Got a pet ‘tiel at home and worried sick about what to feed it? Go through the most complete cockatiel food list that you will find anywhere in the article below, and clear any doubts you might have!
Cockatiels are one of the most popular pet bird species, thanks to their striking appearance and affectionate nature.
If you are planning to get a cockatiel or got one recently, I can imagine how excited you might be about it.
However, keeping any pet comes with the responsibility of taking care of it, and providing it with nutritious food is a priority.
So, let’s dive into it and check out what would be the ideal type of food for cockatiel birds.
What Can Cockatiels Eat?
Cockatiels can eat a variety of foods, and you should make sure that you change their diet regularly.
Unfortunately, being cocky is very much in the name of cockatiels, who are notoriously picky eaters, especially for trying something new.
Make sure that you get them on a diet of fresh fruits and veggies early on, and don’t let them become seed junkies.
Ideally, you should feed them a small parrot mix of good quality, supplementing it with fruits, veggies, and millet spray.
The birds also need a source of protein, for which occasional mealworms should be fine.
Regarding the mix, it’s best to get unfortified mixes and add good bird supplements to them.
Avoid fortified mixes, because they often come with various inferior quality additives and in most cases, have sulphurated ingredients.
Bee pollen granules are also great for feeding cockatiels, and so are various herbs.
What Can Cockatiels Not Eat?
While your pet bird might want to try any food or drink it sees on your plate, you should know that some of them might be harmful to its health.
As a thumb rule, avoid feeding the following to any bird species, not just cockatiels:
- Food with high salt content
- Fatty foods
- Foods containing Xylitol
- Onions and garlic
- Fruit pits and apple seeds
- Chinese cinnamon
I understand that you might find the last two entries little odd considering fruits, veggies, and different types of seeds are among the most important foods for a cockatiel.
However, onion and garlic contain sulfur and allicin, respectively, both of which are toxic to birds.
Certain fruit seeds (like apple seeds) and pits of fruits like plums, cherries, apricots, etc., contain a cardiac-toxic cyanide compound.
You may feed these fruits to your cockatiel after removing the pits and the seeds.
Chinese cinnamon (Cassia bark) has high doses of coumarin, a known toxic substance for pet birds. While regular cinnamon is healthy for your baby, this one is not.
How To Feed My Cockatiel?
One of my favorite tricks is to place a shallow dish on top of their regular food dish (I found some that fit snugly – so no soft food gets mixed into their actual seed dish).
Alternatively, take out the seed dish and exchange it for one filled with fresh food items at those times of the day when your cockatiels are most likely to eat (usually first thing in the morning or in the evening).
Role modeling: Even the pickiest birds try new foods if they watch other birds eat them.
So a “birdie” role model would be great — but not everybody has another “willing” bird for that purpose. Human caretakers can also be such role models.
When eating healthy food items, I usually allow my birds to get their pickings off my plate.
Please make sure that any food on your plate is safe for birds to eat.
What Fruits Can Cockatiels Eat?
Fresh fruit should always be a part of your cockatiel’s diet. Birds rely on fruits as a source of minerals, vitamins, and moisture.
Cockatiels can eat a wide range of fruits commonly consumed by humans, including
Apples: While the seeds need to be removed before you can feed your cockatiel apples, this fruit would be a perfect addition to its diet.
Apples are rich in vitamins (A, B6, and C), potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Give your cockatiel a single, small slice of apple every 2-3 days.
Grapes: Rich in vitamin K, vitamin b6, and calcium, grapes can even enhance a cockatiel’s immunity against various diseases.
You should feed your cockatiel only fresh and organic grapes, and only after washing them thoroughly in warm water.
Also, keep it restricted to only a grape or two per week – too many can result in obesity and runny stool.
Mango: Mangoes provide a lot of vitamin C – a relatively rare nutrient in a cockatiel’s diet.
They’re also rich in Vitamin A, the deficiency of which can even kill your cockatiel.
Other nutrients that make mangoes good for a cockatiel’s diet include vitamin K, Vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Give the bird 1/8th of a mango every few days, leaving room for other fruits too.
Bananas: Cockatiels love bananas and can eat the fruit in moderate amounts.
