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Local pets: Harry the cockatiel

23rd August 2021

Part of the parrot family, cockatiels are gentle, affectionate pets. Amander Meade visited Harry and his owner, David Howley, to find out more

Harry the cockatiel. Photo by Amander Meade

Harry is a beautiful cockatiel, thought to be about 20 years old. He lives very happily with David and Melinda Howley and their family in Lincolnshire, but, without a lucky twist of fate, life could have been very different for him, as David explains. 

‘About 16 years ago I sold baskets and I had a friend who was involved in selling sweets. When I visited his home on a sales call to show a selection of baskets, I heard a bird whistling in tune with a spinning washing machine. On investigation, and, to my disgust, I found Harry, whose cage had been put on top of the appliance. My friend explained that his wife didn’t like the bird, so he had been evicted from their sitting room. I knew immediately Harry would be coming home with me, where we could offer him a much more sympathetic home, so he was swapped for some baskets, and his new life with us began. At the time, my wife and children were away, but, when they rang that evening, they heard Harry singing away and were delighted I had rescued him.’

Cockatiels need a good airy room with lots of light, so they can see outside, and, since his arrival in the Howley household, Harry has had a large, spacious cage on a sunny window ledge in the home office, where he can often be found perching on David’s shoulder as David works. ‘Harry is extremely tame and always lets us know by making a vocal fuss when he wants to come out of the cage and equally when he is ready to go back in. He’s very easy to look after; we clean his cage three times a week, and he eats lots of seeds with a good supply of clean water. He even has organic home-grown lettuce growing from a pot in his cage, so he has fresh greens to peck on.’

The family acquired a lady friend for Harry some years ago, but he didn’t take to her – preferring his bachelor life. This is not unusual for cockatiels outside the wild, and a single bird will bond quite strongly with its owners, often rejecting a second bird. However, if you don’t have as much time as the Howleys to spend with your bird, a second cockatiel is a good idea. 

Easy to tame, inexpensive and simple to maintain, cockatiels make great pets, as they are relatively quiet birds, better known for their whistling ability than for talking. Their inquisitive nature and distinctive crest feathers make them extremely appealing. ‘Harry is very much part of our family, and not a day goes by without all of us interacting with him. He’s never bored, as there’s always someone around, and, like most of his breed, he loves music – he’s a big fan of Radio 2. He’s gentle and affectionate and loves to be petted. He’s never happier than when he’s in our company and always seems delighted to see us. We love him.’

For information on buying and keeping cockatiels, visit The Parrot Society’s website, For information on rehoming or rescuing caged birds, contact your local animal shelter.

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