Housing Two Different Species In One Cage

Q: I am thinking of getting a quaker parrot. Can I put him in the same cage with my cockatiel?
–Linda L., Minot, ND

A: This is just not a good idea. I have both species of birds and find that I have to watch the interaction between both closely even when they are in a common play area. Although they appear to be similar in size, the body type of the quaker is stockier, the beak larger and the personality more aggressive. The quaker is a more powerful bird than the cockatiel.

Even in cases where the birds seem to get along well, you have to consider the possibility that one day there might be an altercation between the two. The more delicate of the two birds, the cockatiel, would be the likely loser.  And being confined in a cage, where there is no possibility of escape, things could get ugly, or worse.

It is inadvisable to put two birds of different sizes together in close proximity at all. Never make the assumption that you know your birds well enough to feel certain that neither would cause an incident. I promise you that you do not know your bird that well. None of us do. A bird regards and responds to its environment differently than we do as humans. We don’t now, and perhaps never will, fully understand their nature.

When I first came to Orlando, I introduced my goffins cockatoo, Theo, to the Womach’s rosebreasted cockatoos and african grey. Theo is smaller than than the other birds and is a bit timid in personality. Sweet and gentle Theo has never bitten anyone, ever – she’s a total marshmallow, and I expected her to come running to me for protection. Imagine my surprise when SHE was the aggressor with the larger birds and had no issues with telling THEM how things were going to be. The Womach birds just rolled their eyes and went about their business.

Parrots of the same species sometimes squabble, just like humans do, and often will simply opt to move away from each other. Different species have different levels of aggression and territorialism and might always regard another species in its cage as an invader. Just as wild birds run off other species that come too close to their nesting site, so might a captive bird.  It isn’t worth the risk.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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