Rich in nutrients, both the soft inner part and the skin make excellent supplements to a cockatiel’s diet.
However, you should feed bananas only as a snack because the fruit’s high sugar content can pose a problem.
The skin, however, isn’t as sugary and is, therefore, a healthier choice.
Coconut: Coconut is another nutrient-rich fruit that you can include in your cockatiel’s diet as an occasional treat.
The fiber, protein, and various nutrients in coconut flesh have several health benefits for cockatiels.
Due to their nutrient-rich nature, coconuts should only be given to cockatiels in moderated amounts.
Papaya: Cockatiels love munching on papaya, and the latter is very healthy in small quantities.
Papayas contain Vitamin E and other powerful antioxidants, which aid in the repairing of dead cells. Vitamin A, vitamin C, and minerals are quite abundant too.
Oranges: Just like humans, oranges are a great source of vitamin C in a cockatiel’s diet. Remember to remove the orange seeds first – they are rich in fat.
You may soak its regular birdseed or grain mix in a 50:50 mixture of orange juice and water to make it healthier and more appetizing.
Cockatiels usually don’t eat orange peels, but make sure to remove the peel even if your bird tries to eat it.
They can’t digest the outer rind, and the peel often contains pesticides.
Pumpkin: It’s perfectly safe to feed your cockatiel pumpkin, as long as you don’t give them too much of it.
Pumpkins are much less acidic than other fruits and devoid of harmful substances. It’s a great source of several important vitamins and minerals.
Watermelon: Cockatiels love sweet and juicy watermelons. However, before you feed your pet a watermelon, remove the rind, as it often contains various bacteria and chemicals.
Remove the seeds, soften them by soaking them in water, and offer them to your cockatiel separately.
Cherries are also safe, but make sure to remove the seeds – they contain cyanide and can be toxic to your pet. You should avoid feeding your cockatiel tomatoes and avocados.
Tomatoes don’t contain any harmful substances in general, but they’re too acidic and should also be avoided.
What Vegetables Can Cockatiels Eat?
Now that we have covered which fruits cockatiels can eat let’s check out which veggies you can include in their diet.
Spinach: Supplementing your cockatiel’s diet with spinach is a great idea. This leafy vegetable is rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K, in addition to minerals like calcium and iron.
While iron is necessary for proper oxygen transportation through the blood, calcium helps strengthen the bones, beaks, and nails.
Spinach also helps improve the bird’s vision and keep its feathers and skin healthy. However, too much spinach can be harmful due to its high oxalic acid content.
Peas: Peas provide cockatiels with a lot of protein. You may feed them both raw and cooked – whichever is more convenient for you.
Frozen peas are also good, as long as they’ve been thawed properly.
When feeding a cockatiel cooked or frozen peas, ensure it doesn’t contain any added salt.
Sweet potatos: Full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, sweet potatoes make a nutritious snack for cockatiels.
You can feed a bird sweet potatoes in several ways – baked, steamed, mashed, frozen, and in the form of sweet potato muffins.
Health benefits include better digestion, stronger immunity, healthy feather growth, and improved mood.
Cabbage: Cockatiels can eat cabbage and love doing so, but it’s not good for their health.
Unfortunately for avian pets, this crunchy snack is rich in oxalic acid, too much of which can deplete the body’s calcium reserves.
If your cockatiel is very fond of cabbage, a small amount of it should be fine as an occasional treat.
It’s safe for birds to consume a little bit of cabbage as long as their diet is well-balanced with enough calcium intake.
Corn: You may feed your cockatiel corn – they love the texture and the taste. Corn is rich in fiber – something that should be plenty in a cockatiel’s diet.
It also acts as a source of vitamins A, B, C, and K (especially vitamin C) and minerals like potassium and magnesium.
However, don’t give them corn more than once a week.
Lettuce: Cockatiels are fond of leafy greens, and the same applies to lettuce too.
Healthy, crunchy, and tasty, lettuce is a perfect treat for cockatiels. It’s a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Carrots: Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables for feeding pets, and cockatiels are no exception.
Rich in carbohydrates, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, beta carotene, and moisture, carrots are great for their health.
