What Is a Pearl Cockatiel?

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  • Written By: Carol Luther
  • Edited By: Angela B.
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  • Last Modified Date: 11 May 2020
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The pearl cockatiel is a domesticated bird often kept as a pet. It is one of the smaller species of the parrot family. Pearl is one of many color varieties for this parrot subspecies. Decreased melanin production commonly causes the pearl cockatiel to have light gray coloring with iridescent patches, called pearls, on some parts of its body. It also has streaks of color on its head and face, usually orange or yellow, depending on the bird’s gender.

Australia is the original home of the cockatiel, where the species can live for around 25 years. Domesticated cockatiels have traveled from their native habitat, but retain characteristics similar to those found in the wild. Since it is a parrot, the pearl cockatiel has four toes on each foot. Each pair of toes on the bird’s foot faces in opposite directions. Smaller than parrots, the cockatiel usually is no more than 12 inches (30 centimeters) long from its head to the end of its feathers.

Pearl cockatiels have distinctive patches of coloring on various parts of their bodies. One can see the pearling on the bird’s back, neck and wing feathers. The lighter patches resemble leaves that have faded. Each feather also can have patches of pearling close to the shaft in the middle.

Breeding programs based on pearl cockatiel genetic traits have produced unusual color traits within the species. Breeders who mate birds that have different coloring also produce cockatiel pearling variations. The predominant pearling color is white, but yellow pearling also is possible. These cockatiels are known as golden pearls. A cockatiel with mostly gray pearling is called a silver cockatiel.

Pearling on the breast of a cockatiel occurs when breeders mate birds with heavy or pronounced markings. Regardless of the feather and pearling traits, each bird has coloring on its face. Female pearl cockatiels are easier to recognize, because their cheek color usually stays in place when they are mature. Male cockatiels lose most of their face color when they molt and shed their first set of feathers at maturity.

This bird’s personality makes it a good house pet that is easy to train, preferably when young. Unlike parrots, a cockatiel rarely learns to talk well. They entertain themselves and their owners by singing and whistling. One can teach a cockatiel to sing by repetition. They also spontaneously learn and mimic sounds in the environment, such as doorbells and tea kettles.

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