Cockatiel Rescue

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Cockatiel Nutrition Guide

A proper diet helps insure a happy, healthy life. Cockatiels need a varied diet for both their physical health and their mental well-being, just like us!! Provide a variety of food sources daily so they can enjoy a change of food (whatever their mood desires) and still get a healthy mix of nutrition. Have a bowl of pelleted food and filtered water always available, then provide a dish of fresh raw vegetables (grated or cut into small pieces) that should be replaced daily. That is the majority of their diet. Occasionally give them a treat of Millet Spray, scrambled egg, some crackers (pepper treats, or Ritz), nuts (unsalted is best), food off the table (bread, vegetables and cooked meats), birdie bread (recipe available upon request), as well as some seed. The occasional foods provide them with the same variety we enjoy at our meals, as well as required nutrients. Avoid milk, as birds lack the enzyme necessary to digest lactose and they may get diarrhea.

The following list (not to be considered complete) of various components of foods, their benefits, as well as what foods they can be found in to provide for good health, along with a list on page 4 of dangerous and deadly foods have been copied from articles from our local Veterinarian, as well as from:, and (please see these articles for additional information):

CARBOHYDRATES: - an essential part of their diet.

Complex carbohydrates (starches) provide a steady source of energy. They can be found in whole grains: bread, cereals (low in sodium and sugar), pasta and rice.

Simple carbohydrates (sugar) provide no nutrition.

PROTEINS: - building materials of body tissue, enzymes that regulate growth and functioning.

Made up of amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be manufactured by the body and therefore must be a part of their diet (humans have 8 essential amino acids, the exact number required by the bird species is still unknown). Complete proteins contain at least 8 of the essential amino acids, Incomplete proteins have less then 8. If a bird eats an incomplete protein along with a complete one, its body can combine amino acids to create additional complete proteins (such as peanut butter on whole wheat bread).

Sources: yogurt, low fat cheese and cottage cheese, meat, poultry (chicken, turkey), fish (water packed tuna), dried beans, corn, eggs, nuts, some bread, cereals, beans, rice and pasta.

FATS: - provides energy and aids in the absorption of calcium and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

A fat free diet is nearly impossible to achieve and would ultimately be unhealthy for your bird. Linoleic acid is a nutrient supplied by fats and cannot be manufactured by a bird's body. Fats are a mixture of 3 types of fatty acids - polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated. High fat diets are associated with obesity and liver disease. The largest amount of saturated fats are found in foods from animal sources (meat and dairy) and certain vegetable oils (palm and coconut).

Sources: meats, egg yolks, grains, nuts and seeds.

Be careful of feeding seed as more then 10% of your birds diet. Too much seed can contribute to an early death (8-17 years of age, instead of 20-40 years of health).



- necessary for growth and cell membrane repair. Maintains the soft, moist condition of the cells in the skin and lining of the respiratory, reproductive, urinary and digestive tract, as well as prevention of night blindness by providing health to their eyes.

Source: fish liver oil, beef and chicken liver, orange (carrots) or yellow vegetables and fruits (mango, cantaloupe, papaya), green leafy vegetables (endive, kale, spinach), broccoli, zucchini, peas, sweet potatoes/yams, pumpkin, egg yokes alfalfa sprouts, chard, peppers (red, green, sweet) and some cheeses.

Vitamin A is fragile and sensitive to air and heat from cooking. To preserve the vitamin, serve raw if possible and store in covered containers. As a fat-soluble vitamin, the body requires the presence of dietary fats in order to use this vitamin.

Beta-carotene is a naturally occurring dietary chemical that the body converts to useable Vitamin A.

Excess Vitamin A is normally stored in the body tissues and can cause harm to a bird, so try and keep their intake limited to around 20-30% of their diet.


- assists the body in responding to stress (most important during breeding, molting and quarantine periods. They also aid in energy production at cell level, internal growth, and the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins.

Source: whole unrefined grains (cracked and whole wheat, brown rice, rye and wheat germ), leafy vegetables, nuts, sunflower and millet seeds, lemons, bananas, broccoli and eggs.

B complex vitamins include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), Niacin, B6, Folacin or Folic acid, Biotin, B12 and Pantothenic acid. B vitamins are water soluble, excesses are passed out of the body in urine rather then being stored, therefore it is important that your bird gets consistent sources of B vitamins in their diet. B vitamins are sensitive to heat from cooking and refining so provide good helpings for meals.


