What Do Cockatiels Eat?
This page contains affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post through our independently chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn More
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
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.
- Seed mixes
- Bird pellets
- Cherries (no pit)
- 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.
- Nuts (unsalted)
- Cooked beans
- Cooked potatoes
- Cooked sweet potatoes
- Young nettles
- Lean cooked meat
- Hard-boiled egg
- 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:
- Human food
- Junk food
- Fried food
- High-fat foods
- 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:
- Fruit pits
- Apple seeds
- Nightshade plants
- 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
|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:
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.