Cockatoo Diet 101: How to Feed Your Feathered Friend

Cockatoo diet tips ensure that your cockatoo receives the proper nutrition. It isn’t just about what you feed and how and when you offer food. It’s about creating a feeding schedule that reflects natural foraging behavior, offering fresh water at all times, and knowing the specific nutritional concerns that can arise with different cockatoo species. 

Consultation with a veterinarian should be a part of your planning process, as they can provide tailored advice for your bird’s needs. Avoiding certain foods is just as important as the ones you include, as some can be harmful or toxic to your companion.

Key Takeaways for a Healthy Cockatoo Diet

  • Cockatoos require a varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and organic pellets.
  • An all-seed diet will lead to nutritional deficiencies, so diversity is crucial.
  • Consultation with a vet is essential for tailored dietary advice for your cockatoo.

Understanding Cockatoo Nutritional Needs

Cockatoo Diet 101_ How to Feed Your Feathered Friend

Ensure your cockatoo maintains optimal health by understanding the critical nutritional elements and the importance of a balanced diet tailored to your bird’s size and species. 

All cockatoos need various fruits, nuts, grains, vegetables, seeds, protein, and pellets. Whether you have an umbrella cockatoo or a Goffin’s cockatoo, it doesn’t matter—they both need a wide variety of healthy, fresh foods!

How to care for a cockatoo

Essential Nutrients for Cockatoos

Your cockatoo’s diet should include a variety of nutrients to support overall health. Protein is necessary for growth and repair; you can find it in foods such as cooked eggs and lean meats. Fat provides energy but should be given in moderation to prevent obesity. Carbohydrates, present in vegetables and fruits, offer energy and essential fibers.

A mix of vitamins and minerals is also necessary, including Vitamin A for immune function and calcium for bone health. Remember, amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are crucial for maintaining healthy feathers and organs.

The Importance of a Balanced Parrot Diet

A balanced diet for your cockatoo prevents health issues like nutritional deficiencies, obesity, and behavioral problems. Incorporate a mix of formulated pellets to meet your bird’s dietary requirements and fresh fruits and vegetables. Monitor your cockatoo’s intake of fatty seeds and nuts to manage weight and health effectively.

Differences in Dietary Needs by Size and Species

Different cockatoo species and sizes require specific dietary considerations. Larger species need a higher intake of certain nutrients compared to smaller ones. Wild cockatoos often have a varied diet tailored to their environment, which you should mimic in captivity to the extent possible. Research your cockatoo’s species-specific needs to tailor their diet accordingly.

Hydration and Its Role in Cockatoo Health

Water is as vital as food for your cockatoo’s health. Ensure continuous access to fresh water in clean water dishes. Hydration aids in digestion and helps maintain kidney health.

Water also regulates body temperature and facilitates nutrient absorption. Regularly changing the water and cleaning the dishes will prevent bacterial growth and keep your cockatoo healthy.

Natural Diet of Wild Cockatoos

Wild cockatoos have a rich diet that allows them to thrive in their natural habitats. Understanding what they eat and how they find food is critical to appreciating these vibrant birds.

Everyday Foods in a Cockatoo’s Wild Habitat

In the wild, your cockatoo’s kin primarily feasts various seedsnutsfruitsberries, and vegetables. These foods are foundational to their diet and provide essential nutrients. Large hookbill parrots must also crack open nuts, so give them whole nuts in the shell. For instance:

  • Seeds and Nuts: A staple in a cockatoo’s diet, including acacia seeds and native nuts.
  • Fruits and Berries: Cockatoos enjoy munching on figs, native cherries, and other seasonal offerings.
  • Vegetables: They occasionally consume leafy greens found in their environment.
  • Insects: Protein-rich insects complement their diet, especially during the breeding season when extra nutrients are crucial.

