Cockatiel Nutrition 101: What They Can & Can Not Eat

Cockatiels are beautiful birds, but what do they eat? If you’re a new cockatiel owner, or even if you’ve had them for a while, it can be difficult to figure out which foods are safe for them and which ones are best avoided. A healthy diet is one of the most important parts of keeping your cockatiel in good shape, so knowing what’s good for them is crucial.

There are many misconceptions about what cockatiels should eat, which makes it even more difficult to figure out what you should give them.

I’m here to help. In this post, I’m going to give a complete overview of all the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that they can safely consume. I will also go over which foods are best avoided and which foods are poisonous or toxic for them. In addition, I will give tell you what the ideal diet is for your beloved bird.

The ideal diet for your cockatiel

The ideal diet for your cockatiel is not what you might expect. Seeds should only make up a small part of it and the majority of their food intake should be made up of pellets and fruits and vegetables.

The ideal cockatiel diet consists of 75 to 80% pellets and 20 to 25% fruits and vegetables. Seeds should only be given as treats.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the individual components of the cockatiels diet to get a better understanding of what they need, and why they need it.

Seeds

There are many cockatiel owners that live under the assumption that seeds should make up the majority of the cockatiel’s diet.

It’s true that most cockatiels absolutely love seeds, but, contrary to popular belief, they should absolutely not be a large part of their diet.

Seeds are very high in calories and fat and if your cockatiel has a diet that consists largely of seeds there’s a very high chance that your bird will gain too much weight.

In nature, cockatiels do eat seeds quite often, but they also expend many more calories trying to find them which offsets the high fat and calorie content. In captivity, the birds do not move around nearly as much and thus burn much fewer calories. Seeds are okay to give to your cockatiel occasionally, but only as a treat, not as a staple part of their diet.

Pellets

Cockatiels are much healthier if they eat a diet that consists mainly of pellets. These pellets should make up 75 to 80% of their diet. Pellets have been specifically created to meet all the nutritional needs of your bird. If you have a new bird, start feeding them pellets as soon as you can. The sooner they start eating pellets, the sooner they can get used to it and the less resistance you will encounter.

For adult cockatiels challenge here is that this food is not natural for them. Because of this, many cockatiels do not even recognize the pellets as food because they’ve never eaten them. This makes it quite difficult to convert your bird from a seed-based diet to a pellet-based diet.

However, while it might be challenging to convert your cockatiel from the delicious seeds they’re so used to to the new pellets it’s crucial that you do it. Your bird will benefit from it immensely and their lifespan will most likely increase.

A good tip to help you achieve the transition is doing it gradually. If you abruptly stop feeding seeds to a bird that’s accustomed to only eating seeds it will not work out. They will simply refuse to eat the pellets.

Instead, try having 2 separate bowls: 1 for pellets and 1 for seeds. Slowly, over the course of a couple of weeks, reduce the number of seeds you put in the seed bowl and always keep the bowl with pellets topped up. That way, they can gradually transition from eating a seed-based diet to eating a diet that consists of pellets.

Check out: the top 3 best pellets to feed your cockatiel.

Fruits and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are another important part of your glider’s diet. They provide your bird with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They should make up 20 to 25% of your glider’s total food intake. Vegetables should be a larger part of their food intake than fruits because fruits are higher in sugars and, in general, contain fewer micronutrients.

Before you feed your glider any fruits or vegetables you have to make sure to wash them properly. Many fruits and vegetables contain pesticides on the skin which are harmful to your bird.

Studies have proven that a mixture of water and baking soda is the best way of getting rid of pesticides.

However, while fruits and vegetables are a necessary part of your cockatiel’s diet, they can not eat every one of them. There are many fruits and vegetables in existence and not all of them are equally good for your bird. Therefore, in the next section, I will go over which fruits and vegetables are safe for your cockatiel to consume and which ones are best avoided.

Fruits cockatiels can (and can’t) eat

Did you know that there are around 2000 types of fruits in the world? Now, you most likely do not know all of them (I surely don’t), and while your cockatiel benefits from eating a variety of fruits it doesn’t mean they need all of them.

Let’s take a look at which fruits you can safely give your cockatiel.

Fruits that cockatiels can eat include apples, bananas, apricots, pears, grapes, oranges, peaches, and watermelon.

