20 Cockatiel Diet Tips That Your Bird Will Love

Cockatiels require a well-rounded diet enriched with various nutrients to flourish and exhibit joyful personalities. Recent insights into avian care emphasize that incorporating foraging opportunities into their feeding routine. Doing this mimics their natural habitat and significantly enhances their mental and physical well-being.

A diverse diet and engaging foraging activities are crucial in ensuring your cockatiel remains vibrant and content.

Key Takeaways for Cockatiel Diet Tips

cockatiel diet tips for this great pet

  • A cockatiel’s diet should include a variety of pellets, seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables for optimal health.
  • You need to avoid foods that are harmful to cockatiels to prevent health issues.
  • Your bird’s diet should include regular feeding schedules, and proper portion control is essential for maintaining a healthy cockatiel.

Understanding Cockatiel Nutrition – Cockatiel Diet Tips

Proper nutrition is foundational to a cockatiel’s health. This section aims to provide specific insights into their dietary needs, including essential vitamins, minerals, protein and fat requirements, and the significance of calcium and iron in their diets. Please read our complete cockatiel care guide for beginners!

Importance of Vitamins and Minerals for Your Cockatiel

Vitamins and minerals for cockatiels are crucial for maintaining theirhealth. Most cockatiels will not need vitamin supplements.

Although, you can make sure they are getting a wide range of fresh foods to ensure a proper diet. They should have a balanced intake of:

  • Vitamin A: Essential for skin, feather health, and vision.
  • Vitamin D3: Aids calcium absorption for bone health.
  • Vitamin E: Supports cell function and immune health.
  • Minerals include zinc and selenium for bodily functions and antioxidant protection.

So, if you want your bird to get a complete diet, then combine quality pellets, fresh fruits, and vegetables!

Protein and Fat Needs for Cockatiels

Cockatiels require protein for muscle and feather development and fats for energy. A moderate amount of both is necessary:

  • Protein Should comprise about 15-20% of their diet and be sourced from pellets, cooked eggs, and legumes.
  • Fat: Important for energy, but should be limited to prevent obesity.

The Role of Calcium and Iron in the Cockatiel Diet

Calcium and iron are essential but must be balanced:

  • Calcium: Vital for bone structure and egg-laying. Good sources include cuttlebone and calcium-fortified foods.
  • Iron is important for blood health, but excessive iron can lead to toxicity. Foods rich in iron should be consumed in moderation.

A nutritious diet avoids excesses and deficiencies, ensuring longevity and vitality for cockatiels.

Safe Foods for Cockatiels

Cockatiel Diet 101_ How to Feed Your Feathered Friend

When caring for cockatiels, providing them with various safe and nutritious foods is vital. Cockatiels will thrive on a balanced diet that includes seeds, pellets, and a selection of fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Since cockatiels are very dusty birds, they will need a bath every few days; this will help wash away some of the dust!

Seeds and Pellets:

  • Seeds: A mix of millet, canary, and sunflower seeds can be given in moderation.
  • Pellets: These are formulated for birds to provide a balanced diet and can make up to 60% of their intake.

Vegetables and Leafy Greens:

  • Vegetables: Excellent options include carrots, bell peppers, and cooked sweet potatoes.
  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, arugula, and other dark leafy greens should be offered regularly.

Fruits and Berries:

  • Fresh Fruits: Apples (without seeds), bananas, kiwis, pear, mango, and melons can be given as treats.
  • Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are safe for cockatiels in small quantities.

Nuts, Grains, and Legumes:

  • Nuts: You can occasionally give almonds and walnuts (1 a day) due to their high-fat content.
  • Grains: Cooked brown rice and quinoa are good grain choices.
  • Legumes: Cooked beans and lentils are nutritious but should be offered in small portions.

It’s important to note that you must wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove harmful pesticides. Then cut them into appropriate sizes to prevent choking.

Always remove any uneaten fresh foods after a couple of hours to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth. A varied diet ensures that cockatiels receive the necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle.

Fruits for Cockatiels

berries for cockatiels

When considering cockatiel diets, it’s essential to balance their meals with seeds and pellets, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits can be tasty treats for these birds, offering both variety and essential nutrients.