Foraging Behavior and Diet Variation

Your feathered friends display remarkable foraging behavior, adapting their diet to the changing seasons and available resources. Some key points:

  • Seasonal Changes: They adjust their eating habits with the availability of different foods throughout the year.
  • Habitat: Cockatoos in denser forests might have different diets than those in open woodlands.
  • Adaptability: Their ability to switch from seeds to available fruits or insects illustrates their flexible dietary habits.

Understanding these intricacies helps grasp the complexity of wild cockatoos’ nutritional requirements and behavior.

Optimizing Your Pet Cockatoo’s Diet

Providing your cockatoo with a balanced diet is crucial for their health and well-being. Here, you’ll learn to navigate the choices between commercial pellets and fresh foods and how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet safely.

Commercial Pellets vs. Fresh Foods

Commercial pellets should form the basis of your cockatoo’s diet, offering a concentrated source of nutrition. When selecting pellets, aim for a high-quality, low-fat option for cockatoos to ensure all essential nutrients are provided.

  • Pellet Benefits: Complete nutrition, easy to serve, less waste.
  • Considerations: Vary formulas to prevent boredom and inspect for freshness.

While pellets are essential, providing fresh foods for variety and additional nutrients is also necessary.

Use Whole Food Blends for Parrots

Healthy foods for parrots can be in the form of dried foods that you rehydrate with water! These are great for picky eaters and can get your bird trying new things.

Bird Street Bistro

Bird Street Bistro makes excellent parrot food blends. These are great for days when you don’t have any fresh vegetables on hand. Keep a few bags of Bird Street Bistro on hand at all times.

Bird Street Bistro Parrot Food Sample Pack Cooks in as Little as 3 to 15 min | All Natural & Organic Grains and Legumes, Healthy Fruits, Vegetables, and Spices - No Fillers or Additives
  • Suitable for Various Birds: Healthy parrot food does exist! Nutritious blend for parrots, parakeets, cockatiels, macaws, African greys, & more. The perfect parrot food for medium birds & larger. Prepare in as little as 3 minutes.
  • Premium & Clean Recipe: Uses all-natural ingredients. 100% natural with no fillers, sugars, or sulfites. Includes freeze dried fruits, organic whole grains, air dried vegetables, low fat nutritious nuts, savory & healthy spices.
  • Heath Benefits: Provides excellent health benefits to parrots. Cayenne Pepper which is known for its blood cleansing properties. Quinoa is jam-packed with lysine and healthy amounts of the other amino acids. Kelp improves feather conditioning, and helps birds that experience iodine deficiency
  • Proudly Made in The USA under high quality standards. Bird Street Bistro proudly supports environmentally responsible farmers and suppliers with eco-friendly practices. We support recycling efforts by using recycled paper and earth-friendly biodegradable shipping supplies whenever possible
  • Includes Four Flavors: Our Parrot Food Variety Pack allows your parrot to try all our delicious and nutritious blends. Includes Viva La Veggies, Apple Berry, Southern Feast, & Cinna Spice Delight. Proudly Made in The USA under high quality standards.

Dr Harvey’s

Dr Harvey’s Exotic Parrot Food is another excellent dried fruit and vegetable blend. I always have a bag of this on hand for my bird!

Dr. Harvey's Exotic Parrot Blend, Seedless Blend of Natural Food for Large Parrots
  • Your parrot will look better, feel better, and live longer; our blend of ultra premium ingredients promote optimal health, longevity, and vibrant plumage in large parrots
  • Promote natural foraging behavior by feeding your parrot a full range of the foods that they would find in the wild
  • Made without seeds, packed with a variety of foods that parrots need to have a balanced diet, including 11 fruits, 10 nuts, and 6 vegetables
  • No chemicals, dyes, preservatives or synthetic ingredients of any kind; proudly farmed and packaged in the USA
  • Contains just the right amount of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture for large parrots

Incorporating Fruits and Vegetables – Important for their Daily Diet

Your cockatoo will enjoy and benefit from a mix of fruits and vegetables, which should comprise about 20-25% of their diet. Introduce a range of colors and textures to provide a spectrum of vitamins and minerals. This should be part of their main diet.

