Best Food For Cockatiels

Do you still think that the best food for cockatiels are seeds?  If you do then you are probably in the majority of bird lovers.  Many of us, myself included, are or were under the belief that all a bird really needed to eat were seeds.  Throw in the occasional treat and all their nutritional needs were being met.  Boy we were wrong!

all seed diet
all seed diet

The Evil of Seeds

Birds love seeds.  It is one of their favourite things.  Have you ever had a bird on an all seed diet and then try and switch them to a pellet diet?  If you are lucky you can do it but it will take you a very long time to achieve this.  However, have you ever had a bird on a pelleted diet and then switch him to a seed diet?  I say it would take you a day to make the switch.  Birds love their seeds but an all seed diet is not that good for them.

All seed diet leads to inadequate nutritional elements and health problems.  Most seed contain a high level of fat and your cockatiel who does have taste buds will choose the high fat content food since to him it is the tastiest.  If given the choice between sunflower seeds and safflower seeds the majority of cockatiels will chose the sunflower seeds.  Why you ask because the fat content in the sunflower seed is 47%-49% compared to 24.6% in the safflower seed.

Just like humans who are always eating the junk food and fatty food, birds will develop health issues such as high cholesterol, obesity, heart problems and Fatty Liver Syndrome.  All this will greatly reduce your cockatiel’s lifespan.

pellets for birds

Before 1985 the nutritional needs of cockatiels were never really looked at.  In 1978 the University of California developed an avian program to look at the biology of parrots.  Around 1985 they started to look at nutrition and management of cockatiels.  Their research has led many vets in the Avian field to recommend to their clients with cockatiels that an all seed diet is not the best diet for their feathered friend.  Although many recommend you feed your cockatiel pellets if you cannot switch them then at least add other foods to their diet.

Other Foods To Add To Your Cockatiel’s Diet

Cockatiels can eat a variety of food.  The trick is sometimes getting them to try it.  They can be quite picky eaters.  Also a lot of the vegetables that they do like, they do prefer that they be cooked.  Who would have guessed!  Veggies that are safe for your cockatiel are:  Sprouts, spinach, turnip greens, swiss chard, mustard greens, broccoli, escarole, chicory, beet greens, bok choy, grated carrots, collard greens, corn on the cob, endive, yale, yams, pumpkin, and sweet potato.

bird eating fruit
bird eating fruit

Fruits that are safe for your cockatiel include the following – mangos, cantaloupe, apricots, nectarines, papayas peaches apples, bananas, grapes, oranges. Make sure to clean all the seeds from the fruit as some of these seeds can present a danger to your cockatiel.  For example the pit of a cherry may contain trace amounts of cyanide.

Your cockatiel can also eat protein but it should be limited to small amounts.  Foods like chicken, fish and beef can be given but again in small amounts.  Your cockatiel can also get protein through cooked eggs(hard boiled or scrambled), cottage cheese, peanuts and yogurt.

Foods To Avoid Giving Your Cockatiel

Some foods are toxic to your feathered friend and should be avoided at all costs.  Here are some of the foods to avoid – avocado, chocolate, seeds from fruit, onion, garlic, mushrooms, honey, salt, caffeine, dried or uncooked beans, rhubarb, high-fat, high sodium or high sugar food, food that is advertised as sugar free, and alcohol.  The problem with the sugar free products is they may contain Xylitol which may cause liver damage to  your cockatiel.

If you do feed your cockatiel an all seed diet make sure to clean their dishes with hot soapy water and make sure they are totally dry before adding seeds.  Moisture in the seed dish can cause bacteria and fungus to grow.

Remember to check the seed dish often.  Although it may appear full it could be filled with the husks from the seeds and in reality he has no edible food.

If you are feeding an all seed diet and are not willing to try pellets, at least start adding some other foods to your cockatiel’s diet.  Variety in your bird’s diet will give him some more nutrition that is needed in his diet,  Proper nutrition will help your cockatiel to live longer and healthier.

cleaning dishes
cleaning dishes

Also we can’t forget about your cockatiel’s water.  The water should be changed at least once a day minimum.  Cockatiels can be quite messy and they have lots of dander.  If you see his water dish full of dander off of him or seed casing then clean his dish.  Dish should be cleaned with hot soapy water and rinsed well.  Dirty water is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus which can  harm your cockatiel.

I hope this article has given you some insight as to what you should be feeding your cockatiel.  Remember they like variety in their food probably as much as you.  

Don’t forget your cockatiel does need a proper place to go and eat and drink.  He needs a cage fit for a cockatiel.


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    • jeffrey16201
    • April 8, 2017


    Truly an interesting article on food and care for the cockatiels, I am a animal and pet owner but never had a bird of any kind for a pet.

    What does one do with a bird for pet, a cat you can pet them and some will even cuddle up to you. A dog will spend all their time with you, go walking with you watch tv with you and just hang out with you.

    What does a bird pet do with you?

      • Maureen
      • April 9, 2017

      Well Jeff I see from your comment you truly have not enjoyed the company of a pet bird. Pet birds often cuddle with their humans. My guy likes to snuggle right on my chest under my chin. He will get there and then rub his head on me. Sometimes if I am laying down for a nap he will get on my shoulder and have a nap with me. You can also teach them to do all kinds of things. Just like a dog, training them with treats or even a clicker works well. Just like a dog your bird likes to hang out with you. A bird thrives on interaction. They are not the type of pet you stick in a cage and forget about. They are curious by nature and they are very social.

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