Safe Fruits for Cockatiels: Cockatiels enjoy a variety of fruits, but it’s crucial to know which are safe and beneficial for their health. Here’s a list of fruits that they can safely enjoy:

  • Berries: Blueberries, mulberries, strawberries, and raspberries
  • Citrus: Oranges and tangerines in moderation due to high acidity
  • Tropical Fruits: Mango, papaya, and kiwi
  • Stone Fruits: Peaches and nectarines (without pits)
  • Others: Apples (without seeds), pears, and melons

It’s advisable to introduce fruits in small quantities to avoid digestive disturbances. Owners should remove uneaten fruits after a couple of hours to prevent spoilage.

Recommended Serving Size: The table below summarizes the recommended serving sizes for fruits:


Fruits should only supplement the cockatiel’s main diet, consisting of seeds, pellets, and leafy greens. Giving a wide variety ensures they receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals.

When offering fruits, owners should thoroughly wash them to remove pesticides and should present them in small, manageable pieces to prevent choking.

You can also introduce grains, legumes, and a variety of seeds and nuts to round out their diet. However, always avoid avocado, as it’s toxic to birds, and minimize the intake of high-sugar fruits.

Vegetable List for Cockatiels

Fresh Vegetables to Feed a Cockatiel

Vegetables are essential to a cockatiel’s balanced diet.  You should offer a variety of vegetables to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients. 

Leafy greens are particularly beneficial, providing vitamins and minerals critical to the bird’s health. Regularly include options like kalespinach, and Swiss chard

Not all vegetables are created equal in the eyes of a cockatiel. Some favorites among these feathery friends include broccoli and carrots.

You can serve them to your feathered friend raw or lightly steamed to make them easier to eat. Introduce peas and green beans, which can be fun for them to forage.

Cockatiels can also enjoy small quantities of corn, though it should be given in moderation due to the sugar content. Sweet potatoes are another excellent choice, providing a taste variation and rich in essential nutrients.

We love keeping some of the Bird Street Bistro mixes on hand for those days when we don’t have fresh veggies.  

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Here is a quick list of safe vegetables and great human food ideas categorized for ease:

Leafy Greens:

    • Kale
    • Spinach
    • Arugula
    • Swiss chard
    • Beet Greens
    • Romaine lettuce

Cruciferous Vegetables:

    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower

Root Vegetables:

    • Carrots
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Beets


    • Peas
    • Corn
    • Fennel
    • Okra
    • Green beans
    • Bell peppers

Maintain diversity in their diet by occasionally incorporating other veggies, but always ensure they are safe for cockatiels. Remember, fresh foods like these should complement a diet with high-quality seedspellets, and grains. You can also offer legumes occasionally.

Some fruitsberries, and nuts are suitable treats in small pieces. Safe fruits for cockatiels include apples, pears, and berries, but avoid avocados as they are toxic to birds.

This dietary variety helps mimic the diversity cockatiels would experience in the wild, leading to happier and healthier birds.

Always wash vegetables thoroughly before serving to eliminate pesticides and cuttings that are appropriately sized to prevent choking.

Foods to Avoid – These Will Cause Health Problems

foods NOT to feed your Cockatiel

Cockatiels have specific dietary needs, and certain foods can harm them. It is crucial to be aware of what not to feed them to ensure their health and well-being.

Chocolate: Highly toxic to cockatiels, chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.

An All-Seed Diet: Feeding your bird an all-seed diet is a sure way to make them sick and depressed.

Avocado: Contains persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can lead to difficulty breathing, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and death.

Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks, caffeine can induce arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), hyperactivity, and cardiac arrest in birds.

Alcohol: Even in small amounts, alcohol depresses the organ systems of cockatiels and can be fatal.

Salt: Excessive salt intake can lead to excessive thirst, dehydration, kidney dysfunction, and death.

Sugar: They should not consume sugary foods as they can lead to your parrot having obesity, and other health issues.

Preservatives: Foods with artificial preservatives can harm cockatiels, affecting their digestion and health.

The following table summarizes foods to avoid

Pet guardians must provide cockatiels with a balanced diet and avoid these dangerous foods. It’s always best to consult with an avian vet about safe dietary choices for your feathered friend.

