Cockatiels, with their adorable mohawk and colorful cheeks, are a hit with bird lovers. However, these entertaining little birds have very specific needs, especially when it comes to their diet. You can’t just give them seeds to eat; these little winged creatures need pellets, fresh vegetables and fruits, and a few treats here and there.
Are potatoes one of the foods you can feed your cockatiel? The simple answer is that while cooked potatoes are safe for cockatiels to consume, they aren’t recommended for them. Potato shoots and eyes are toxic for all parrots, including cockatiels. Another important question is why would you want to give potatoes to your bird? Are there any benefits to this food? This is what you will find out in the rest of this article.
A Cockatiel’s Diet
A formulated diet (such as a pellet) should form the majority of your cockatiel’s diet (about 75%). The rest of the diet should be smaller fractions of vegetables, nuts and other protein sources, and a small serving of fruits. True berries are preferred over other fruits.
Underground tubers (such as potatoes) aren’t considered normal for a cockatiel, mostly because they aren’t foods wild parrots would eat. Though some tubers can be safely incorporated into your cockatiel’s diet, others are best avoided. Potatoes aren’t recommended for cockatiels for reasons we’ll explain next.
Why Shouldn’t You Give Your Cockatiel Potatoes?
Almost all forms of potatoes aren’t recommended for cockatiels.
Raw potato is strongly discouraged when it comes to feeding your cockatiel. It contains a toxic alkaloid, solanine, which is toxic for parrots. Solanine is also found in the shoots of the potato plant and the eyes on a ripe potato (which are new shoots that sprout from the vegetable itself).
In a strict sense, cooked potatoes that are peeled and NOT seasoned throughout the cooking process are considered safe for cockatiels to consume. However, they aren’t particularly healthy for them. Potatoes are high in carbohydrates, and if your cockatiel were to consume potatoes, they would quickly feel full. However, a parrot’s digestive system works differently than a human’s does. A parrot that feels full but has been deprived of some nutrients (such as protein) will resort to either overeating (which would result in an overweight cockatiel) or feather plucking (because feathers contain protein).
Baked potatoes, like cooked potatoes, are safe but not recommended. However, they carry an additional risk if they’re prepared in a Teflon pan or another non-stick surface (such as a baking tray). Teflon is very toxic for parrots. It is also known as Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and is present in some pans, appliances, stain-resistant furniture, and certain clothing.
Potatoes are often processed and turned into snacks that humans enjoy, such as in the form of potato chips, french fries, or crisps. The additives and preservatives used in the preparation of these products render them unsafe for cockatiels.
But Aren’t Potatoes Healthy?
Potatoes are filled with fibers, carbohydrates, starch, and B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6). Vitamin B1 plays an essential role in nerve transmission and participates in the transformation of carbohydrates into energy. The potato also contains vitamin C, which helps strengthen the immune system. In addition, potassium, iron, and magnesium are minerals present in respectable amounts in this succulent tuber.
All of these excellent benefits paint an exciting dietary profile for the famous potato, don’t they? Yes, but only if you are a human! Unfortunately, there is not enough scientific data to justify the benefits of giving potatoes to your bird. The nutritional profile of a potato just doesn’t sit well with a cockatiel’s digestive system. It makes sense too, as parrots in the wild don’t eat underground tubers (which grow under the surface of soil).
What About Sweet Potatoes?
For humans, sweet potatoes are often touted as a much healthier alternative to the “normal” potato. Again, this only rings true for humans, not cockatiels. The nutritional value of a sweet potato is also dangerous for cockatiels in some cases. For example, they are high in Vitamin A, but diets high in vitamin A can be detrimental to cockatiels.
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.
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!
Cockatiels are adorable, entertaining, cheerful, affectionate, and charming pet birds. It is a real privilege to have the opportunity to raise such creatures in your household. In addition, they can live for 20 years, which makes them long-term companions.
Nutrition is a key aspect of your cockatiel’s diet, and while they do need a varied diet, it should not include potatoes. Their nutritional profile isn’t that compatible with a cockatiel’s requirements. In addition, certain parts of the plant are toxic for cockatiels, and non-stick dishes used to prepare potatoes can be toxic for them, too.
Featured Image Credit:Holger Langmaier, Pixabay