Psittacine Or Passerine? By: Ellen Fusz

Today we are going to continue with the wonderful “Ellen Fusz.”  Her Book is simply titled “Cockatiels” along with Animal Planet as her Books Sponser. Great Team, Great Parnership, they both do our planet Earth well!! So the Question is Psittacine Or Passerine? Ellen describes what the differences are.  “The Passerine birds, or perching birds, consist of nearly  300 genera and more than 1,100 species.  Some common Passerines birds are: Canaries, finches, sparrows, robins, grosbeaks, and buntings. The Psittacine birds, or hookbills,are not as diverse, but still contain  80 genera and more than 350 species.  The most common psittacines are: Parakeets, cockatoos, and cockatiels.  Physical Characteristics –  At maturity, Cockatiels weigh in at about 3 to 4 Ounces (85 to 113 grams) and average 12 or 13 Inches (30.5 to 33 cm) in length from head to tail.  The tail makes up for hale of the body length.  This impressive appendage is not simply dragged behind the bird, but it is actively used both during flight and during climbing. When a cockatiel clings to the wire of his cage, you can observe how he spreads his tail and uses it as a prop for balance and support.  When the bird walks, the tail is folded tight and held just above the ground.  The cockatiel’s crowning glory is his crest, which is made up of many feathers of varying sizes. Breeders often concentrate on this feature to produce varieties with  especially prominent and distinguished headgear.  The ideal height of the crest is 3 inches (7.6 xm).  The longest of these feathers are located at the rear of the crest.  It’s easy to assess the mood of the cockatiel by the position of the crest.  If it is standing upright, the bird is alert and content.  But if the feathers are flattened against the head, it is a sign that the bird is either frightened or angry.  Cockatiels are unusual among psittacines in being dimorphic-the males and females are colored differently.  Depending on the color variety, determining the sex of an adult is usually straightforward, but only after the bird is at least six months of age.  Medical testing is the only way to be 100 percent positive of the gender of your cockatiel. Common Varieties-  In the wild, most cockatiels are predominantly gray.  In captivity, a number of color variations have been derived from the normal gray.  While the most well-known are lutino, pied, cinnamon, pearl, and silver, breeders continue to come up with other mutations for an even wider variety of colors.  When purchasing a cockatiel, perhaps the least expensive and easiest variety to find is the gray.  In their native Australian habitat, most cockatiels are this color. These beautiful little creatures have dark gray feathers covering their bodies.  Their wings have prominent white patches, and there is a yellow wash on the face and the crest.  Most noticeable are the large dime-sized orange cheek patches, which are stronger in coloration on the male than the female.  The bill and the feet are gray, as is the cere-the fleshy patch above the beak where the prominent nostrils are located.  The tail is long and tapered, and the underside is barred with yellow and gray.The male and the female look very similar until maturity.  At that time, the male feathers become more colorful.  Lutino- A strikingly beautiful bird, the lutino cockatiel is a popular variety.  Due to a gene that prevents the formation of melanin, or dark pigment, this cockatiel is white with a yellow wash.  The bill and the feet are pink, and the eyes are red.  Within this exquisite variety, the male and female look strikingly similar.  However, with more careful observation, you can see that female’s tail feathers have a yellow barring, while the males do not.  Pied-  Pied cockatiels have large patches of color that can appear anywhere on the body.  Some pieds have only an isolated odd white feather, or even just a splotch of pink on toe.  Others are so heavily pied that they appear to be lutinos.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the male from the female by just looking at the markings. Dark Eyed Clear- When a bird looks like a lutino but has the common black eyes, it is usually an extremely heavily pied bird, and it is called a dark-eyed clear.  Technically, it is a gray bird covered completely in white patches. Cinnamon and Fallow-  In these birds, two genes have been identified that dilute melanin,or dark pigment, producing brown instead of gray or black.  In the cinnamon variety, gray areas are replaced with dark brown.  These birds are called cinnamon because their color is sometimes compared to the color of cocoa. The color of the male is somewhat deeper than that of the female.  Fallows seem to be a lighter brown than cinnamons, and their eyes are dark red.  Pearl-  With a lovely scalloping effect of white edging on each feather of the bird’s back and wings, the pearl cockatiel is a festive looking variety. These “Pearling spots” are yellow or white and can be found on the back, nape, and wings.  On heavily marked pearls, some small yellow or white markings can be found on the breast.  Pearling is caused by a gene mutation.  It can be combined with other mutations to produce cinnamon pearls, whiteface pearls, ect.  Typically, the adult male will lose his pearling after his first molt. An interesting aspect of this mutation is that males have the pearling effect for only about a year, while females retain if for life.  Silver-  The silver cockatiel looks like a diluted version of the gray.  With red eyes, a pink beak, and pink feet, the male has a deep yellow face and bright orange cheeks.  The female tends to be less colorful.  Whiteface  A relatively new variety, the whiteface lacks any yellow or orange coloration. This leaves the face completely white in the male and completely gray in the female.  Without the traditional cheek patches, the gray on the body appears to be much stronger, thus causing some to refer to this bird as “charcoal”.  Albino-  The genetic combination of a whiteface and lutino may produce an albino, a totally white bird.  There is no way to visually discriminate between the male and the female because both sexes are completely white.  Once quite rare, these birds are more common now.  Ellen Fusz.

