Cockatiels and budgerigars, or budgies, share many traits. They are both native to Australia, living in the arid savannas and woodlands of the country. They typically occupy the interior instead of the coasts. The birds both are ground foragers and highly social. They also have similar daily activity patterns. All these things seem to point to the fact that you could keep them in the same cage. Can cockatiels and budgies live together?
The short answer is probably not long-term, especially if the cage is too small.
Despite how similar the two species appear, several factors make keeping cockatiels and budgies together somewhat problematic. They include physical, social, and biological reasons. Let’s consider the answer to this question in more detail to help you understand the pros and cons of housing them together.
The Social Structure of Birds
Cockatiels and budgies have comparable social structures. Each species lives in large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands.1 That system affords them protection against predators. Remember that both are ground foragers, making it difficult to feed and keep an eye out for raptors flying overhead. Staying in groups ensures at least one bird can alert the others about potential threats.
That point suggests cockatiels and budgies would get along. However, it’s more complicated than that fact would suggest.
Both species use vocalizations extensively to stay in touch with one another. However, communication serves other functions, such as courtship and territorial defense.
Both species form pairs. Cockatiels lavish attention on their mates and remain loyal to them. Budgies are similar, with females often more aggressive than males. Scrabbles between the two species may occur if one member feels pressured by another. After all, birds can and do show anger. Nevertheless, cockatiels have the upper hand when it comes to size, particularly with their bigger beaks.
Cockatiels and Budgies in the Wild
Cockatiels and budgies have comparable diets. Both eat seeds, nuts, and grains. On the one hand, that fact would seem to make it easier to keep them together. On the other hand, it also makes them competitors for the same food. We can’t forget that size issue, either. Cockatiels have a more varied diet in the wild. They may eat fruits and the occasional insect, and they consume larger seeds, like sunflowers.
Interestingly, farmers often consider cockatiels and budgies as pests because of the economic losses they can cause if a large flock raids a crop. It’s worth noting that the two species will hang out together at waterholes. Finding them together in the wild isn’t unusual. It’s not as if the two birds would necessarily fight. The mitigating factor is space.
Keeping Cockatiels and Budgies Together
The cockatiel decides the minimum size cage you need for the two species since it’s the larger of the two. We recommend getting a cage that is at least 36 inches L x 24 inches W x 24 inches H. That’s for just one bird. If you want to house a few of each one, you’re looking at a flight cage with a bar spacing of no more than 0.5 inches. The bigger the living quarters, the better to give each bird its space.
Remember that cockatiels and budgies have slightly different dietary needs. The former are notoriously messy eaters, too. That means more food containers taking up room in the cage. Cockatiels also like to roost in trees, so you’ll need more perches. These things make a compelling argument for a large cage when keeping two different species together.
The other concern is night frights. The term describes a sudden burst of activity when a cockatiel perceives a threat. Their first instinct is to fly away since they can make a speedy escape. We mentioned the docile nature of these birds. Since budgies are more active and noisier than they are, we’d worry whether they could startle a sleeping cockatiel.
We suggest trying a trial run before making a permanent housing change. Observe how the birds get along when put together. They’re not territorial in the same way a dog might be. However, the bonds with their respective mates might fuel some fights over space issues, often adding fuel to the fire. However, birds have different personalities that may make or break such a living arrangement.
Cockatiels and budgies require similar care in part due to their common heritage in Australia. However, the birds differ on several scores. They may tolerate each other in the wild, but keeping them together in a cage is a different story because of their activity and size variations. If you want to keep them together, we strongly urge you to get the biggest cage possible to prevent conflicts between the two species.
Featured Image credit: Dorina Oelsner, Shutterstock