What Do Cockatiels Eat? A Guide to Their Diet

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: January 8, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/nicepixel
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If you are living in America, then perhaps you are very familiar with loud chirping birds residing in many homes, called cockatiels. This is because this type of bird is quite popular, in fact, it is one of the best pet choices of birds in the country. Cockatiels are cuddly and outgoing, which makes them a good companion. Birds are one of the best animals to have as pets, and cockatiels rank highly when it comes to which bird makes the best pet. 

Cockatiels are well-known for their particular whistle sounds that can be serenaded towards their favorite person, thing, or even to their own reflection. These Australian natives are often well-socialized and they enjoy snuggling on the shoulders of their favorite person. A cockatiel in captivity can live more than 20 years when cared for properly and when handed a healthy and balanced diet. Below, we’ll discuss which food cockatiels eat in the wild, what to feed them in captivity, and the nutrients they need in their diet.

What Do Cockatiels Eat?

Cockatiel sitting on a branch in his cage.
As herbivores, cockatiels eat seeds, flowers, and crops.

iStock.com/nedarb

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Cockatiels are herbivorous birds who eat a diet that mainly includes seeds, flowers, fresh and dry nuts, fruits, legumes, freshly harvested pods, berries, and crops.

In the wild, cockatiels are ground feeders and will mostly feed on plants and other vegetation. They are also known to eat farmers’ crops and dive onto sprouting seeds and legumes. These loud-chirping birds have also adapted to this kind of diet in their natural habitat, and have evolved to learn how to remove shells from seeds at a quick speed.

The cockatiel’s preference on seeds vary depending on their habitat and on what is available. In a 1987 study published by D Jones, for instance, it was figured that cockatiels preferred younger and softer seeds among the 29 different types of seeds present in the experiment. 

As cockatiels love to feed on whatever is on the ground, they can also rarely snatch some terrestrial insects apart from plants and crops, and basically anything that their beaks can get on. 

What Do Cockatiels Eat as Pets?

Yellow pet Cockatiel sitting on a human hand.
As pets, cockatiels eat a balanced diet of grass seeds, legumes, and pellets specially crafted for them.

iStock.com/sapozhnik

A healthy and balanced cockatiel diet should include grass seeds, pellets specially crafted for them, legumes, grains, nuts, cereals, and a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In order to prolong a cockatiel’s lifespan, they should be fed with diverse nutrition. Like most bird species, cockatiels are in need of a balanced combination of minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, fat, protein, and water. Cockatiels are also prone to obesity and other health problems such as iodine deficiency, thus, they require a maintained and balanced diet.

Cockatiels can enjoy a variety of food, but in order to get the necessary nutrients for them to grow, they should be fed with pellets and seeds, which should make up at least 60% of their diet.

Are Pellets a Better Food Choice for Cockatiels?

Grass seeds and pellets are both a primary diet for cockatiels. Pellets, however, have a higher nutritional value for pet cockatiels as they are specifically formulated for the bird species and they have additional nutritious ingredients. 

There are a lot of experts who consider pellets as a stable part of a cockatiel’s diet. However, pellets are not a natural food for birds so it can be combined with other various foods. Most owners assume that seeds are better for a cockatiel’s diet as they are their usual food in their natural habitat. Seeds, however, lack vitamins and calcium that is vital for a cockatiel’s growth and health. This is why pellets are formulated – so the nutrients that most food lack can be combined together in one pelleted food, with the right amount of vitamins, calcium, and minerals.

A study also suggested that an all-seed diet can cause various health problems such as nerve damage, immune system disorders, sinusitis, and others that may potentially shorten their lifespan. A balance of 75% pellets and 25% seeds in their diet is a good mixture, and it will be even better when added with fresh greens and fruits.

What Fruits and Vegetables Do Cockatiels Eat?

Two Cockatiel on a metal perch, isolated on white.
Cockatiels eat oranges, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

iStock.com/GlobalP

Cockatiels regularly need fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet to copy the naturally varied food they usually have in the wild. Fruits and greens should take up at least 20% of their regular diet. For fruits, cockatiels can eat those with high vitamin C nutrients such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, and mangoes. They can also eat all-season fruits like apples, grapes, bananas, and various types of berries. 

Here is a list of fruits that cockatiels can add to their diet:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Kiwi
  • Guava
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Cherries
  • Melon
  • Pomegranate
  • Nectarines

Cockatiels can also be fed with dried fruits such as raisins, dates, plums, cranberries, and prunes. Although cockatiels often eat seeds, some fruit seeds can be toxic and dangerous for them, so seeds in fruits must be removed before feeding. 

As for vegetables, ample greens are a good choice for a cockatiel’s diet. Orangey and yellowish vegetables like sweet potatoes are also rich in Vitamin A. When feeding pet cockatiels leafy greens, the darker the leaves, the better. Here is a list of the vegetables cockatiels often add to their diet:

  • Leaf lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Watercress
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato
  • Asparagus
  • String beans
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes

Canned vegetables shouldn’t be fed to cockatiels as they are filled only with calories and no other nutrients. 

Do Cockatiels Eat Meat?

Although they are exclusively herbivores, small amounts of meat such as chicken, fish, or beef and other meat products like boiled eggs, cheese, and yogurt can also be safely ingested by cockatiels.

How Often Do Cockatiels Eat?

Cockatiel sitting near the window on a sunny day.
Cockatiels eat at least twice a day.

iStock.com/PaulGulea

Adult cockatiels need to eat at least two times a day, once in the morning and once before nightfall. They need to be fed 1.5 to 2 tablespoons or 30 to 40 grams of pellets or seeds everyday and occasional treats of fruits and greens. 

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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