  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges (sparingly for sugar content)
  • Vegetables: Carrots, spinach, broccoli, celery, pumpkin, sweet potatoes

To retain nutrients, it’s best to offer fruits and vegetables raw or steamed. Always remove seeds from fruits and ensure all foods are washed and cut into manageable pieces.

Healthy Treats and Moderation for Pet Birds

Treats are an excellent way to enrich your cockatoo’s diet and strengthen your bond. Use them sparingly to avoid obesity and ensure they do not exceed 10% of the total diet.

  • Healthy Treat Options: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, unsalted peanuts
  • Grains and Legumes: Cooked whole grains, a variety of legumes

Avoid high-fat sunflower seeds as a daily treat, and instead offer them occasionally or use them as training rewards. Fresh water should always be available, and remember to clean food and water dishes daily.

Vegetable Ideas for Your Pet Cockatoo

Fresh Vegetables to Feed a Cockatoo

Vegetables are a staple in cockatoos’ diets. If you have a companion parrot, you’ll need to invest time into planning its meals. All species of cockatoos need a wide variety of vegetables to stay healthy.


Feeding your cockatoo, carrots provide a great source of beta-carotene. Your parrot’s body will convert it into vitamin A, essential for maintaining healthy vision and immune function in cockatoos.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes for parrots are rich in vitamins A and C, providing essential nutrients that support skin health, vision, and the immune system of cockatoos.

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers, especially the red ones, are high in vitamin C, micronutrients, and antioxidants, which are beneficial for cockatoos’ immune health and skin integrity.


Zucchini is low in calories and offers vitamins C and A, making it a healthy and hydrating choice for cockatoos.


Pumpkin is packed with fiber, vitamins A and C, and is perfect for digestive health and immune support in cockatoos.


Cucumbers are hydrating and contain vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and overall health in cockatoos.


Broccoli is rich in dietary fiber, which parrots need to stay healthy! Furthermore, it has vitamins C and K and provides essential nutrients for enhancing the immune response and detoxification in cockatoos.


Spinach is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, iron, and folate, supporting healthy blood, vital immune function, and overall vitality in cockatoos.


Kale is a superfood for cockatoos, providing an abundance of vitamins K, A, and C, along with essential minerals that help maintain healthy feathers and robust health.


Peas for parrots are a good source of plant-based protein and vitamins like K and B, which are essential for your birds energy metabolism and healthy blood in cockatoos.

Bok Choy

Bok choy provides a rich source of calcium, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants, aiding in bone health and immune support for cockatoos.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is high in vitamins that parrots need to stay healthy. Some include: A, K, and C, crucial for maintaining good vision, immune health, and bone strength in cockatoos.

Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are nutrient-dense, offering vitamins A, C, and K and calcium and iron, which support feather health and overall vitality.


Kohlrabi is a good source of fiber and vitamin C that aids in digestive health and enhances the immune system of cockatoos.


Jicama provides a crunchy texture that cockatoos enjoy. It is also a great source of dietary fiber and vitamin C essential for healthy digestion and immunity.


Endive is rich in vitamins A and K and folate, promoting feather health, good vision, and a robust immune system in cockatoos.


Radicchio contains antioxidants and is a good source of vitamin K, which helps maintain strong bird bones and healthy blood clotting mechanisms.


Watercress is exceptionally nutrient-dense, offering high levels of vitamins K, C, and A, ensuring strong immune and respiratory health.


Parsnips are high in fiber and contain antioxidants, which can help to improve your birds digestive health and combat cellular damage in cockatoos.

Green Beans

Green beans for cockatoos are an excellent source of plant-based protein and vitamins A, C, and K, essential for overall health and blood clotting in parrots.

Collard Greens

Collard greens are loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and antioxidants, supporting bone health, immune function, and overall vitality in cockatoos.