Feeding Guidelines and Schedule for – Cockatiel Diet Tips

Cockatiels have specific dietary requirements that vary with their age and size. A balanced diet for these charming birds includes a mix of seeds, pellets, grains, fruits, vegetables, and occasional treats. Add some birdie bread or Bird Street Bistro grain and veggie mixes to their food bowl.

Daily Diet Plan:

  • Morning: Fresh pellets should comprise 60-70% of a cockatiel’s diet, which you can give in the morning.
  • Afternoon: Supplement with various fresh fruits and vegetables, ensuring they are washed and pesticide-free.
  • Evening: Offer a small number of seeds and fresh veggies; this mimics their wild counterparts’ foraging habits.

Feeding Schedule: Cockatiels thrive with a routine. Feeding should happen around the same time each day, usually in the mornings and evenings.

  • Adults: Twice daily, at dawn and dusk.
  • Chicks: More frequent feedings, 3-4 times per day, as they increase and need more nutrients.

Portion Sizes:

  • Adults: Around 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of pellets and 1.5 tablespoons of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Chicks: Adjust portions to support growth, consulting a vet for specific guidelines.


  • You can give small amounts of seeds or millet spray, but they should be at most 10% of their daily intake.
  • Avoid sugary and high-fat treats.

Cage Considerations: The cage should include a food dish that is easily accessible and can be cleaned regularly to avoid contamination and spoilage.

Cockatiel Food List:

  • Pellets: High-quality, formulated for cockatiels. Read more: the best pellets for parrots!
  • Fruits: Berries, apples, melon, mango, papaya, and more.
  • Vegetables: Leafy greens like red lettuce, spinach, carrots, and peas.

Always ensure fresh water is available and remove any uneaten perishable food after a few hours to maintain hygiene and prevent health issues.

Hydration and Water Quality

Cockatiels require consistent access to fresh water for drinking. Owners should ensure water bowls are filled with clean water daily. It’s crucial to provide chlorine-free water, as tap water may sometimes contain additives that can harm the bird’s health.

Proper Water Bowl Maintenance:

  • Refilling: Water bowls must be refilled at least twice daily to maintain freshness.
  • Cleaning: They should be thoroughly cleaned twice a day to prevent the buildup of bacteria and algae, which can contaminate the water and potentially lead to health issues.

Factors Influencing Water Quality:

  • Placement: Water bowls should be placed away from food and perches to minimize contamination from droppings and debris.
  • Material: Stainless steel or ceramic bowls are preferred over plastic, as they are easier to clean and disinfect.

A bird’s hydration needs can vary depending on environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Monitoring the water level throughout the day ensures that cockatiels always have a reliable water source.

Owners should observe their cockatiels’ drinking habits. Changes in these habits could indicate health concerns, prompting a consultation with a veterinarian. Regular maintenance of water quality is a simple yet essential component in maintaining a cockatiel’s overall health and well-being.

The Role of Foraging and Play

Cockatiel Diet Tips

Foraging is more than just a way for cockatiels to find food; it’s a vital activity that stimulates their minds and satisfies their instinctual urges. When in the wild, cockatiels spend a significant portion of their day searching for food. Bird parents can mimic this natural behavior by incorporating foraging opportunities into their birds’ environment. 

Using foraging toys, which require a cockatiel to solve a puzzle to attain a treat, is an excellent way to keep these intelligent birds engaged and entertained. Check out our guide on DIY parrot foraging toys for ideas on making cheap foraging boxes!

Play is equally essential for cockatiels, encouraging physical exercise and mental stimulation. Various toys can keep them active and allow them to exhibit natural behaviors, such as chewing and exploring.

  • Types of Toys for Foraging and Play:
    • Puzzle feeders
    • Hanging foraging toys
    • Chewable toys

Toys not only entertain cockatiels but also promote necessary interaction with their environment, which can help prevent parrot boredom and the development of negative behaviors. Owners should regularly rotate their cockatiel’s toys to provide novelty and new challenges.

Teaching cockatiels to learn tricks and mimic sounds can also be an enriching experience. This interaction fosters a bond between the bird and its owner and provides cognitive challenges. Positive reinforcement and patience are essential when teaching these skills.

Interaction between a cockatiel and its owner through playtime is vital for the bird’s social needs. Engaging in games and responsive play helps establish trust and can be a source of joy for the bird and the owner.

