Parrots have reputations for a lot of things, and intelligence is certainly one of them.
Despite their small size, most parrots have remarkable cognitive abilities.
But is this true of cockatiels?
They are some of the most popular parrots to own, and they’re beloved for many reasons.
But are they smart?
Yes, cockatiels are very smart. They can speak and learn all sorts of tricks, as well as form deep emotional bonds with their owners. They have excellent memory and complex, layered emotions. That said, some individuals are certainly smarter than others, and other parrots are indeed smarter.
It’s not exactly easy to judge how smart an animal is, because there’s no single way to quantify smartness.
We can only take a variety of metrics into account to try to demonstrate the ways in which cockatiels are smart and how it serves them.
Let’s find out more.
Do cockatiels recognize their owners?
Yes, they will recognize their owners.
Once you’ve been with them for a while and they’ve formed a bond with you, they’ll eventually become bonded with you and will recognize you in that sense.
They’ll know your face and be excited to see you.
They’ll even begin to recognize your clothes, and typically they will prefer you to wear bright clothing.
They will recognize you more as a bonded partner, though.
They won’t recognize you as an “owner”, whatever that would mean to a parrot.
They’ll just recognize you as a person they feel affection towards, as they would to another bonded cockatiel in the wild.
The capacity to recognize you like this certainly does make them intelligent in one way.
Though this is obviously not exclusive to cockatiels, it’s certainly one thing in their favor.
But this also depends on our definition of intellect and smartness—so let’s clear that up briefly.
What do we mean by smart?
As far as any scientific definition is concerned, we have no single meaning that is especially useful for this discussion.
Intelligence can be determined in a number of ways, and two animals that do not share many behavioral traits could both be said to be smart, in some way.
Border collies, for instance, are considered highly intelligent because they can learn complex tricks and commands.
Elephants are considered intelligent because they can, among other things, demonstrate remarkable memory recall, returning to watering spots they have not been back to in decades.
But you can also see intelligence in an animal’s capacity for emotional connection.
Complex social structures in animal societies necessitate brains that are wired to experience emotions.
This is where most of the cockatiel intelligence is to be found.
They are smart in the sense they have complex social brains, capable of forming deep connections with both other people and other animals.
So, though there is no quantifiable, measurable “smartness” in cockatiels, we can say for sure by a couple of important metrics that they certainly are smart.
Another point we touched on here was memory—so do cockatiels have a good memory?
Do cockatiels have a good memory?
Yes, cockatiels have a great memory, by any standards.
Memory recall is another really important faculty in maintaining these complex social relationships.
Many birds, cockatiels included, mate for life in the wild.
Being able to do this in itself is demonstrative of advanced memory recall.
When it comes to your pet cockatiels, they will remember you—both your face and your voice.
They will remember you for a long time, as well as the clothes you wear.
Even if you were separated for a period of months, they would remember you.
They will also remember multiple members of a flock in the wild, as well as their partner’s singing.
The ability to remember all this demonstrates high cognitive function and intelligence.
How much do cockatiels remember you?
How well your cockatiel remembers you will depend of course on how deeply bonded you are to it.
After you’ve bonded well over many years, your cockatiel will come to remember everything about you.
Your clothes, your voice, even your gait.
Cockatiels are highly social creatures and rely very heavily on having companions to interact with.
They get to know you well because it fulfils their social needs.
Most of the time, it is advised to keep cockatiels in pairs.
If you do have a pair, then they will likely form deeper bonds with each other than with you.
But nevertheless, they will still remember a great deal about you.
But for how long?
How long can a cockatiel remember you?
Again, it depends. If you are very deeply bonded with your cockatiel and have known it for many years, then it may never forget you.
It will remember you for ever and will never fully lose the bond it had with you.
Even after a relatively short relationship, though, it will likely remember you for at least several months apart.
It all depends on how well bonded it is to you, though.
Forming a relationship with a parrot is no easy feat.
It requires being around for a long time and spending a great deal of time with the bird.
It may forget you much more quickly if there wasn’t a deep enough bond.
But they have the capacity to remember you for a long time.
Do cockatiels have emotions?
Yes, they definitely do.
Animals do tend to have emotions to some degree, especially animals that form complex emotional and relational bonds.
Cockatiels certainly have emotions, which is a good indicator of their intelligence.
They need a lot of stimulation, otherwise they will get bored quite quickly.
They need toys and puzzles, or they will get frustrated.
All of these are signs of a highly active mind.
But they also seem to feel excitement, joy, sadness, loneliness, and pretty much any range of emotions you can think of.
What about love?
Do cockatiels feel love?
Again, talking in strict, quantifiable terms here, we can’t say for certain that cockatiels feel “love”—but they plainly demonstrate all the peripheral behaviors we would associate with such an emotion.
They will become bonded to a single individual.
This is a given for many parrots.
For many, this might be all they need to know that cockatiels feel love.
But they also show great concern for their partners.
If they seem unwell, they will tend to them, and they will get dejected and sad without their company.
Many cockatiels whose long term owners have died pass shortly after they do.
But love isn’t the only sign of complex emotions and intelligence.
Do cockatiels hold grudges?
This one really depends on who you ask, but some certainly seem to think so.
Some would suggest that cockatiels will hold grudges after you take them for a particularly harrowing vet visit, or something else that they don’t like.
Some cockatiels get extremely behaviorally altered after having their wings clipped, and do not feel the same way about people anymore.
But they will still ultimately prefer to make amends sooner rather than later.
They can’t hold the grudge forever, as this would only end up making them feel worse.
A particularly bitter cockatiel might hold a grudge for some amount of time, but they will eventually give up on it in most cases.
If it is towards someone else, though, like a friend of yours that they don’t see all the time, they could indeed maintain a grudge for a longer time.
This, just like love and other positive emotions, is a strong indicator of intelligence.
Is a cockatiel smarter than a budgie?
It’s uniquely difficult to compare the intelligence of similar parrots like this, because they both seem to demonstrate the same fundamental traits related to intelligence.
They both form deep, long-lasting bonds, and come from complex, stratified societies in the wild.
They both need a great deal of stimulation and are capable of understanding and completing complex puzzles.
That said, both birds are also highly individual.
The most likely answer, unfortunately, is that there are some cockatiels that are smarter than many budgies, and vice versa.
Most cockatiels are better talkers than most budgies, but some budgies are remarkably good talkers.
So, the answer is it depends on the individual you’re looking at.
So, the short answer is yes, cockatiels are highly intelligent.
But we can’t necessarily agree on an absolute definition of that term.
It’s more this collection of traits and associations which demonstrates high cognitive function, and a complex emotional brain.
Cockatiels certainly tick a great many of the boxes, and so by pretty much any standard, we can say they are intelligent.
Just remember, they’re also highly individual—some are much smarter than others!