Fresh Fruit for Cockatoos: 15 Ideas

Fruits to Feed a Cockatoo


Mangoes for parrots are rich in vitamins A and C, which help strengthen your birds immune system and maintain healthy mucous membranes in cockatoos.


Papaya contains digestive enzymes like papain that aid in the digestion of proteins. It is also high in vitamin C, which supports immune health in cockatoos.


Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that benefit parrots. Vitamin C, crucial for reducing oxidative stress and supporting immune function in cockatoos.


Pineapple is another fruit high in bromelain, an enzyme that aids digestion. It also provides vitamin C, which supports cockatoos’ immune systems.


Apples (without the seeds, which are toxic) provide dietary fiber and vitamin C but give it to your parrot in moderation since it’s high in sugar.


Bananas for parrots are a good potassium and vitamin B6 source, promoting heart health and energy production in cockatoos.


Kiwi is extremely rich in vitamin C and provides vitamin K and fiber, which benefit cockatoos’ skin, feathers, and overall health.


Pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins C and K, which support blood health and boost the immune system in cockatoos.


Watermelon, mostly water, is hydrating and provides vitamins A and C and antioxidants, making it a refreshing and healthy treat.


Cherimoya is high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and several B vitamins, which help maintain healthy digestion and energy levels in cockatoos.


Figs for cockatoos are a rich source of dietary fiber, calcium, and natural sugars, which provide energy and aid digestive health.


Guava is an excellent fruit to feed your pet cockatoo. It’s a source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, which is great for cockatoos’ immune health and digestion.


Peaches provide vitamins A and C, essential for maintaining healthy skin and vision and supporting immune function.


Pears are high in dietary fiber, which helps maintain digestive health. They also provide vitamins C and K, which are necessary for immune health and blood clotting.

Star Fruit (Carambola)

Starfruit is rich in vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants but should be given in moderation due to its oxalic acid content, which can be harmful in large amounts.


Pellet Diet for Your Cockatoo

Look into various brands of pellets like TOPS. The Pellets you choose should have something other than peanuts and corn as the first two ingredients. We like TOPS for our birds because the first few ingredients are healthy green vegetables. 

Specific Nutritional Concerns and Solutions

Maintaining a healthy diet for your cockatoo involves addressing nutritional issues impacting their overall well-being. By understanding these concerns and implementing the recommended solutions, you can help ensure your feathered friend stays in top health.

Seed Diets

If your cockatoo eats a mostly seed diet, you should do everything possible to get your bird to eat a wider variety of foods. All seed diets are unhealthy for cockatoos; a small amount of seeds is okay, but they cannot make up most of their diet.

Healthy Seeds

Some brands, like Volkman, make seed mixes for pet birds that contain safflower and other healthy seeds. Seeds are a great treat to use for clicker training your cockatoo.

Preventing Obesity in Cockatoos

Cockatoos are prone to obesity, which can lead to a host of health problems. To prevent obesity:

  • Monitor Caloric Intake: Ensure you’re not overfeeding your cockatoo. Stick to a measured amount of high-quality pellets as the staple of their diet.
  • Encourage Exercise: Provide plenty of opportunities for physical activity with toys and climbing structures inside and outside the cage.

Managing Nutritional Deficiencies

Cockatoos require a balanced diet rich in vitamins, calcium, proteins, and minerals. To avoid deficiencies:

  • Supplement Wisely: Add specific supplements to their diet as needed, but always consult with an avian veterinarian before doing so.
  • Diverse Diet: Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts to provide a range of nutrients.


Best Way to Dealing with Behavioral Eating Issues

Behavioral issues like feather plucking may stem from dietary problems. Address these issues by:

  • Dietary Adjustments: If behavioral problems arise, assess the diet for potential causes and adjust as necessary.
  • Enrichment: Provide mental stimulation through foraging toys and varied food presentation to keep your cockatoo engaged and less likely to develop problematic behaviors.
  • Feather picking: You’ll need to see an avian nutritionist or veterinarian to get help with this issue.

