What Can Cockatiels Eat? List of Safe Foods & What To Avoid

Whether you’re a new cockatiel owner, or you’re just brushing up on your research, it’s important to know exactly what foods your cockatiel can and cannot eat to ensure he or she lives a long and healthy life.

This article gives several comprehensive lists of safe and healthy foods for your cockatiel, as well as lists of foods you should absolutely avoid. 

What can cockatiels eat? Cockatiels’ diet should be composed of 20-25% fruits and vegetables, 50-60% pellets, and 20% seeds. They can eat (in moderation) almost any food that humans enjoy but should avoid avocados, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, garlic, onions, and most dairy products.

We’ll go through the basic diet for cockatiels and then get into specifics with lists of foods from different groups that are safe to feed your cockatiel.

Keep reading if you want to know what foods you can and cannot feed your cockatiel, as well as why these foods are healthy or unhealthy for your feathered friend.

Recommended Cockatiel Diet – The Basic Essentials 

If you’re a beginner cockatiel owner, you might just want to know the basics for what to feed your pet. 

In their native habitat of Australia, wild cockatiels eat mostly seeds, fruits, grasses and leaves.

It’s important that the essentials their diet is composed of are not far off from what they eat in the wild.

Some cockatiels can be weaned onto a mostly pellet diet, but it is recommended to never feed your cockatiel only pellets.

Make sure your cockatiel is still getting fruits, vegetables, and some seeds. However, pellets are specially formulated to meet your cockatiels needs.

They may contain minerals that the bird is not getting from its fruits, vegetables, or seeds, so they should make up the bulk of a cockatiels diet.

Curious as to the biggest feeding mistake common to new cockatiel owners, I asked Jenny from the Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital what, in her experience is the #1 issue.

Her response:

Too much seed in the diet is the most common mistake cockatiel owners make. To birds, seed is like candy, and too much is not healthy.

Here are the basic proportions of each food group for a well-balanced cockatiel diet: 

  • 20-25% Fruits and vegetables
  • 50-60% Pellets
  • 20% Seeds

Make sure to ask your pet’s veterinarian if your bird has any deficiencies. If deficiencies are found, dietary supplements for your cockatiel may be necessary.

Now, let’s get into more detail about what fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, nuts, and garden herbs are safe for your cockatiel as well as what to never feed your cockatiel.

Fruits Safe for Cockatiels 

Fruits should account for at least a small portion of your cockatiel’s diet. 

There is a very wide range of fruits that are safe and healthy for cockatiels. Here is a list of some of those:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Banana
  • Carrots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Guavas
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Watermelon

Cockatiels can also eat dried fruits (as long as they do not contain the preservative sulfur dioxide), such as: 

  • Dried apricots
  • Dried cranberries
  • Prunes
  • Raisins

Your cockatiel will likely love any fruit that is provided to him or her. However, the fruit should be thoroughly cleaned and chopped into nice small pieces or shredded.

Try giving your cockatiel a small bite of the fruit first. If he or she does not enjoy the fruit, you can always try again later – maybe they’re just not in the mood.

Make sure to remove pits, seeds, and stems from fruits before feeding them to your cockatiel as these parts can be toxic.

Safe Vegetables for Cockatiels 

While fruits are an important part of a cockatiel’s diet, it might be a good idea to feed your cockatiel vegetables more often than fruits.

Fruits are very high in sugar and often are not as healthy as nutrient-rich veggies.

Here is a list of some of the many vegetables that are safe and enjoyable for pet cockatiels: 

  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Peppers (even hot peppers)
  • Spinach
  • String beans
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Zucchini 

Cockatiels love leafy greens, so it’s important that these make up at least a small portion of your cockatiel’s diet.

However, some leafy greens, like iceberg lettuce, have very little nutrition, so try to stick to darker greens like kale – the darker the greens, the more nutrients they have.

Cockatiels also love vegetables other than leafy greens.

Just make sure they’re cut into nice small pieces and well washed. Try to stick to fresh, rather than canned, veggies.

