Cockatiels are opportunistic nesters who make their homes in existing spaces rather than building them themselves. Native to the Australian mainland, these birds seek out safe, secluded spaces where they can mate and then lay and incubate their eggs. Dedicated partners, the male and female in a pairing work together to care for the eggs inside their nest.
Cockatiels are "secondary cavity nesters." Instead of building nests of their own in the branches of a tree, they make homes inside existing cavities. They frequently live inside the hollows of large trees, like eucalyptus. They prefer privacy; generally, a single male and female will occupy a tree rather than share its multiple hollows with other birds. These birds also prefer to live in dead trees, though if they cannot find a suitable one, they will occupy a live tree. They use pieces of rotting wood to line the bottoms of their nests.
Scouting the Location
Males and females mate for life. When they are looking for a nesting spot, the male takes the lead. He looks for a tree hollow that is close to water and between 3 and 6 feet off the ground. When he finds one, he ensures that it is vacant and safe before he and his mate move in: While she waits outside, he goes inside the tree and inspects it for danger; when he determines it's safe, he hops in and out to indicate that the female can enter. He follows her in, and the hollow becomes their home, where they mate.
Incubating the Eggs
One the female lays her eggs, she and her partner share incubation duties. The male incubates the eggs throughout the morning and afternoon, at which point he trades with the female, who incubates them overnight. While she incubates the eggs, he stands guard at the entrance to the hollow, keeping his partner and their eggs safe throughout the night. After 17 to 23 days of this cooperative incubation, the eggs hatch.
Raising the Chicks
The male continues to care for the chicks with the female once the cockatiel chicks hatch. The male is the primary feeder, regurgitating food into the mouths of the chicks -- there are typically between four and seven little mouths to feed. These birds are particularly protective parents; they refuse to leave the chicks unsupervised in the nest. Even once the chicks are grown enough to fly outside the nest on their own, one or both of the parents will go with them for protection.