Foods to Avoid in a Cockatoo’s Diet

foods NOT to feed your Cockatoo

When considering your cockatoo’s nutritional health, it’s vital to recognize that certain foods and substances can be harmful or toxic. An appropriate diet is critical for preventing health issues such as obesity.

Potentially Harmful Foods and Substances

Certain items should be excluded from your cockatoo’s diet to protect their well-being:

  • Caffeine: Common in coffee, tea, and soda, caffeine can cause heart palpitations and hyperactivity, which are detrimental to cockatoos.
  • Chocolate: Contains theobromine, which is toxic to birds, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, or even death.
  • Avocados: The persin in avocados can induce heart damage, respiratory difficulty, and weakness.
  • Alcohol: Extremely toxic and can cause severe health problems and death.
  • Dairy Products: Cockatoos cannot process lactose, leading to digestive disturbances.

Avoid giving cockatoos any human junk food, which can be high in harmful fats and sugar.

The Risks of Excess Fats and Sugars

A cockatoo’s diet high in fats and sugars can lead to health complications:

  • Obesity: A condition where excess body fat negatively impacts a cockatoo’s health.
  • Health Concerns: Excessive fats and sugars can cause liver problems. According the the Merck veterinary manual diabetes is uncommon in psittacines.

Practical Cockatoo Feeding Tips

Proper nutrition is essential for your cockatoo’s health. Balancing their diet and creating a positive feeding experience in captivity is necessary. These tips help establish a good routine and environment for your cockatoo’s meals.

Establishing a Feeding Schedule

  • Consistency is vital: To establish a routine, feed your cockatoo at the exact times each day. This can help regulate their behavior and ensure they get the necessary nutrition regularly.

  1. Morning: Offer fresh food after they wake up.
  2. Evening: Give them a smaller meal before they settle for the night.

  • Monitor your bird’s intake: Pay attention to how much your cockatoo eats. Remove any uneaten fresh food to prevent spoilage.

Creating an Engaging Feeding Environment

  • Stimulate natural behaviors: Encourage foraging by hiding food in toys or parts of the cage. Making foraging toys promotes mental and physical exercise. Learn how to make easy DIY foraging toys for your parrot!
  • Variety and presentation: Switch up the presentation of the food. Slicing, dicing, or hanging fruits and veggies can make mealtime more intriguing.

  1. Interactive Toys: Use feeding puzzles to make eating fun.
  2. Perch Placement: Positioning perches strategically at various heights can encourage movement and exercise during feeding.

  • Cage location: Ensure the feeding area is in a comfortable spot away from waste and in the cage your cockatoo frequents.

Remember, your cockatoo’s diet should mainly consist of specialized pellets supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables, and occasional nuts or seeds for optimal health. Always provide clean water and avoid toxic foods like avocado or chocolate. Regular veterinary check-ups can help maintain your pet’s health and guide you in providing a nutritionally complete diet.

Involving Your Veterinarian in Diet Planning

Enlisting the help of a veterinarian, especially one specializing in avian health, is essential for creating an optimal diet plan for your cockatoo. Your vet can offer valuable insights based on their knowledgeable background in avian nutrition.

When you consult with an avian veterinarian, take the opportunity to discuss:

  • Your cockatoo’s current diet: Provide a detailed list of what your pet eats daily.
  • Changes in health or behavior: Note any shifts that could signal nutritional deficiencies.

Your vet may suggest a variety of foods that cover the nutrients essential to your bird’s diet.

Remember that every cockatoo is unique. Your veterinarian will assess your bird and tailor nutrition recommendations to their specific needs. Regular check-ups ensure the diet remains suitable as your cockatoo ages or if health issues arise.

