Parakeet vs Parrotlet – What’s the Difference?

There are some important differences between parakeets and parrotlets

Both kinds of birds make great pets, but you can’t keep them happy in the same cage.

What Are the Differences Between Parakeets and Parrotlets?

Parakeets and parrotlets are both birds in the Parrot Family.

In the United States, the bird most often labeled as a parakeet is actually a budgerigar, also known as a Budgie.

But the term “parakeet” refers to any of 115 species of seed-eating parrots that have a slender build, small body size, and long, tapering tails.

In addition to the most familiar budgie, there are also English parakeets, Indian ringneck parakeets, monk parakeets (also known as Quaker parakeets), lineolated parakeets, and conures.

In the United States and Canada, when you are referring to a parakeet, however, you probably have a budgie in mind.

Parrotlets are slightly smaller than parakeets. All parrotlets have stubby tails. And while parakeets can be calm and cuddly, parrotlets are constantly on the go.

Parrotlets are feisty defenders of what they consider to be their own.

Parakeets originated on the dry grassland plains of Australia. They fly around in flocks of up to 300 birds, mostly feeding on grass seed and the occasional insect.

Parakeets can fly as far as 30 miles (50 km) to find water in the dry season, but pet parakeets can be happy with much lower levels of activities in their cages, as long as they have toys.

Parrotlets originated in the rain forests of Mexico and South and Central America.

They have to be constantly on the alert to avoid being eaten by predators, sometimes including giant spiders.

There are many species of parrotlets that have never been raised in cages. They are just too aggressive.

Parakeets and parrotlets also differ in their abilities to mimic human speech. Parakeets can be astonishingly clear.

Parrotlets sound more robotic. Both are cute in their own way.

Thanks to breeding programs, parakeets are available in many more colors than just the usual green.

Parrotlets naturally show a far greater variety of colors than parakeets, but the most colorful parrotlets aren’t adapted to life in cages or even in aviaries.

Several species of parrotlets can be raised in cages, and they are prized for their brilliant plumage and their comical behavior.

Parakeet vs Parrotlet – Which One Are Better Pets?

Both parakeets and parrotlets make great pets, but they have their pros and cons.

Here is our summary of the attractions and challenges of keeping these beautiful, intelligent birds as pets.


With training, male parakeets sometimes can acquire a vocabulary of hundreds of words. Their imitation of human speech can be astonishingly clear.

Female parakeets are harder to train to speak, but they also can imitate words, although in a tinnier, shriller tone.

Parrotlets may not learn to speak at all. If they do, their vocabularies are likely to be limited to 10 to 25 words.

It is difficult to keep their attention long enough to teach them new words and phrases.

Cost of the Bird

Although it’s never a good idea to buy a bird just because they are inexpensive, it’s sometimes possible to find a parakeet for as little as $10 in a pet shop or at a flea market, although most parakeets will cost $50 to $60.

Parakeets with feathers in rare colors may cost as much as $500 to $600, including delivery fees.

Parrotlets generally cost $100 to $350 through pet shops. Hand-fed parrotlets from breeders will cost at least $500 and more usually $600 to $750, plus delivery fees.

When you are buying higher-priced hand-raised parrotlet, insist on seeing photos of the bird first.

Some dealers post “sample photos” instead of photos of the bird you will receive.

Cost of Cages

Cages for either parakeets or parrotlets will cost $100 to $300.

A single bird will have enough room in an 18 inch x 18 inch x 18 inch (45 cm x 45 cm x 45 cm) cage, but a cage for two birds needs to be at least 40 inches x 20 inches x 20 inches (1-meter x 50 cm x 50 cm).

As mentioned previously, it is best to keep parrotlets as solitary birds.

Cost of Maintenance

It’s possible to get an assortment of perches, ladders, hoops, and toys for either parakeets or parrotlets for around $100.

Neither parakeets nor parrotlets will tear up their durable toys.

Shreddable toys, however, are a good choice for parrotlets. They will use them to keep their beaks trimmed.

Ease of Feeding

Both parakeets and parrotlets thrive on a diet of seeds, vegetables, fruit, cuttlebone (for calcium), and minerals from mineral blocks.

It’s possible to give them part of their diets in the form of seed pellets, which will have added vitamins.

Don’t make sudden changes in the diets of either parakeets or parrotlets. They won’t recognize new foods as edible, and may even starve.

If you decide to put your bird on a more natural diet, taking it off seed pellets, mix just a few seeds into their food at a time while still giving them pellets, increasing the proportion of seeds gradually over a period of several weeks.

Suitability for Children

Parakeets are a good choice for a child’s first pet.

Hand-fed parakeets become comfortable with being touched, and they can learn to cuddle with their young owners.

Parrotlets don’t gain sociability with hand feeding. If you get them at the age of six to nine weeks, they can be trained to tolerate a gentle head scratch.

Rescue parrotlets and older birds are very difficult to train to tolerate handling by children. A parrotlet can bite hard enough to send a child to the emergency room.

Parrotlets are a better choice for families with older children who will treat them with respect.

Compatibility with Other Pets

Parakeets need protection from cats. On the other hand, cats may need protection from parrotlets.

The smaller the parrotlet, the more aggressive it will be toward other pets, even pets many times its size.

For the safety of all of your pets, it’s best to keep parakeets and parrotlets separate from dogs and cats, and separate from each other.


Parrotlets provide long-term companionship.