Specific Dietary Needs – Cockatiel Diet Tips

When caring for a cockatiel, understanding their specific dietary needs is crucial to maintaining their health and maximizing their lifespan. They require a balanced diet, which changes slightly with age and health status. A young cockatiel, for instance, often benefits from a higher protein diet to support growth, whereas adults need a well-rounded diet to prevent obesity.

Age-Related Dietary Considerations

  • Young Cockatiels: Need a diet rich in protein.
  • Adult Cockatiels: Require balanced nutrition to maintain optimal weight.

Health and Lifespan – Cockatiel Diet Tips

Maintaining a varied diet is linked to better overall parrot health and can contribute to a longer cockatiel lifespan. Introducing a mix of pellets, seeds, and fresh foods like vegetables and the occasional fruit is generally recommended.

Obesity Prevention

  • Monitor Weight: Regularly check your bird’s weight.
  • Diet Variation: Ensure a mix of seeds, pellets, and fresh foods.
  • Limit High-Fat Foods: Reduce sunflower seeds and other fatty foods.

Vet-Recommended Supplements

Consult an avian veterinarian for recommended supplements, especially if your cockatiel has specific health needs. 

Key Nutrients

Cockatiels need calcium, vitamins, and minerals. Cuttlebone or mineral blocks can be an excellent source of calcium, and various fresh greens will help cover their vitamin requirements.

Cockatiel Diet Tips for Different Life Stages

Juvenile Stage (Up to 6 Months): At this age, cockatiels are growing rapidly and require a protein-rich diet. It would help if you offered them a high-quality seed mix and daily servings of fresh, finely chopped vegetables and fruits.

You can include calcium sources like cuttlebones to aid in bone development. You can add protein-rich foods like hard-boiled eggs or special pellets formulated for young birds.

Adolescence (6 to 18 Months): As they transition to adulthood, their diet should become less protein-heavy and more diverse. Continue providing a variety of vegetables and fruits, along with a steady supply of seeds and pellets.

Introduce new foods slowly to aid their acceptance and ensure they are getting a balanced diet. Limit treats to maintain a healthy weight, especially if exercise routines are not well-established.

Adult Stage (18 Months to Elderly): An adult cockatiel’s diet should include 60-70% pellets, 30% vegetables, and 10% fruits. For females, especially during the breeding season, calcium needs are higher—additional sources of calcium are beneficial. They require less protein now, but it should still be in their diet. Regular, moderate exercise is vital to maintaining health. Thus, the diet should support energy needs without leading to obesity.

Exercise & Training: Cockatiels enjoy interactive play and can you can train them to perform simple tasks or tricks, which helps keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit. Use nutritious treats like millet sprays during training sessions, but do so sparingly. Remember, a healthy diet is as essential as training and exercise for a cockatiel’s well-being.

Each life stage demands specific nutritional needs that guardians should fulfill to ensure a long and healthy life for their feathered friends. Adjust portions and variety according to the bird’s appetite, reaction to new foods, and energy levels.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Cockatiel Diet

What can I feed my cockatiel besides seeds?

In addition to seeds, one can provide their cockatiel with a variety of fruits, grains, and vegetables, such as apples, kiwi, carrots, and leafy greens. They also benefit from cooked legumes and whole grains.

How much should a cockatiel eat daily?

A cockatiel typically eats about 1 to 2 tablespoons of pellets or seeds per day. It should also have a portion of fresh fruits and vegetables roughly the size of its head.

What is a balanced diet for a cockatiel?

A balanced healthy diet for a cockatiel includes a mix of pellets, seeds, fresh fruits, vegetables, and a small amount of protein from sources like hard-boiled egg or lean meat, ensuring all nutritional needs are met.

Should I feed my cockatiel seeds or pellets?

One should feed their cockatiel a mixture of both seeds and pellets. Pellets are nutritionally complete, while seeds are not, and you’ll want to use them as treats.

How frequently should a cockatiel be fed?

Cockatiels should have constant access to pellets and fresh water throughout the day, and seeds and fresh foods should be offered at least once daily.

What foods are toxic to cockatiels and should be avoided?

Chocolate, avocado, onion, garlic, caffeine, and alcohol are toxic to cockatiels and should be avoided. Also, avoid foods with high salt or sugar content.

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