- (Ascorbic Acid) helps maintain strong cell walls and blood vessels. Also helps the body utilize iron, folic acid and Vitamin A. The need for Vitamin C is increased by stress or disease, so provide extra Vitamin C when your bird is molting, breeding or ill.

Source: citrus fruits (apples, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes and tangerines), melons (cantaloupe and watermelon), bananas, kiwi, apricots, peaches and strawberries. Potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, peas, zucchini, cabbage and kale/chard.

Most cockatiels don't enjoy fruits, so lean more towards the vegetables for their vitamin source, but provide fruits as an alternate. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat and air along with being water soluble, so minimally cook vegetables in water.


- Maintains proper calcium and phosphorous balance in your birds system.

Source: Sunlight, full spectrum lighting, and egg yokes.

Excess is stored within the body, so be careful not to over supplement, especially when feeding pelleted food and providing sunlight (or full spectrum lighting).


- Antioxidant, helps maintain the integrity of individual cell membranes (related to normal growth patterns), aids the body in response to stress, and is necessary for the digestion of polyunsaturated fats and as an antioxidant (helps prevent cells from damage during fat breakdown).

Source: egg yolk, alfalfa sprouts, wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts, green leafy vegetables, peanuts, peanut butter and whole grains.

Very sensitive to heat, oxygen and freezing and it is best to eat in conjunction with Fats.


- necessary for blood clotting. Synthesized from food in the intestinal tract.

Source: leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, cabbage and turnip greens), whole wheat, oats, bran, soy beans, alfalfa sprouts, carrots and cauliflower.

CALCIUM AND PHOSPHORUS: - a balance is necessary for optimum health and strong bones. Calcium is more easily absorbed in the presence of Vitamin D-3 and moderate amounts of Fat.

Source: cottage cheese, unprocessed cheeses, yogurt, tofu (bean curd), egg shell, collard and turnip greens, kale, broccoli, cuttlebone and mineral block.

Seed is high in phosphorus and therefore another reason to limit your bird's supply of seed to less then 10% of its diet. A phosphorus excess can lead to calcium deficiencies. The oxalic acid in spinach and beet greens decreases calcium absorption.

IRON: - produces hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying red blood cells). Lack of sufficient iron in the bird's diet may cause the bird to appear lethargic and fatigued.

Source: meat, poultry, fish, soybeans, egg yokes, wheat germ, nuts, kidney beans, chickpeas, and may have been added to cereals or breads (check the ingredient listing).

SODIUM: - helps maintain the body's fluid balance. Naturally occurring in many foods and therefore no supplementing in the diet is required.

Avoid any food showing a high-sodium content as this may cause serious neurological problems.


  • Iodine (necessary for healthy thyroid functioning). Iodine deficiency is highly unlikely if feeding pellets.
  • Chromium deficiency is not a likely problem if feeding whole grain products, such as bread, cereal and pasta.
  • Zinc is known to be important to protein synthesis. Best source is wheat germ, whole grains, eggs and potatoes.
  • Magnesium is important in metabolism and protein synthesis. Source: wheat germ, bran, whole grains, nuts and some leafy green vegetables.
  • Potassium is necessary for muscle activity, fluid balance and protein synthesis. Source: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, bran, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables and legumes.
  • Selenium plays a key role in disease prevention and immune system stimulation. An excess of selenium can be toxic. A protein rich diet provides your bird with all the selenium requirements.
  • Copper, sulfur, manganese and chloride are other necessary trace minerals but are normally found in most foods and it is unlikely that your bird will ever experience a deficiency of these minerals.

You will note that any one food may contain several necessary elements for your bird's good health, such as pellets, leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale), whole wheat, eggs, rice, cereals and nuts, just to name a few. Look at the list and make yourself up a plan for feeding your bird (just as you plan your family's meal) and enjoy a good healthy life together.

The following alphabetical list is for DEADLY/DANGEROUS foods, which must be avoided:

  • Alcoholic beverages (cause brain damage and death)
  • Avocado (causes death within hours of ingestion)
  • Caffeine in any form (causes hyperactivity that leads to death)
  • Chocolate in any form (causes hyperactivity that leads to death)
  • High-Fat foods (causes liver disease)
  • Rhubarb leaves (causes death)
  • Salt in excess (causes depression that leads to death)
    1 potato chip to a bird is the same as a human eating 50 chips

If you have any further questions, please give us a call or search the Internet (a terrific source of information from qualified Avian Veterinarians and other experienced people).

Ron and Charlie
(925) 686-2350