Meats Safe for Cockatiels 

Cockatiels can eat these meats in small amounts:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Pork (fat removed)

Your cockatiel’s diet, while it should be mostly made up of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and pellets, can be supplemented with meat on some occasions. 

Although it should be done sparingly, as cockatiels are herbivores in the wild, feeding your cockatiel a small amount of meat can be a great way to boost protein intake. 

All meat you give to your cockatiel must be thoroughly cooked, unseasoned, and cut into small pieces.

It’s best not to give your cockatiel oil, so if you are giving him or her meat, try boiling, baking, or steaming instead of sautéing. 

Again, make sure to only feed your cockatiel meat in small amounts, and make sure that most of the diet is made up of pellets, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Dairy Products Safe for Cockatiels 

Dairy products are not recommended for cockatiels, however, they can eat dairy products in very conservative amounts as an occasional treat. 

There are some dairy products that you should never feed your cockatiel and some (low lactose products) that are safe in moderation: 

Never In Moderation
Milk Cultured yogurt
Butter Kefir
Mozzarella Swiss
Brie Cheddar
Other high-lactose cheeses Parmesan

Again, if you do feed your cockatiel any dairy at all, make sure it is in very moderate amounts.

Safe Nuts for Cockatiels 

Nuts are similar to seeds in that they are a great source of protein, and most nuts that humans eat can be a great, healthy treat for your cockatiel.

However, stick to feeding your cockatiel just a few nuts per week.

Here are some seeds you can feed your cockatiel as a treat:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts (unshelled)
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios (unshelled)
  • Walnuts

Make sure any nuts given to your cockatiel are either very lightly salted or unsalted and are unshelled.

These are just some nuts that are safe to feed your cockatiel occasionally, but check with your veterinarian about other specific nuts not included here.

Safe Garden Herbs for Cockatiels 

If you grow herbs in your garden, your cockatiel might just be interested in some of them; however, others may be dangerous.

For example, some compounds in chives have been found to be harmful to cockatiels, and foxglove can cause heart problems.

Check out this table for more information on several different garden herbs:

Herb Safety Explanation
Basil Safe Cockatiels love basil, and it’s been shown to be healthy for them
Cilantro Safe Lots of cockatiels like cilantro, and no harmful effects have been documented
Chamomile Safe Can be made into a tea for your Cockatiel
Chives Unsafe Can be toxic to birds
Foxglove Unsafe Can cause heart problems in birds
Oregano Safe A very safe and common herb that many cockatiels love
Parsley Safe in moderation Oxalic acid content can cause kidney problems
Spearmint Safe in moderation High oil content can cause intestinal inflammation

Cockatiel Treats 

Whether you’re training your cockatiel and need some positive reinforcement or you just want to give her a special snack, you need to know what treats are good for cockatiels.

All of the safe fruits, vegetables, and herbs listed above are great to use as treats for your cockatiel. 

You can also try buying specially formulated cockatiel treats from your local pet stores; just make sure these are also fed in moderation.

Here’s a list of great treats to feed your cockatiel:

  • Millet treats
  • Honey spray
  • Dried papaya
  • Puffed corn treats
  • Strawberry yogurt treats
  • Any cockatiel-safe fruit, vegetable, or nut

Foods Toxic to Cockatiels 

Some of the above foods are okay in moderation, but some foods contain compounds that are toxic to cockatiels and therefore should be avoided entirely and not even given on special occasions.

If you are a cockatiel owner, it’s essential to keep these foods in mind.

Alcohol

Alcohol is very poisonous to birds as it can cause organ failure. Never give your cockatiel alcohol.

Although this one should be a no-brainer, it’s super important to note in order to prevent your cockatiel from ever accidentally consuming alcohol.

Avocados

Avocados should never be fed to cockatiels as they contain a toxin called persin that can be deadly for birds.

Caffeine

Never feed your cockatiel caffeine as it can kill your bird by causing arrhythmia and heart attacks.

