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What Food Can Cockatiels Eat?

Oliver Jones

The common saying, “you are what you eat,” is as true for a cockatiel as it is for any other living thing. While these popular pet birds can live as long as 15 years, they need the right care to stay healthy and reach that lifespan. Feeding the right diet is an important part of making sure your cockatiel not only survives but thrives!

Wild cockatiels eat a variety of seeds, nuts, grasses, and fruits. To stay healthy, pet cockatiels need a varied diet as well. In this article, we will discuss what food cockatiels can eat, as well as some foods to avoid. We’ll also learn why a healthy diet is so important for cockatiels and how to coax your bird into eating healthier even if they aren’t used to doing it.

divider-birdWhy It Matters What Cockatiels Eat

Cockatiels, like their larger relatives the cockatoos, are prone to gaining too much weight. Just like in humans, obesity is unhealthy for cockatiels. Overweight cockatiels can develop breathing problems, diabetes, or liver issues. Feeding a balanced diet is key to keeping your cockatiel at a healthy weight.

Without a nutritious diet, cockatiels may not get enough essential vitamins and minerals and develop conditions such as iodine deficiency. They may also have other problems such as egg binding and feather picking.

white faced cockatiel
Image Credit: daphne.t, Shutterstock

Cockatiel Food: The Basics

The majority of a pet cockatiel’s diet should be a mixture of formulated pellet food and seeds, about 75% pellets to 25% seeds. All cockatiels love seeds but pet cockatiels can’t live on seeds alone, even if they want to. Seed mixes tend to be high in fat and don’t have all the essential nutrients the cockatiel needs to stay healthy.

In addition to their pellets and seeds, cockatiels should be fed a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins. Every cockatiel has different tastes and you might need to try many different foods, many different times to learn what your cockatiel likes. Fortunately, most healthy, unprocessed human foods can also be eaten by cockatiels.

Fruits

Cockatiels should be offered fresh fruit every day. Until you learn your cockatiel’s tastes, offer small amounts of different kinds of fruits. Be patient, as your cockatiel may reject a certain fruit on one day only to decide they can’t get enough of it the next. Most fruits, but not fruit seeds, are safe for cockatiels to eat. Some fruits to try include:

Cockatiels safe to eat
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Mango
  • Kiwi
  • Berries

Always make sure to wash fruit before feeding it to your cockatiel to be certain no pesticides or other chemicals are present. Fruit should be cut up small and offered in a separate dish from the pellet/seed food.

Cockatiels can also eat dried fruits such as raisins or apricots if fresh fruit is unavailable.

Vegetables

In addition to fruit, cockatiels should be offered a variety of vegetables every day. The same rules apply to figuring out what vegetables your cockatiel will eat as fruit: offer a small amount and try, try again. Dark, leafy greens are a particularly healthy option for your cockatiel. Here are some vegetables you can try:

Cockatiels safe to eat
  • Bok choy
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Sweet potato (cooked)
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Zucchini

Cockatiels can eat fresh, cooked, or thawed frozen vegetables. Make sure to wash all fresh vegetables and cut them into small pieces before feeding. If cooking vegetables for your cockatiel, avoid adding salt or spices.

Grains

Cockatiels can safely eat several different grains, but these should only be fed in moderation. Here are some grains and grain-containing foods that a cockatiel can eat:

Cockatiels safe to eat
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Cooked oats
  • Whole grain pasta

Proteins

Several low-fat protein sources can be offered to cockatiels, and are especially healthy when they are molting. Here are some proteins that cockatiels can eat:

Cockatiels safe to eat
  • Cooked chicken or turkey
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Cooked dried beans
  • Cottage cheese

Proteins like meat, fish, or eggs should only be fed when freshly cooked and any uneaten amount cleaned up quickly to avoid the growth of dangerous bacteria.

Foods To Avoid Giving Cockatiels

As you’ve seen, cockatiels can safely eat a wide variety of healthy human foods, in addition to their pellets and seeds. However, some foods are neither safe nor healthy for cockatiels and should be avoided.

Any human foods that are processed, high in fat and salt, or greasy should not be fed to cockatiels. These include such snacks as potato chips, pretzels, and crackers as well as white bread and pasta.

Chocolate, foods with caffeine, and alcohol are all toxic to cockatiels and should be avoided.

Some fruits and vegetables are not safe for cockatiels to eat. These include the following:

You should never Feed to Cockatiels
  • Avocado
  • Rhubarb
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Raw Potato
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant

If your cockatiel enjoys supervised outdoor playtime, don’t let them snack on any plant or tree without knowing if they are safe to eat first. The same goes for any houseplants you may have at home.

If you are ever concerned that your cockatiel has eaten something unsafe, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.

Related Read: Diarrhea in Cockatiels: Here’s What to Do

My Cockatiel Only Eats Seeds…Help!

As we discussed, cockatiels love seeds and, if given the choice, would probably pick them over most other foods. This is basically like a human eating only dessert for every meal. Yes, it’s delicious but over time not nutritious!

If you were lucky enough to get your cockatiel started eating pellets at a young age, they will most likely go right on happily eating them along with whatever else you offer. However, if you adopt an adult cockatiel, it’s possible that they might be a seed-eater only and turn up their beaks at your attempts to offer healthier food. Now what?

Since it’s going to be healthier in the long run, it’s best that you switch your cockatiel off a seed-only diet and onto the recommended pellet food. This should be done slowly, over about 4-8 weeks. Each day, offer a smaller amount of seeds to the cockatiel. Make sure they always have pellets and other healthy foods available in separate dishes.

As they have less access to seeds, cockatiels should start to eat more of the other, preferred foods. Your veterinarian can help you during this food transition to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

divider-birdConclusion

Healthy cockatiels can and should eat a variety of foods, much like they would in the wild. Many healthy human foods are also safe for your cockatiel to eat, as we discussed. If you ever wonder whether certain foods are safe for your cockatiel, consult your veterinarian. Veterinarians are also your best resource to ensure your cockatiel’s particular nutritional needs are met correctly. Remember that variety is the spice of life and, while you should generally avoid spices, keeping variety in your cockatiel’s diet should help keep them fit and happy for many years.


Featured Image Credit: M. H., Pixabay

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.