The best way to feed a cockatiel carrot is to mince the vegetable finely or cut it into small chunks.
Cucumber: The subtle taste and the nice crunch offered by cucumbers makes them a favorite for cockatiels.
With 95% water content, cucumbers are a substantial source of fresh water for birds. Besides, they also offer a variety of vitamins and minerals.
However, note that too many curry leaves can cause diarrhea, and celery doesn’t offer birds much nutritional value.
Onions and garlic should be avoided altogether as mentioned at the beginning – they’re toxic to cockatiels.
What Seeds Can Cockatiels Eat?
Let’s now move on to seeds, which should account for most of a cockatiel’s diet. Apart from the seed mixes, here are some grass seeds that your pet would love:
Poppy: It’s quite common for wild and birdseed mixes to have poppy seeds in them.
Poppy seeds are rich in good fats and protein, which makes them quite healthy for birds. That is, as long as they’re fed in moderation.
Sesame: Sesame seeds are among the best ones you can give your cockatiel as an occasional treat.
They provide birds with essential fatty acids and protein, along with vitamins, calcium, and other minerals.
The fatty acids can also cause obesity when consumed in excess – so make sure your cockatiel gets only a small amount of sesame seeds once in a while.
Flax: It’s safe to feed your cockatiel flax seeds as long as the quantity doesn’t exceed 10% of their diet by weight.
These seeds are highly nutritious, containing a decent amount of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Canary grass: This is one of the key constituents of a cockatiel’s daily seed diet, and you can feed them about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of these seeds every day.
They are rich in carbohydrates, but your pet still needs other foods for proteins and other necessary nutrients.
Other seeds: white millet, canola, safflower, sunflower, niger, caraway, hemp
Sprouting Seeds: The Powerful Way of Feeding Birds
Sprouting seeds makes them more nutrient-rich. They are lower in fat and hence help reduce obesity.
Moreover, birds who are averse to their daily portions might also enjoy eating sprouted seeds.
They are rich in vitamins, vegetable proteins, minerals, chlorophyll, and enzymes.
Oil seeds such as rape seeds and niger are high in carbs and proteins, whereas starch seeds like millet are excellent sources of carbs.
Can Cockatiels Eat Grass?
As long as the egrass is free from pesticides or other chemicals, it’s safe for cockatiels to consume.
What’s more, grass is healthy for them. While the nutritional value of grass is very low for humans, it’s a good source of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber for birds.
What Herbs Can They Eat?
Echinacea augustifolia, dandelion leaf, red clover blossoms, papaya leaf, oat straw, peppermint leaf, calendula flowers, red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, fennel seed, thyme leaf, rose hips, rosemary leaf, basil leaf are some of the herbs that cockatiels can consume
Can Cockatiels Eat Nuts?
Nuts work great as snacks and supplements for cockatiels. Of course, this doesn’t mean nuts should make up a large portion of their diet. Let’s check out which of the common nuts your cockatiel can eat:
Peanuts: A great source of protein for your pet, peanuts are devoid of toxic or otherwise harmful substances. Peanuts help strengthen the bones and muscles, keeping cockatiels fit.
Unfortunately, commercially available peanuts often contain aflatoxins which can cause liver damage and is carcinogenic for birds.
You may roast the peanuts to reduce the extent, but some aflatoxins still remain.
Walnuts: Walnuts are also healthy for cockatiels, but you should note that they contain 65% fat. Also, it’s best to soak walnuts before you feed them to your cockatiel.
Other nuts: macadamia, brazil pieces, almond pieces, filbert pieces, cashew pieces, pecan pieces, pignolia pieces
Can Cockatiels Eat Dried Fruit?
You may include dried fruits in your cockatiel’s diet too. While they are devoid of moisture, dried fruits have a high nutrient concentration.
You can always rehydrate them with some warm water before feeding the bird.
Birds like dried fruits because they are crunchy, and might put them in their water bowl to make them more appealing.
One advantage of dried fruits and vegetables is of course that they last longer – just toss it in the cage and let it lie there for ages.
Dried fruits are also good for birds who are “seed junkies”. They can be weaned onto a better dried in this way.