Next week we will continue going through such a thorough discription of the lovely Cockatiel breed. Until then, God Speed!

Why I Adore My Cockatiel by: Ellen Fusz

Often whistling, chirping, or singing, cockatiels make a wonderful family pet. With their yellow faces and orange cheeks, these friendly and entertaining little mimics look like circus performers. But it’s not just their jaunty attitudes that make them a favorite with bird lovers.  These beautiful creatures are also highly intelligent.  Since they adapt very well to life in captivity, they are often considered almost as domesticated as cats or dogs.  Cockatiels are amiable, calm, and good-natured, which makes them ideal for novice or experienced keepers.  Look to the Australian continent to trace the ancestry of this marvelous avian creature. A member of the parrot group, the cockatiel is part of the same family as the cockatoo.  In the animal kingdom, under the classification of the Aves, birds are grouped into orders or types.  To put it into perspective, the single largest order or type is the Passerine, which means perching bird.  It is estimated  that 50 percent of all birds, over 1,100 species, are Passerines. These include canaries, finches, sparrows, robins, buntings, ect.  The Cockatiel is a part of another order, the psittacines or Hookbilled birds, which contains more that 350 species that includes parrots, parakeets, Lories, and Cockatoos.  Psittacine birds come in all sizes and shapes. Their colors range from a dull brown to the bright, colorful mixtures seen in parrots and macaws. These birds are known for their big heads and their strong beaks.  The upper beak or maxilla, hooks downward, coming to a sharp point.  The lower beak, or mandible curves upward and fits snuggly underneath.  This strong bill is an excellent apparatus that they use to climb, dig, and crack open seeds. The Cockatiel, one of over 430 native Australian birds, was discovered when the continent was colonized by the Europeans in the late 1700’s. Large roosts of wild cockatiels were found in the grassy plains of the interior.  Identified as quarrion by the aborigines, flocks were found in the eastern part of the continent, which was then called New Holland.  In 1838, English Ornithologist and taxidermist John Gould traveled to Australia to catalogue the vast varieties of Australian Avian species.  T=During his two year stint, John along with his wife, Elizabeth, illustrated and recorded this bird which he described as the “Cokatoo Parrott”.  Later classified as Australian Parakeets, these birds were brought back to Europe in the 1840s to be bred as pets.  An importer of exotic animals is credited with giving it the nam3e cockatiel from the Dutch word “kakatielje”, which is in turn borrowed fro the Portuguese cacatilho meaning “little Cockatoo”. This is just the tip of the Information will be sharing. I will follow with more information on Cockatiels.