Questions for Your Vet:

  1. Are there any foods I should altogether avoid giving to my cockatoo?
  2. How often should I introduce new foods into the diet?
  3. What signs should I look for that might indicate a dietary imbalance?

Include these topics in your discussion to ensure your cockatoo’s diet supports their health and well-being for years.

Additional Nutritional Considerations

When planning your cockatoo’s meals, it’s essential to consider supplementary nutrition sources and how their dietary needs change throughout life.

Supplements and Alternative Food Sources

Certain foods and supplements can greatly benefit your cockatoo’s health. While a mix of seeds and nuts is a traditional staple, incorporating a variety of proteins and grains can lead to a more balanced nutrition profile.

  • Proteins: Offer cooked eggs, well-cooked chicken, or mealworms, as they are excellent protein sources that support feather and muscle health.
  • Grains: Introduce cooked grains such as millet and quinoa, which are tasty and packed with essential nutrients.

Include a blend of kalelegumes, and other green vegetables to provide a range of vitamins and minerals. Rotate these foods to ensure a spectrum of nutrients and to keep your cockatoo’s interest in their meals.

Lifecycle Dietary Adjustments

As cockatoos age, their dietary needs can change. It is essential to adjust their diet to match their activity level and health needs during different life stages.

  • Juvenile Stage: Young cockatoos may require higher protein levels to support their rapid growth. Offering a diverse mix of proteins, such as eggs and insects, can be beneficial.
  • Adult Stage: A balance of proteins, seeds, nuts, and grains will maintain the health and vitality of adult birds.
  • Senior Stage: Older cockatoos often need a diet lower in fat and more prosperous in easily digestible proteins to maintain weight and muscle mass without straining their metabolism.

Regularly consulting with an avian veterinarian can help you tailor your pet’s diet to their specific needs, ensuring your feathered friend’s happy and healthy life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Caring for your cockatoo involves knowing what they can eat and how often. The following FAQs will guide you in providing a nutritious diet for your feathered friend.

What fruits are safe for cockatoos to consume?

Your cockatoo can enjoy a variety of fruits, such as apples, pears, melons, and berries. To prevent any health issues, ensure all fruits are washed and seeds or pits are removed.

What are umbrella cockatoos’ favorite food?

Like many parrots, Umbrella cockatoos don’t have a universally acknowledged “favorite” food, as preferences vary widely among birds. However, they typically enjoy a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which should be a significant part of their diet. Some familiar favorites among umbrella cockatoos include:

  • Nuts: Such as walnuts, almonds, and pecans, which are often favored for their rich taste and the challenge they provide in cracking them open.
  • Fruits: Especially those like papaya, mango, and pomegranate, which are sweet and provide essential vitamins.
  • Vegetables: These include carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens like kale and spinach, which are nutritious and fun to chew on.

Balancing these treats with a high-quality formulated diet is essential to ensure the bird receives all necessary nutrients. Additionally, offering a variety of foods helps keep their diet exciting and can contribute to their overall happiness and health.

How often should I feed my cockatoo each day?

Feed your cockatoo twice daily, offering fresh food in the morning and late afternoon. Consistency is critical to maintaining their health and happiness.

Are there any foods that are toxic to cockatoos that I should avoid?

Absolutely avoid avocados, chocolate, and caffeine, as these are toxic to birds. Also, exclude onions, garlic, and salty foods from your cockatoo’s diet.

Can you provide some homemade food recipes that are healthy for cockatoos?

A simple recipe includes cooked brown rice mixed with chopped vegetables like spinach or carrots. Always let the food cool before serving.

What constitutes a balanced diet for a cockatoo?

A balanced diet includes:

  • High-quality pellets.
  • A moderate amount of fruits and vegetables.
  • Occasional proteins like boiled egg or lean meats.

Remember to provide fresh water daily.

Is it safe to include peanut butter in a cockatoo’s diet?

Peanut butter can be a treat in tiny amounts but choose natural, unsalted peanut butter without added sugar or xylitol, which harms birds.