However, be warned – many firms add artificial coloring to dried veggies and fruits to make them “look better”.
These may contain sulfur dioxide which can cause hyperactivity, shredding, aggressiveness, or allergies.
Almonds: You can feed your cockatiel almonds in moderation. Almonds are rich in vitamins B2 and E, protein, carbohydrates, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and fats.
Pistachios: It’s safe for a cockatiel to consume pistachios as long as they aren’t salted or seasoned. This tasty snack contains potassium, manganese, thiamine, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and copper.
Cashews: Packed with fiber, vitamins, protein, and calories, cashews make a nutritious snack for cockatiels.
Other dried fruits: banana chips, apples, mango pieces, coconut chips, orange peel strips, raisins, and cranberries.
Can Cockatiel Eat Rice?
You may occasionally treat your cockatiel with white, brown, or wild rice. The rice should preferably be boiled but devoid of any salt or seasoning.
Also, avoid rice meals and processed and packaged rice meant for human consumption – the additives can harm birds.
Can Cockatiels Eat Honey?
While honey isn’t among the recommended foods for cockatiels, there’s no harm in giving them a small amount of honey as an occasional treat.
Be careful of impure honey with added sugar – the high overall sugar content can be harmful.
You should also note that honey is vulnerable to the growth of mold and bacteria, which might harm your pet.
Can Cockatiels Eat Human Treats?
It might be tempting for you to share your snacks with your pet. However, it pays to know which human foods are fine for cockatiels.
Popcorn: Popcorn is a healthy snack for cockatiels, providing a great source of fiber and polyphenol antioxidants.
However, unlike the kind of popcorn we love, the popcorn you give your cockatiel should be free of seasonings and toppings.
Also, avoid giving it microwave popcorn – substances in the bag’s non-stick coating can kill birds.
French fries: You should refrain from feeding your cockatiel french fries.
Although delicious, this snack is too salty for cockatiels. Besides, potatoes don’t offer any notable health benefits for birds either.
Crackers: Crackers are quite salty and can cause your cockatiel severe harm if consumed in large amounts.
It’s fine to give your pet a tiny bit once in a while, but even one entire cracker can be harmful to them.
Pretzels: It’s not recommended to feed your pet cockatiel salted pretzels. However, a bite or two of unsalted pretzels should be fine.
Other healthy human treats like oatmeal and whole-grain pasta can be given to cockatiels, provided they don’t contain too much salt and seasonings.
Chocolate, however, is very toxic to birds and can even kill them.
What Do Cockatiels Eat For Treats?
Cockatiels love a variety of tasty treats, but not all of them are good for your pet’s health.
Healthy treats like leafy greens, nuts, dried fruits, bananas, mangoes, etc., are good choices.
However, these should remain occasional treats and shouldn’t become a part of your bird’s regular diet.
Cuttlebones and mineral blocks make for great treats and can supplement a cockatiel’s diet with added calcium and minerals.
Can Cockatiels Eat Parakeet Or Budgie Food?
In case you already have budgies or parakeets at home, you might be wondering if your cockatiel can eat the same food that you buy for them.
Thankfully, the answer is yes – cockatiels can eat parakeet, budgie, and white parrot food if needed.
The only difference is the size of the pellets – the formulation remains the same.
Cockatiel food mixes, have larger chunks of fruits and vegetables than parakeet food mixes. This is because cockatiels have stronger beaks and can handle larger bits of food.
Are Cockatiels Omnivores? Do They Eat Meat?
Although a cockatiel’s diet is primarily plant-based, they are omnivores and eat meat too.
Mealworms are the best source of protein for them in this regard, but you can also feed them good-quality chicken, fish, and beef.
Make sure to clean the water bowl and fill it with clean water frequently because bits of meat landing in the water can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria.
What Insects Can Cockatiels Eat?
Feeder insects are generally a good choice for pet birds as a source of protein. Mealworms are one of the best feeder insects, offering a high nutritional value.
They’re easy to raise, in case you plan to grow your own at home.
Crickets and grasshoppers are also good options, especially when frozen or dead (as long as they aren’t rotting).
Cockatiels also eat flies, ants, and butterflies, but they can sometimes be toxic and have self-defense mechanisms. Moths are relatively safer to consume.
Can Cockatiels Eat Eggs?
In the wild, it’s quite common for cockatiels to eat eggs. You may feed your cockatiel raw chicken or quail eggs without any issue.
While eggs offer a generous amount of protein, the shells are rich in calcium and can be fed too.
You can feed your pet bird raw eggs – that’s how they eat eggs in the wild, anyway.
Boiled eggs are fine as long as you cut them into small and more manageable pieces. The other option is to make fried or scrambled eggs, but spices and oil can harm your cockatiel.
Best Food For Cockatiels
When going through a cockatiel seed mix list or a list of other food mixes online, finding the best one for your pet can be a bit of a challenge. Here are six of your best choices, as per different parameters:
Best Overall – RoudyBush Daily Maintenance Bird Food Crumbles
Comprising ground wheat, ground corn, soy oil, and soy meal, this bird food offers your cockatiel a well-rounded diet.
In terms of nutritional value, it contains 11% protein, 12% moisture, 6% fat, and 3.5% fiber.
Besides, RoudyBush Daily Maintenance Bird Food Crumbles is also available in different sizes and textures to choose from.
This bird food mix has been formulated after 16 years of research by an avian nutritionist who’s a member of the Department of Avian Sciences at the University of California.
Best Treat – Vitakraft Fruit Cocktail Parrot & Cockatiel Treat
If you need a delicious birdfeed mix that would serve well as an occasional treat rather than your cockatiel’s main diet, this one is your best pick.
This specially formulated treat mix contains eleven different fruits and veggies loved by cockatiels, including papayas, bananas, carrots, pineapples, whole peanuts, and more.
Vitakraft Fruit Cocktail Parrot & Cockatiel Treat doesn’t contain any added sugar, which makes it a relatively healthy treat mix.
Best Organic – Harrison’s Bird Foods High Potency Fine
Feeding your pet bird an organic seed mix is a particularly good idea as the ingredients are farmed without the use of chemical pesticides and other synthetic products.
Apart from the health benefits of organic food, organic farming also aims to preserve biodiversity and ecological balance.
Harrison’s Bird Foods High Potency Fine consists of millets, barley, toasted soybeans, corn, peas, lentils, sunflower kernels, chia, alfalfa, old groats, and peanut kernels.
However, note that you need to supplement the mix with 25% fruits and veggies and 5% seeds for omega acids.
Best for Baby cockatiels – Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula Baby Bird Food
If you have a baby cockatiel at home, you might want to go for this special mix instead.
This is a rapid growth stage, during which cockatiels double or even triple their weight quickly. Hence, they require adequate nutrition to support their growth.
Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula Baby Bird Food is specially formulated to make it easy for baby birds to digest, as they don’t develop digestive enzymes yet.
You can use a syringe to feed your cockatiel this baby bird food after mixing it with water to create a paste.
Best for Fruit Content – ZuPreem FruitBlend with Natural Fruit Flavors Medium Bird Food
For cockatiel owners specifically looking for fruit pellets, ZuPreem FruitBlend with Natural Fruit Flavors Medium Bird Food is one of the best products.
It makes the regular birdfeed mix of soybean meals, wheat, and ground corn much tastier by infusing it with natural fruit flavors.
The fruity ingredients include apples, grapes, bananas, and oranges, all of which are loved by cockatiels.
You may also give your cockatiel this tasty birdfeed mix for occasional rewards and treats.
Best Natural Birdfeed – Bird Street Bistro Sample Pack Bird Food
Made from completely natural foods with no added sugars, sulfites, or fillers, Bird Street Bistro Sample Pack Bird Food is a good pick too.
This one is available in several flavors – Cajun bean, Tropical, Viva La Veggie, CinnaSpice, and Southern Feast. All of them contain whole grains, fruits, and veggies.
Cockatiel Feeding Schedule
While you might feel tempted to give your pet bird a lot of tasty treats, don’t do it. Overfeeding a cockatiel not only makes it obese but can also cause other health issues originating.
Even the necessary and beneficial nutrients can turn harmful if taken in excess amounts.
This is why any food should be fed to a cockatiel only in moderated amounts. An adult or weaned cockatiel shouldn’t be given more than 30 to 40 grams of food daily.
In the wild, cockatiels mostly feed during the morning and the early evening. This is the schedule that you should maintain for your pet cockatiel – giving it two meals a day.
You may provide it with lunch if you wish, as long as the total amount of food it has per day doesn’t exceed the said limit.
Baby cockatiels, however, need a different feeding schedule and need to be hand fed. Follow the schedules below for baby and weaning cockatiels of different ages:
- 1 to 7 days old: 1 ml of baby bird formula every two hours, from 6 am to midnight. You can gradually increase it to 2 to 3 ml per session after a week.
- 2 to 3 weeks old: 4-5 ml of baby formula every three hours, from 6 am to 10 pm.
- 3 to 4 weeks old: 6 ml of formula per feed, every four to five hours. You can now start thickening the formula.
- 4 to 5 weeks old: Only two to three feeds a day, limited to 8 ml of baby bird formula.
- 6 to 7 weeks old: Two feeds a day, just like adult cockatiels. You can start feeding it seeds, grains, fruits, and veggies.
By the eighth week, the cockatiel will be fully weaned and won’t need baby formula anymore.
How Long Can A Cockatiel Go Without Food?
Cockatiels have a very quick metabolism, which means they can’t survive very long without food. Most of them can live up to 48 hours without food.
However, it’s common for the effects of starvation to start showing after 18 to 24 hours.
If you’re leaving the bird alone at home for a long time, make sure it has enough food and clean water in the cage. Even if the cockatiel doesn’t die, it would still have to suffer from starvation.
Why Do Cockatiels Eat Too Much Sometimes?
You may sometimes find your cockatiel eating much more than usual. This sudden surge in appetite could be triggered by several factors:
Hormones: During the breeding seasons, certain hormones are released that cause an increase in the bird’s appetite. Their bodies also need more vitamins and minerals during the breeding season.
Boredom: Cockatiels start overfeeding when they’re bored, possibly due to their foraging instinct. Giving them enough toys, especially foraging toys, should solve this.
Imbalanced diet: In case the bird is malnourished or its diet is missing certain nutrients, it will eat more in an attempt to get the nutrition it needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can I Feed My Cockatiel Besides Seeds?
While a variety of seeds and grains form the base of your cockatiel’s diet, they’re far from enough in helping the bird thrive.
A well-balanced diet also includes fruits, veggies, nuts, and dried fruits, though some of them should only be occasional treats.
Can cockatiels eat fruit every day?
Your cockatiel can eat fruits every day, but only in moderate amounts. Fruits shouldn’t exceed 20% of their overall diet.
Also, switch around different fruits on different days to provide your pet with the nutrition it needs. A cockatiel shouldn’t consume certain fruits more than once or twice a week.
Can a cockatiel drink milk?
Cockatiels are lactose intolerant and can’t digest milk.
Feeding them milk or various other dairy products not only causes digestive problems but can even kill them.
Milk may be healthy for humans, but it’s fatal for birds.
Can cockatiels eat Cheese?
As mentioned earlier, cockatiels are lactose intolerant and have trouble digesting dairy products.
A very small amount of cheese won’t cause them any harm, and cheese is rich in protein, vitamins, calcium, and fats.
However, you need to be cautious about how much cheese you feed them – too much of it can be very harmful.
Can cockatiels eat Cinnamon?
Yes, cinnamon is safe for cockatiels to consume. You may add some of this healthy spice to their food to make it more palatable to them because cockatiels love its sweet flavor.
Besides, cinnamon also helps improve their digestion. Just don’t feed them Cassia/Chinese cinnamon – that one can cause liver complications and even prove to be fatal.
That was a long read, but I’m sure it was worth your time. We now have a much clearer idea of what you should feed your cockatiel and what you shouldn’t.
A balanced diet of fresh food and occasional treats should keep your pet both healthy and happy.
For a baby cockatiel, soft food is necessary, but the adults have strong beaks.
I wish you all the best in taking care of your birdies and hope you won’t have much trouble keeping them well-fed.
Thank you for reading!