. Both (especially the males) can learn to imitate words and whistles, although talking budgies tend to have a wider vocabulary than talking cockatiels.
Both cockatiels and budgies are commonly misunderstood. Due to their wide availability they’re seen as throwaway pets, or easy pets that just need a small cage and some seed to thrive.
“Lamentably, literature often unjustly considers cockatiels (N. hollandicus) and budgies to be “beginner birds”—birds for people to get first, to learn enough about living with psittacines. It is intimated that the people will then graduate up to get “a real parrot.” This attitude-does a tremendous disservice (…)”Wilson, 1996: The appropriate bird for the appropriate owner
Budgie vs cockatiel: Differences
Although there are quite a few similarities between cockatiels and budgies, there are also plenty of differences. It’s important to consider these before choosing one or the other!
Here at Psittacology headquarters, we have both budgies and a cockatiel. Both species are so much fun, full of personality and add their own special touch to the house. That being said, they do so in pretty different ways.
- Size. When it comes to budgie vs cockatiel, the ‘tiels are the larger of the two. Wild type budgies (also referred to as American budgies) are less than half their size. However, a large English budgie can be almost as big as a small cockatiel!
- Cage size.The above means that a cockatiel cage will generally need to be larger than a budgie one. That being said, both need plenty of space to stretch their wings and also plenty of out of cage time.
- Noise levels. Cockatiels are louder than budgies, but budgies tend to spend more time making noise. The stream of budgie chatter is pretty constant, especially if you keep multiple, while cockatiels generally vocalize at certain times of the day.
- Activity level. Budgies tend to be absolute firecrackers. Here at Psittacology headquarters, they fly around a lot, taking off unexpectedly and actually spooking the cockatiels in the process. Cockatiels are a bit calmer.
- Cuddliness. Although some budgies love head scratches, they don’t tend to be as cuddly as cockatiels. A budgie will often just like to sit on you and nothing else, while many ‘tiels adore a good long scritch session.
- Biting. Cockatiels tend to be a bit more on the sassy end of the spectrum, if we can call it that. They love their neck scratches but they can definitely be cranky as well, sometimes screeching and giving you a warning bite for seemingly no reason.
- Allergies. Cockatiels are members of the cockatoo family (read more about cockatiels vs cockatoos), which means they have a powdery layer of down feathers. For those with allergies, this can often be too much. Budgies don’t have powder down.
- Lifespan. Both birds can live for a long time, so you need to be prepared. Budgie lifespan tends to be around 15 years, while cockatiel lifespan can be up to 25. Your mileage may vary, though!
Did you know? If you’re looking for something in between, an English budgie might be a good choice. They’re larger and tend to be calmer than wild type budgies. They are more expensive and prone to health issues, though.
Who is a budgie better for?
In the end, it probably boils down mostly to the activity levels. A budgie is great for someone who wants to add life and chatter to their home and doesn’t mind that they won’t be able to snuggle much with their bird.
If you’re a high-energy individual who likes to play with their bird and is thinking about teaching it lots of tricks, you’re probably a budgie person. Cockatiels can learn tricks, but they just live in slow-motion compared to the budgerigar.
Some sources recommend budgies for kids and cockatiels for the elderly specifically, but I’m not sure if I agree. I think a pair of budgies would be a great pet for an elderly person! They always keep you on your toes with their antics.
Who is a cockatiel better for?
If you’re in search of a more chilled-out bird, the kind that will sit fluffed up and content on your knee for the entirety of a movie, chances are you’ll prefer a cockatiel. Sure, these birds will have their moments of hyperactivity, noise and flying around, but they’re not as high-energy as a budgie.
Because cockatiels tend to have a slightly shorter fuse than budgies, they might not make the ideal pet for children.
People often ask me if I love my cockatiel more, since I spend more time with him.
The thing is that although it’s nice to have a more cuddly bird that likes to spend hours on my shoulder, I adore the budgie flock just the same. I love their activity level, their antics, and their mischievous shenanigans. I also like the constant stream of soft, happy chatter. They’re just so cheerful it’s infectious!
Whether you end up going for a budgie or a cockatiel, if you do your research and provide your bird with what it needs, I think you’ll end up being content with your choice. Both are great companions and just lots of fun.
Frequently asked questions
In terms of decibels? Yes. In terms of the amount of noise they make? Not necessarily. In the end, it all depends on what you find acceptable in terms of noise levels.
No, I’d say the two are equally matched when it comes to intelligence levels. Budgies tend to be the more trainable of the two species, though.
As mentioned in the full article on cockatiel and budgie cohabitation, no, this is not considered to be a good idea.
If you have any more questions about budgie vs cockatiel or want to share your own experiences with these popular Australian pet bird species, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
Still not sure which parrot species to go for? Check out the other parrot comparison guides to help narrow it down.
Wilson, L. (1999, October). The appropriate bird for the appropriate owner. In Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine (Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 165-173). WB Saunders.