The video below essentially highlights the key differences in personalities between cockatiels and English budgies (the carefully-bred, more-expensive-than-their-svelte-American-cousins behemoths of the budgie world):

When people debate over getting their “first bird” (I refuse to call any bird a “starter bird”, for each bird is its own individual and there will never be another quite like the one you adopt) most people question whether or not they should go for a cockatiel or a budgie (a.k.a. parakeet).

This has been debated to death in very clinical ways (like here or here or you can even take a fun test to determine your “right” bird here!) but I can’t help but weigh in.

Now I’m sure parakeet lovers will drag me over the coals, but I have to be honest–

I’d recommend a cockatiel every time.

Budgies are gorgeous and come in so many fun colors that rainbows are frequently jealous, but their personality (at least, if you have more than one) pales in comparison to their lesser-hued cockatiel compatriots.

Roosevelt and Beaudesert, our rainbow American budgies who flew over the rainbow bridge.

Having owned five budgies in my relatively short life and having spent several years volunteering at a bird store, I feel like I am qualified to comment.

While budgies are quite entertaining, playful, and curious little buggers, they fail to fully connect with their human care-givers, especially in the presence of other little birds. And we’d know–the baby budgies pictured to the left were hand-raised, spoiled-rotten little dudes that we visited literally every day up until they came home with us–even before they developed their pin-feathers, even! We showed up, petted and coddled and generally loved our baby budgies almost from the moment they each hatched–and yes, they were incredibly docile, happy to step up, groom our hair (and eyelashes, which is sort of weird), were generally not nippy, and were overall wonderful birds.

However. In spite of being raised in separate cages and given ample one-on-one attention from both Hubby and myself, they still more tolerated us much moreso than wanted our company. Sure, we were interesting sources of entertainment for two or three minutes, but they were MUCH happier on one of their numerous playstands with each other throughout our house.

An American and an English budgie–size comparison! …Also where they preferred to land when they’d randomly go spastically flying off.

That lack of connection coupled with the fact that budgies (especially the skinny American ones) are so easily startled makes for one spazzy pet! Winston, our English budgie, is certainly calmer, but put her in a scenario where she is with other American budgies, and the flock mentality takes over–she’ll go flying… or hovering clumsily, as the case may be… just the same as the American ones. So if you’re the kind of person who wants to merely be able to pick a bird up, set him somewhere fun, and watch him play (and quite probably go flying off the other direction five minutes later), then sure–get a budgie (or two or three… flock birds are happier birds!)

But if you want a calm pet who is very interested in a connection with you and won’t go flying off with the slightest brush of the breeze, go for a cockatiel. They crave companionship of all kinds–when we pull Qtip down with us, he’s genuinely curious. Many of the cockatiels we’ve known have been QUITE snuggly, especially any that were hand-raised. Some can be needy, so if you don’t want a bird with the same penchant for attention as a dog or a cat, sure, go the way of budgies… but if you really don’t want a hands-on bird, don’t get a parrot. Both cockatiels and parakeets really need time outside of the cage every day–if you want a bird merely to watch and keep you company,  get  several finches instead. 

Also, did I mention that cockatiels dance? And sing?

Cockatiels are just so lively, curious, and full of personality with a drive and desire to connect with bird and people alike (especially if you keep your little dude in a cage separate from other birds). We’ve truly fallen in love with the species as a whole–they have all the BEST parts of the cockatoo family while forgoing the worsts.

We went with budgies as our first birds because of their coloration and the dry pros/cons articles listed above; while I wouldn’t trade my current English budgie girl for anything, I still wonder what would have happened had we taken home a cockatiel.

We probably would have wound up with ten birds instead of five. xD

One response to “Budgie or Cockatiel? Our Limited Experience”

  1. Thank you for your honest review on Budgie vs Cockatiel. I went to a bird fair and put money down on a hand fed English budgie for my mother. I have the most pet experience in my family so I am always elected for these fun assignments 🙂
    I once got her an English from a breeder that wasn’t hand fed but i got it as soon as it was weaned and it was handled I believe. That bird became pretty friendly in that it stepped up and flew to the sink when Mom was doing dishes. So she wanted another friendly bird.
    This time around however this breeder at the fair only had a 1/4 English 3/4 American. chicks available. My mom didn’t want to wait for a full English so I put $25 down to hold the bird until it was fully weaned. While I was there I fell in love with the hand fed cockatiels. I’ve been to several of these fairs and those darn cockatiels always melt my heart.
    BUT… I picked up this mixed budgie when he was weaned and had him for a week to get him trained to step up and “tame” him for my mom.
    But he really didn’t need any taming. He wasn’t afraid of anybody. I’d never seen a “parakeet” that friendly before. He falls asleep in her hands. Follows her around the house. Rides around on her shoulder as she’s doing chores. Absolutely loves people.
    So even though I fell in love with baby cockatiels the biggest bird I’ve had and still have is a rosy bourke. So I’d need a bigger cage and bigger sturdier toys for one. Then I’ve read people complaining about the noisiness and dustiness of tiels which i”m not really sure how bad all that is bc I’ve never lived with one.
    i picked up a used 30L x 18 x 18 cage but don’t really have an ideal place to put it. And I’m reading I might even need a bigger cage.
    So after seeing how my mom’s budgie turned out I’m thinking of sticking with an English or a mixed English/American. The question I have is… Is it highly unusual for my Mom’s bird to be as friendly and sociable as he is? Is it highly likely that i could get a hand fed budgie that isn’t all that friendly? Is the key in getting just 1 hand fed instead of 2? And honestly, how messy/dusty is one little cockatiel? I would like a friendly cuddly bird that is bonded with me but doesn’t scream or freak out when I leave the room.
    I would just like to get your opinion from your experience.

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