On top of that, they can eat most berries. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, goji berries, raspberries, huckleberries, red- and black currants are all great fruits to feed your cockatiel.

Other fruits cockatiels can eat are cherries (although it might make their poops turn red it’s not harmful), coconut, grapefruit, figs, guava, jackfruit, kiwis, mango, pomegranates, and nectarines.

On top of that, cockatiels can also eat dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, and dates.

On the whole, most fruits are safe to give to your cockatiel, but there are some exceptions. You should never feed your cockatiel avocado or olives. Also, before you feed them any fruits you should make sure that you remove the seeds. The seeds of fruits can contain cyanide which is toxic.

Also, do not feed your cockatiel canned fruits. These are very high in sugar and preservatives; fresh fruits are a much healthier option.

Vegetables cockatiels can eat

Now that we’ve gone over the fruits you can feed your bird it’s time to move on to the vegetables your cockatiel can eat. They’re an essential part of your cockatiel’s diet because they’re very rich in many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Oh, and if you’re curious how many vegetables there are after me telling you how many fruits there are, I looked it up, and there are 1097!

Cockatiels can eat many vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, carrots, collard greens, brussel sprouts, bok choy, and cooked potatoes.

In addition, you can feed your cockatiel vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes, corn on the cob, peas, beets, cucumber, bell peppers, celery, romaine lettuce, green beans, jalapenos, okra, and radishes.

As you can see, cockatiels can eat many different fruits. However, there are some vegetables that should be avoided. You should never feed your cockatiel the following vegetables: rhubarb, eggplant, onion, and garlic.

Vegetables that are not dangerous, but low in nutrition are also best avoided. They’re not harmful, but they don’t provide a whole lot of nutrition. I’m talking about vegetables like iceberg lettuce, which are mostly made up of water.

Other veggies that can only be given in moderation. These are broccoli, spinach, and parsley. The reason for this is that they’re high in oxalates which can hamper calcium absorption. A small amount of these veggies every once in a while will not harm your cockatiel but don’t feed it to them too often.

You should feed your cockatiel many different kinds of vegetables to ensure that they have access to many different kinds of nutrients. The nutritional profile is different for all vegetables so a diverse diet is the best way to make sure they get everything they need.’

Other foods that cockatiels can eat

Now that we’ve covered the fruits and veggies you might wonder if there are other foods you can feed your cockatiels as an occasional treat.

There are many other foods that your cockatiel can eat, but many others that they can not.

Some ideas for treats that you can give your cockatiels are white and brown rice, bread, plain cereal like cheerios, and pasta. Also, small quantities of meat such as cooked beef, chicken, or fish can be a good occasional treat for your cockatiel. These foods can be a good source of protein but should not be a large part of your bird’s diet.

Dairy products are generally not recommended due to the fact that cockatiels do not have the enzyme to process lactose. However, some dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese are very low in lactose and can be fed to your cockatiel in small quantities.

You can also give your cockatiel eggs. They can be scrambled or hard boiled but never raw.

Furthermore, you can feed your cockatiels nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts on special occasions. Make sure not to give them nuts too frequently because they’re very high in calories and fat. You have to make sure that the nuts you give them are roasted and unsalted. If they are not, they can be dangerous for your bird. Cockatiels have a small body with small kidneys so they’re unable to process a lot of salt.

Peanut butter is also okay in very small quantities as long as it’s high quality.

Foods that are toxic to cockatiels

Now that we’ve gone over everything your cockatiel can eat, let’s discuss some of the foods that your cockatiel can not eat. I’ve already gone over some of the foods they shouldn’t eat in some of the previous sections but I think it will be helpful to create a complete list of foods to avoid giving your cockatiel.

  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Castor beans
  • Chokecherry
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Rhubarb
  • Honey
  • Caffeine
  • Fruit seeds
  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Raw potatoes

I highly recommend that before you feed anything to your cockatiel you check extensively whether or not your cockatiel can eat it. I tried to cover as many foods as possible in this post but there are too many foods and plants in the world to go over everything.

Ultimately, if you stick to fresh fruits (remove the seeds), vegetables, and pellets not much can go wrong and your cockatiel should live a happy and healthy life. I also recommend that you check with a vet if you’re unsure about adding a new food item to their diet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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