You might never intentionally feed your cockatiel caffeine, but it’s important to make sure that your bird never gets into your coffee or caffeinated tea by accident.

Chocolate

You should never feed your cockatiel chocolate as it is toxic even in very small amounts and can cause seizures and death.

Theobromine, the compound in chocolate that makes it toxic to dogs, is also responsible for toxicity in parrots.

Chocolate also contains caffeine, which as listed previously as very harmful for cockatiels.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is toxic to cockatiels, and no parts of the rhubarb should ever be fed to them.

Like parsley, rhubarb contains oxalic acid, however, in much higher amounts. Oxalic acid is a toxin that causes kidney issues in birds.

Healthy Cockatiel Feeding Tips: General Guidelines 

Now that you’re familiar with what to feed your cockatiel, we can discuss how to feed your cockatiel. 

It’s important to have a wide range of knowledge on feeding tips in order to keep your cockatiel healthy.

Portion Size

Depending on their size, cockatiels should eat around 30 grams (about 1 ounce or 1/4 cup) of food total each day. This food should be mostly pellets and seeds, supplemented by fruits and vegetables.

Remember, cockatiels are much smaller than humans, so however much you eat of a food, they will eat far less. 

For example, the equivalent of 20 grapes for you is less than a quarter of a grape for your cockatiel.

Therefore, when feeding your cockatiel, keep this in mind, and try to only give your cockatiel small bites of fruits and vegetables.

Washing Fruits/Veggies

Fruits and vegetables can often come covered in pesticides.

It’s very important to thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables before giving them to your cockatiel as the chemicals used on commercially produced fruits and vegetables can be very harmful to your bird.

Variety of Foods

Whatever you decide to feed your cockatiel, make sure to switch it up on a regular basis.

You don’t want to eat the same foods for every meal of everyday, and your cockatiel doesn’t either.

Consult this article and others for the super wide range of foods that cockatiels can eat, and make sure you are including a variety of these in your cockatiel’s diet.

Cooked vs. Raw Meat

Raw meat can contain parasites and microbes that can be very harmful to your cockatiel. 

Just like humans are not recommended to not eat raw meat, cockatiels should not eat raw meat either.

Make sure to cook your food to the recommended temperature before feeding it to your cockatiel.

Clean Feed Bowls Routinely

Cockatiel’s food and water bowls can quickly grow harmful bacteria if not cleaned regularly.

Then, when your cockatiel is eating or drinking, they can ingest the bacteria and become sick.

Make sure to clean your cockatiel’s food and water bowls on a daily basis to prevent your bird from ingesting harmful pathogens.

Water

A well-nourished bird is also a well-hydrated one. However, cockatiels only need about 1/2 of a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon each day. 

If you suspect your cockatiel is not drinking enough water, you can encourage him or her to drink by purchasing a waterfall fountain or a silo water feeder.

Regardless of what your cockatiel drinks out of, make sure it is cleaned very regularly.

Conclusion

A cockatiel’s diet should be a balanced mix of pellets, seeds, and fruits and vegetables.

A wide range of foods can be fed to your cockatiel, and it’s fun to figure out his or her favorite foods.

However, keep in mind that foods like avocado, chocolate, and caffeine should never be given to your cockatiel.

Sources: 

https://animals.mom.com/raw-cabbage-toxic-pet-bird-3768.html

https://www.britishpetinsurance.co.uk/what-to-feed-your-cockatiel/

https://www.npvet.co.nz/pets/animal-info-pets/bird-rabbit-turtle-articles/feeding-a-cockatiel/

https://www.animalfate.com/can-cockatiels-eat-meat/

https://www.yourindoorherbs.com/3-herbs-15-houseplant-not-safe-for-cockatiel/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dairy-foods-low-in-lactose#TOC_TITLE_HDR_7

https://www.yourindoorherbs.com/3-herbs-15-houseplant-not-safe-for-cockatiel/

https://beakcraze.com/best-treats-for-cockatiels/

https://www.cuteness.com/article/avocados-bad-birds

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