Most parrotlets kept as pets live to be 20, but some live as long as 30 years.

Most parakeets live five to seven years, although some will live to be 10 or even 15 years old.

What You Need to Know Before Getting a Parrotlet

It’s not hard to find reliable information about parakeets, but it’s not as easy to find what you need to know to raise parrotlet.

In this section of this article, we’ll focus on parrotlets first and give you some guidelines for choosing between the two.

As recently as 10 years ago, if you walked into a pet store and asked about parrotlets, chances are no one would know what you were talking about.

It’s still hard to find good information about parrotlets, but they have become one of the most sought-after pets.

Parrotlets don’t need a large space. They have beautiful plumage. They are great entertainers.

And unlike the larger parrots, they don’t have the ability to scream.

Parrotlets are like all their cousins in the Parrot Family in that they can learn to talk.

They are intelligent, curious, bold, acrobatic, and capable of forming bonds with the humans that care for them.

What Are the Different Kinds of Parrotlets?

There are 19 species of parrotlets in the wild, but only seven have been domesticated:

  • Blue Wing
  • Green Rump
  • Mexican
  • Pacific (also known as Celestial)
  • Sclater’s
  • Spectacled
  • Yellow Face

The Green Rump and Pacific parrotlets are the easiest to find.

Spectacled parrotlets are becoming easier to find, as breeders have found they are easy to raise.

Blue Wing and Mexican parrotlets are rarely available for sale, although they may be available for adoption from families that were unable to care for them.

Yellow Face parrotlets are not unusual in Europe, although they are hard to find in the US and Canada.

Sclater’s parakeets haven’t been imported into the US or Canada, and they are hard to find in Europe.

All of these parrotlets are less than six inches (15 cm) long. Females have green feathers with yellow on their wings, undersides, and faces.

Males have blue on their wings, backs, heads, and rumps.

Green Rump, Yellow Face, Spectacled, and Pacific parrotlets have horn-colored beaks and legs.

In Blue Wings, Mexicans, and Sclater’s, the beaks and legs are gray. Both Sclater’s and Yellow Face parrotlets have dark upper mandibles on their beaks.

Parrotlets Are Both Loyal and Territorial

Parrotlets can be fiercely loyal to their “pet human,” but when you get your parrotlet makes a big difference.

The best time to adopt a parrotlet and bring it into your home is when it is between six and nine weeks of age.

Unlike parakeets, parrotlets don’t bond with the person who hand feeds them. They bond with the human taking care of them when they first reach maturity.

Female parrotlets tend to be one-person birds. They will bond with one human caretaker, but they will attack anyone else who tries to handle them.

Males tolerate handling by different people, but they also tend to bond with one human caretaker over others.

Most parrotlets are tiny bundles of endless energy. They will spend their days playing with their toys, climbing their ladders, and eating their food. Motion toys like hoops and swings are favorites.

Parrotlets are amazing acrobats that like to play with several toys at the same time. And because they lack bill strength, they don’t tear up their toys the way larger parrots do.

The downside of parrotlets is that they don’t get along with other pets. They will attack larger birds. They will nip the noses of cats and dogs.

Keeping a parakeet and parrotlet together in the same cage is an especially bad idea.

The parakeet will continuously try to make friends with the parrotlet. The parrotlet will continuously chase it to the other side of the cage. Neither bird will be happy.

How to Take Care of Parrotlets

The best way to keep parrotlets is as a single bird in its own cage.

Parrotlets are very active, so they need a cage large enough to accommodate all of their toys.

The minimum space for a single bird is a cage 18 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 14 inches deep (45 cm tall, 33 cm wide, and 35 cm deep).

A parrotlet’s cage needs a grate at the bottom so the bird won’t step in droppings and old food. These birds need natural wood perches, not dowels.

Fresh food and water should be placed where they will not be contaminated by droppings.

The food dish must be open — parrotlets will not stick their heads inside a covered food dish, and may starve if you try to feed them with one.

Give parrotlets water through a glass tube fountain. Parrotlets will use open water dishes for bathing and splash out all the water.

A canary-sized bath is the right size for them.

It’s best to introduce parrotlets to a variety of foods when they are young. (Hand-fed parrotlets won’t bond with the person feeding them, but they will be less fussy about their diets later in life.)

The bulk of a parrotlet’s diet can be a seed mix for cockatiels or small hookbill parrots.

Parrotlets don’t have the mandible strength to crack nuts, so they should not be fed seed balls made for larger hook-billed birds.

In addition to seed balls or pellets, parrotlets need greens, vegetables, and sliced fresh fruit every day.

If you eat in front of your parrotlet, it will always assume that what you are eating is better than what it is eating.

It’s OK to feed parrotlets “people food” such as pasta, popcorn, rice, pasta, muffins, and pizza crust without the sauce, cheese, or meat.

Provide your parrotlets with a mineral bone, cuttlebone, and fresh water at all times.

Parrotlets tend to be healthy birds, although they can pick up fungal and bacterial diseases if their cages are not kept clean.

Parrotlets can also catch infestations of mites from other pets.

Parrotlets are not especially sensitive to temperature extremes, although it is best to give them the same heating and air conditioning you provide your human family.

The exact lifespan of parrotlets is not known, but they are believed to live to be 20 to 30 years of age.

Many bird owners attest that a parrotlet has a large parrot personality in a small parrot body.

These little parrots can provide hours of entertainment and decades of companionship.

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