Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Birds > Can Cockatiels Eat Popcorn? Vet-Reviewed Nutritional Info

Can Cockatiels Eat Popcorn? Vet-Reviewed Nutritional Info

PetKeen_Can Cockatiels Eat_popcorn

Vet approved

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

You’re ready to snuggle into your couch to watch a movie and eat delicious salty and buttery popcorn. However, your cockatiel seems to have the same idea. You’d love to share your popcorn with your bird, but can you? Is popcorn a safe snack for cockatiels?

Popcorn is absolutely a safe snack for your cockatiel! However, the popcorn should be plain without any additives, and it should only be given as a treat in moderation.

Here, we look at how much is enough and the best way to prepare the popcorn for your bird. We also look at how not to prepare this treat. You want your cockatiel to enjoy popcorn, but in a healthy way.


Cockatiels and Popcorn

Popcorn is considered healthy due to its high fiber content, but it’s also a source of protein, with 12 grams in 100 grams of popped popcorn. It also contains several vitamins and minerals.

However, the healthy aspects of popcorn can be completely counteracted when unhealthy toppings are added. Let’s look at the negatives of popcorn for your cockatiel.

All About Popcorn

Popcorn comes from a specific type of corn. They are dried kernels with a tiny bit of water inside that grows when heated, which causes the kernel to explode with that fluffy popcorn goodness.

It’s thought that popcorn has been around for over 5,000 years and hails from New Mexico. It took off in popularity during the Great Depression in the 1930s because it was cheap and easy to make (and delicious!). It continues to be one of the most popular snack foods in North America and Europe.

You might be quite surprised to learn that popcorn is a whole-grain food and is a high source of fiber. Only 100 grams of popped popcorn is 15 grams of fiber! It is also high in polyphenol antioxidants and is known to be a healthy snack.

However, there are a few problems with popcorn.

Image by: Georgia Vagim, Unsplash

Problems With Popcorn

Studies have shown that commercial microwave popcorn can have harmful effects. The perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) chemical is found in most packages of microwave popcorn and is associated with a number of health issues. This chemical is also used in the non-stick coating of Teflon pans. PFOA is connected to in-utero problems for humans and may predispose unborn children to kidney and testicular cancer, low birth weight, thyroid problems, and ADHD.

Studies of several bird species also showed that developing chicks suffered adversely when exposed to PFOA (during their incubation period). Microwave popcorn also sometimes contains diacetyl, which is used in artificial butter flavoring. Studies show that this chemical can cause lung disease and damage the airways of animals.

Lastly, we tend to cover popcorn with unhealthy ingredients: sugar, caramel, cheese, butter, salt, and more. Many health problems can occur from excessive intake of these types of toppings.

But what about cockatiels? Let’s take a brief look at the cockatiel’s typical diet.

Feeding your cockatiels the wrong mixture of seeds can be dangerous to their health, so we recommend checking with an expert resource like The Ultimate Guide to Cockatiels, available on Amazon.

The Ultimate Guide to Cockatiels

This excellent book will help you balance your cockatiels’ food sources by understanding the value of different seed types, dietary supplements, fruits and vegetables, and cuttlebone. You’ll also find tips on everything from housing to health care!


A Cockatiel Diet

The bulk of a domestic cockatiel’s diet consists of pellets that have been specially made for cockatiels. Pellets contain a large variety of different foods, such as grains, corn, fruit, vegetables, minerals, and vitamins, that have all been pressed into these tiny pellets.

These should make up 75% to 80% of your bird’s diet, with the rest of their diet typically being made up of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes. Fruit is a healthy snack but should be considered a treat and only fed in small amounts once per day.

blue cockatiel eating
Image by: Ines Porada, Shutterstock

Vegetables that are good for cockatiels include:

  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Zucchini
  • Bok choy
  • Carrots
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Kale
  • Watercress

Good fruit choices include:

But what about popcorn for cockatiels?


The Downside of Popcorn for Cockatiels

Popcorn is delicious to us, but that’s because we tend to add toppings that aren’t always healthy. These should be avoided at all costs when feeding popcorn to your cockatiel.


Every seasoning and topping typically added to popcorn is bad for cockatiels. Salt, butter, popcorn seasonings, and sugary toppings are all unhealthy for your bird.

If you feed your ‘tiel too many fatty foods (which can mean popcorn with butter, but it can also happen with too many seeds in the diet), they can become overweight, which may make them susceptible to ailments such as fatty liver disease.


Microwave popcorn bags can contain PFOA (used in the non-stick coating found in cookware), which can be deadly for birds. In fact, if you leave a non-stick pan that contains PFOA on high heat, the fumes can prove fatal for birds.

Additionally, microwave popcorn is full of artificial ingredients that contain salt and flavorings that aren’t good for your ‘tiel. It’s safest to avoid giving your bird any microwave popcorn at all.

cockatiel bird eats popcorn
Image by: Tara Lynn and Co, Shutterstock

How Much Popcorn Can You Give Your Cockatiel?

As healthy as popcorn can be, it should still only be given as an occasional treat, since pellets, fruits, and vegetables are what should make up the entirety of your bird’s meals. Treats and snacks should only be given to your cockatiel once a day and only one or two treats at a time.

You can give your cockatiel a few popcorn kernels once or twice a week, provided that it’s air-popped and lacks any toppings. You can pop popcorn, pull out a few kernels for your ‘tiel, and then add whatever toppings that you want to the rest for yourself. This way, you’re both happy!



Air-popped popcorn without anything on it is just fine for your cockatiel, as long as you give your pet only one or two kernels a few times a week. Avoid microwave popcorn! You can make homemade and much healthier popcorn for yourself on the stove, but it still probably will contain oil, which your cockatiel definitely doesn’t need.

If you are ever concerned about your cockatiel’s health or what treats and foods are okay and which aren’t, always speak to your avian vet. They can help alleviate any worries that you may have. You’ll be assured that you are taking excellent care of your cockatiel and will have them around for a long time.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets