What Do Cockatiels Eat?

Cockatiels May 2, 2022
Written by | Updated Apr 29, 2024
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What Do Cockatiels Eat?

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What Do Cockatiels Eat?

Though birds may not be the cuddliest of pets, they still make wonderful companions. When it comes to pet birds, one of the most popular species is the cockatiel.

Cockatiels are brightly colored, outgoing birds that can also be quite entertaining and affectionate with their owners. These birds also have a unique feature that gives you a clue to their emotional state – the feathered crest on top of their head.

Native to Australia, cockatiels are one of the most popular pet parrots and, when cared for properly, they can live well over 10 years. The key to keeping your cockatiel healthy and happy is a balanced diet.

Read on to learn what your cockatiel needs in terms of nutrition and to discover what foods are and are not safe to feed your pet cockatiel.

Safe And Unsafe Foods For Cockatiels

Safe And Unsafe Foods For Cockatiels

As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your cockatiel safe. These birds can be fairly inquisitive, so you shouldn’t be surprised if your cockatiel gets into trouble from time to time. You need to know what could potentially hurt your bird, however, and make sure he doesn’t have access to those things.

Wondering what your cockatiel can and can’t eat? We’ve assembled a list of dozens of foods that are and aren’t safe for your cockatiel. Check them out below!

25 Foods That Are Safe For Cockatiels:

The staple of your cockatiel’s diet should be made up of seeds or pellets. Supplement your bird’s diet with fresh fruits and vegetables like those on the list below.

  1. Seeds
  2. Seed mixes
  3. Bird pellets
  4. Apples
  5. Bananas
  6. Blackberries
  7. Cherries (no pit)
  8. Dates
  9. Figs
  10. Grapefruit
  11. Kiwi
  12. Melon
  13. Pears
  14. Pineapple
  15. Plums
  16. Mango
  17. Strawberries
  18. Asparagus
  19. Carrots
  20. Cabbage
  21. Corn
  22. Cucumber
  23. Kale
  24. Parsnips
  25. Pea pods

11 Foods Cockatiels Can Eat In Moderation:

Certain foods like high-sugar fruits and cooked starchy vegetables are safe for your cockatiel but should only be offered in moderation. You may also be able to feed your cockatiel certain outdoor plants like dandelions as long as you’re sure they haven’t been sprayed with pesticide.

  1. Nuts (unsalted)
  2. Grapes
  3. Cooked beans
  4. Cooked potatoes
  5. Cooked sweet potatoes
  6. Dandelions
  7. Chickweed
  8. Young nettles
  9. Lean cooked meat
  10. Hard-boiled egg
  11. Sunflower seeds

8 Foods That Are Not Recommended For Cockatiels:

Eating the occasional chip or cracker might not harm your cockatiel, but it shouldn’t be a replacement for a balanced diet. These foods are not recommended but may not be toxic:

  1. Human food
  2. Junk food
  3. Fried food
  4. Peanuts
  5. Dairy
  6. Grit
  7. High-fat foods
  8. High-sugar foods

14 Foods Cockatiels Should Not Eat:

While some foods that aren’t’ recommended for budgies may not do any harm, there are certain foods that are toxic to birds. Avoid these foods entirely:

  1. Avocado
  2. Onions
  3. Mushrooms
  4. Garlic
  5. Coffee
  6. Tea
  7. Alcohol
  8. Honey
  9. Rhubarb
  10. Chocolate
  11. Fruit pits
  12. Apple seeds
  13. Nightshade plants
  14. Sugar-free candy

Understanding which foods are and are not safe for your cockatiel is very important, but a healthy diet starts with understanding your cockatiel’s nutritional requirements. Read on to learn the specifics of what to feed your cockatiel in different life stages.

Types Of Cockatiel Diets

In the wild, cockatiels feed primarily on seeds, nuts, berries, and vegetation. Grass seeds make up the majority of a cockatiel’s natural diet, but pet cockatiels will eat a variety of seeds.

The biggest thing you need to consider when it comes to your cockatiel’s diet is whether to feed pellets or not. At least two-thirds of your bird’s diet should come from a staple of commercial pellets or a balanced seed mix, supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Pellets are a popular choice among pet owners because they are balanced in terms of nutrition. Some birds don’t like to eat pellets, however, so you may need to take some time to transition your cockatiel onto a pelleted diet. You’re also free to stick to a seed-based diet, just know that you’ll need to put a little more effort into making sure your bird gets the nutrients he needs.

In addition to seeds or pellets and fresh fruits and vegetables, your cockatiel may need certain supplements, especially for calcium.

Cuttlebones work well because they provide your bird with entertainment as well as an essential nutrient. Powdered supplements may work as well – you simply mix it into your bird’s water. Talk to your veterinarian before offering a calcium supplement to make sure your bird really needs it.

Here is a quick breakdown of the different components of a pet cockatiel’s diet:

  • Seeds – Seeds make up the majority of a wild cockatiel’s diet and many pet cockatiels prefer this diet as well. It can be difficult to achieve optimal nutritional balance with a seed-based diet, however, so be mindful of that. Before feeding your cockatiel seeds, consider sprouting them in water to burn off some of the fat content.
  • Pellets – Commercially balanced pellets are a simple but effective diet for cockatiels. They are formulated to provide the right balance of nutrients your bird needs. Some birds take time to transition from seeds to pellets, so you may need to offer a mixture of both for a while.
  • Fruits and Vegetables – To balance out your cockatiel’s nutrition, offer small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, equivalent to up to 25% your bird’s total daily diet.

Now that you know what kinds of foods will make up your pet cockatiel’s daily diet, you’re probably wondering how much to feed. Keep reading to learn about feeding recommendations for these birds.

Meeting Your Pet Cockatiel’s Nutritional Needs

When it comes to creating a healthy diet for your cockatiel, it’s all about balance. A diet made 100% of seeds isn’t going to provide all the nutrients your bird needs, so you’ll need to do some planning.

Many bird owners prefer commercial pellets because they are formulated to provide the balance of nutrients for a specific species. These are a good option for cockatiels, though the quality of the diet depends on the quality of the product you choose. If your cockatiel isn’t already used to a pellet diet, you may need to take a few weeks to transition him onto it.

Whether you choose a seed-based or pellet-based diet, your cockatiel also requires fresh fruits and vegetables for about 25% of his daily diet. Offer these in small amounts and make sure they’re fresh.

To give you an idea what do cockatiels eat and much you should be feeding your pet cockatiel in different stages of life, refer to this chart:

Daily Cockatiel Feeding Chart

Age Seeds Pellets Fruits/Veggies Treats
Baby 1 teaspoon millet 1 tablespoon crushed pellets OR milled, mixed seeds 2 tablespoons mixed and chopped fruits/veggies None
Adult 1.5 to 2 tablespoons seeds (twice daily)




1.5 to 2 tablespoons pellets (twice daily)

1.5 to 2 tablespoons seeds (twice daily)




1.5 to 2 tablespoons pellets (twice daily)

20% to 25% of the daily diet from chopped mixed fruits and veggies Occasional, small amounts

In addition to providing for your cockatiel’s daily nutritional needs, make sure to have fresh water available at all times as well. Most birds prefer to drink from a small dish, but they tend to get them dirty with dropped seed. Plan to clean and refill the water dish at least once a day.

Recommended Commercial Cockatiel Foods

Understanding your cockatiel’s nutritional needs can be tough, so when you’re first starting out as a pet bird owner you may want to simplify things by feeding your cockatiel a commercial pellet or seed mix.

Commercial cockatiel foods are formulated specifically to provide the nutrients your bird needs, so all you have to do is follow the feeding recommendations. Just remember, it’s your responsibility to choose a high-quality product to make sure your cockatiel gets the healthy diet he deserves.

Here are some of our top picks for the best commercial cockatiel food:

Lafeber’s Cockatiel Nutri-Berries

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Protein: 12.5% Min
  • Fat: 6% Min
  • Fiber: 5% Max
  • Moisture: 14% Max

Formulated specifically for cockatiels, these nutri-berries deliver complete and balanced nutrition. Not only are these berries highly nutritious, but they support your cockatiel’s natural foraging behavior and make mealtime an activity.

Here are the ingredients:

Hulled Canary Grass Seed, Hulled White Proso Millet, Oat Groats, Peanut Granules, Red Millet, Malto-Dextrin, Corn, Corn Syrup, Wheat, Corn Oil, Soybean Meal, Ground Limestone, Glycerin, Dicalcium Phosphate, Gelatin, Whole Egg, Iodized Salt, Canola Oil, DL-Methionine (An Amino Acid), Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols (A Preservative), Calcium Propionate (A Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Niacin Supplement, Carotene, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Zinc Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Natural Colors, Folic Acid.

Kaytee FortiDiet Pro Health Bird Food

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Protein: 15% Min
  • Fat: 8% Min
  • Fiber: 12% Max
  • Moisture: 12% Max

This product consists of natural seeds and grains as well as nutritionally balanced pellets. It may be a good option if you’re trying to transition your cockatiel onto pellets and it introduces some variety into his daily diet.

Here are the ingredients:

Canary Grass Seed, White Millet, Sunflower Seed, Safflower Seed,Oat Groats, Ground Corn, Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Cracked Corn, Flax Seed (Source of Omega-3), Red Millet, Buckwheat, Rape Seed, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Wheat Middlings, Ground Wheat, Ground Rice, Soybean Oil, Salt, Dextrose, Wheat Germ Meal, L-Lysine, Ground Flax Seed, Brewers Dried Yeast, Fructooligosaccharide, Vitamin A Supplement, Choline Chloride, Coconut Oil, Dl-Methionine, Sun-Cured Alfalfa Meal, Yeast Extract, Orange Oil, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Mixed Tocopherols (a Preservative), etc.

RoudyBush Daily Maintenance Bird Food Crumble

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Protein: 11% Min
  • Fat: 6% Min
  • Fiber: 3.5% Max
  • Moisture: 12% Max

Made with high-quality ingredients, this daily diet is formulated for complete nutritional balance. It is designed for medium-sized birds like cockatiels and is free from artificial additives and by-products.

Here are the ingredients:

Ground Corn, Ground Wheat, Soybean Meal, Soybean Oil, Alfalfa, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, L-Lysine, DL-Methionine, L-Arginine, Niacin, Silicon Dioxide (Anti-Caking Aid), Citric Acid (Preservative), Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vegetable Oil, Rosemary Extract, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source Of Vitamin E), Ascorbic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Yeast, Biotin, Calcium Pantothenate, Zinc Oxide, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Propionic Acid (Preservative), Ammonium Hydroxide, Acetic Acid, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Tartaric Acid, And Natural Apple Flavoring

Looking for more recommendations on what to feed your cockatiel? Check out our in-depth guide to the best commercial cockatiel foods.

Cockatiel Feeding FAQs

What do cockatiels eat in the wild?

Wild cockatiels follow a mixed diet of seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. They are, however, technically omnivores, so they are able to digest plants as well as insects.

How much do cockatiels eat?

The average adult cockatiel eats between 1 and 2 tablespoons of pellets or seeds twice a day in addition to small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Refer to the feeding instructions on the product you choose to make sure your cockatiel is getting enough calories.

What do cockatiels drink?

Cockatiels drink water and they should have fresh water available at all times. Make sure to clean and refill your cockatiel’s water dish at least once a day.

Do cockatiels eat insects?

In the wild, cockatiels may eat insects, but seeds and vegetable make up the majority of their diet. If you choose to feed your cockatiel insects, stick with smaller ones like dried mealworms.

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Kate Barrington is avid pet lover and adoring owner of three cats and one dog, her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. She has been writing about pet care and pet products since 2010
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