You might have a cockatoo in your home without even knowing it! Yes, your diminutive cockatiel—the most popular pet bird in the US—is, in fact, related to the much larger cockatoo. Seriously; there are 21 species of cockatoo and the cockatiel, also referred to simply as the ‘tiel, is one of them. The cockatiel is thought to be one of the earliest offshoots of the cockatoo lineage, and, when you take a closer look at the cockatiel, you’ll start to see the cockatoo connection.
Crest feathers that they can raise up or down—cockatiels and cockatoos both have them. Ditto for both. Cockatiels and cockatoos are also known for their powdery down feathers. (If you share your home with a ’tiel or a ’too, you might notice that they leave an “inprint” of themselves if they bump into a mirror or window, or that housing them anywhere near electronics might mean extra dusting.)
‘Tiels As ‘Toos
After a bit of debate among taxonomists, the cockatiel was ultimately placed in the monotypic subfamily Nymphicinae (a monotypic species is one that doesn’t not include a subspecies). The cockatiel is now classified as the smallest of the Cacatuidae (cockatoo family). The ‘tiel also falls under the definition of parakeet. But before you start thinking of the smaller, commonly colored blue or green little bird—more accurately referred to as a budgerigar or budgie for short—know that parakeet simply means “long-tailed, small- to medium-sized parrot.” Interestingly, it is believed that the cockatiel’s decrease in size, compared to others in the cockatoo family, is a morphological consequence and accompanying change of ecological niche, which is the scientific way of saying that a species evolved to match a specific environmental condition.
All said, there are 21 species of cockatoo. They differ from other parrots not only because of their crest, but also because they are mostly white (such as the umbrella cockatoo (Cacatua alba), Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), Goffin’s cockatoo (Cacatua goffini); black (such as the palm cockatoo ((Probosciger aterrimus), red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii), gray (cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) and even pink Major Mitchell’s cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (Galah cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapilla).