Cockatiel Advice and First Aid 101

Parrot Nutrition

All about feeding your parrot



Many pet stores sell vitamins that you can add to water. Unless instructed by your avian vet, please don’t use these types of vitamins. They lose potency fast in water, and increase the growth of bacteria in the drinking water, and may result in your parrot becoming very sick! Parrots will often not touch their water if there is any kind of taste to it, so you are also risking your bird dehydrating.

If a bird is on a healthy diet then supplements are not needed, it’s better to start off with a healthy diet than add supplements to a poor one!





I want to start by saying I am fully sympathetic to people that will go to any measure to get their birds to try healthy nutritional foods. We have all been there, it’s extremely frustrating when a bird will simply not eat what’s good for them. Out of desperation some people will remove their birds normal diet, in hopes that their birds will become so hungry they will try anything. However, this is the furthest thing from the truth and a bird will starve to death before they eat an unfamiliar food. Birds in captivity still have natural instincts and will view all unfamiliar foods as harmful (poisonous) so they will not eat it, no matter how hungry they are. Removing your birds normal diet is a deadly game to play as a bird cannot go very long without food before its organs start to shut down, for most bird species it’s 24-48 hours. A bird has a significantly higher metabolism than mammals, so they need a constant supply of food. What does this mean? Well, Metabolism, or metabolic rate, is defined as the series of chemical reactions in a living organism that create and break down energy necessary for life. More simply, it's the rate at which a body uses energy or burns calories. Think about metabolism like car engine that is always running. When sitting still or sleeping, the engine is idling like a car at a stop light. A certain amount of energy is being burned just to keep the engine running. How fast a body's "engine" runs on average, over time, determines how many calories it will burn. If a metabolism is high (or fast), more calories will be burnt and at rest and during activity. A high metabolism means a bird will need to take in more calories to maintain its weight.What does metabolism do in a body? Well, metabolism never stops, even when the body is at rest. It constantly provides energy for basic body functions, such as:

* Breathing.
* Circulating blood.
* Digesting food.
* Growing and repairing cells.
* Managing hormone levels.
* Regulating body temperature

Therefore, when you remove food from a bird which has a very high metabolism, after a short period of time they will start to find it difficult to maintain heat, and the rest of their body systems will start to fail. A bird that is already unwell or has an underlying health condition will be affected even more so and their body system will fail quickly, and death can come faster. There are many safe ways to introduce new foods to your bird that does not include putting their lives at risk! In my nutrition book “What the flock do I feed a parrot”? I have listed numerous ways to introduce new foods. NEVER REMOVE FOOD FROM YOUR BIRD IN ORDER FOR THEM TO TRY NEW FOODS THEY SIMPLY WILL NOT DO SO AND STARVE THEMSELVES TO DEATH!


Let’s talk about a fruit that is deadly to our birds … the avocado. In fact, every part of the avocado including the bark and leaves of the tree are toxic to birds. Research has shown that avocado is partially toxic to cockatiels, parakeets and canaries and a lethal dose in budgies is as little as 3g and 2g for a canary. So why is it so toxic? Well, avocados toxicosis are caused by the fat-soluble compound Persin. Persin is a fungicidal toxin and in birds it causes heart problems, in particular, pericardial effusion which is when excess fluid builds up in the pericardial sac around the heart, because of this extra fluid the heart muscle can’t expand properly, therefore, cardiac function is compromised.

The bird starts to suffer from the effects of this toxin extremely quickly, often within 15-30 minutes! The first symptoms owners may notice are weakness, depression, fluffed up appearance, difficulty in perching, diarrhoea, vomiting, however, once respiratory signs develop death is imminent soon after.

So, what do you do if your bird has consumed avocado by accident? The owner should take their bird to a vet immediately, unfortunately, there is no home treatment that will help. The owner should phone ahead so the vets are waiting to receive this emergency. If there are no vets available, the owner can phone the poison control helpline for their country and ask for advice.

Once in the care of a vet treatment will likely include, emptying and flushing the crop, administering calculated amounts of activated charcoal via a crop tube which is often done numerous times depending on the condition of the bird, the vet will also monitor the bird’s cardiac function and give other supportive treatments.

CAUTION! “Avocado oil” which is found in many human foods is toxic to birds as well as it is extracted from the avocado fruit, therefore, always check ingredients before sharing meals and snacks with your birds!



Calcium plays an extremely important part in a parrot’s diet, and it is needed for: bone formation, brain function, muscle function, nerve function etc. In breeding hens it is very important, as it’s needed to prevent egg binding, and producing soft egg shells etc. Unfortunately, many caged birds are only given a lump of cuttlefish and owners think that is sufficient. While cuttlefish should have its place in a parrots cage at all times, it is not the best, or the only source of calcium a parrot should be fed.

Spinach, kale, okra, bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard greens and collard greens, almonds, dried figs, sesame seeds, dandelion, kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans, soybeans, apricots, strawberries , oranges, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed. (WARNING, ALL BEANS SHOULD BE WELL COOKED! NEVER FEED RAW BEANS)

Parrots that struggle with eating fruit and veg can be given calcium supplements. Please speak to an avian vet about which supplement is the best for your bird. Ways in which to introduce food can be found in my article entitled “How to offer birds food"


SEEDS: Seeds should make up 25% of your birds diet and should be of good quality.

Seeds give vitamins and fats in their own right, and it exercises the muscles in the top and bottom of a bird’s jaw.

NOTE: Please choose a good quality seed that should include millet: canary seed , wheat , oats , Niger seed , cereal and grasses , rice , ( a few sunflower and safflower) and linseed ( also known as flaxseed )

Sunflower and Safflower seeds should only be used as treats, and should not be given in excess; they are high in fat, and a captive bird cannot burn off the added calories, which can lead to aliments.

PELLETS: Pellets should make up 25% of your parrots diet, and they should be a good quality brand that is organic and that is artificial colour and preservative free, such as Harrison’s and Roudybush.

TIP! When introducing pellets purchase the smallest pellet available, as it will look the closest thing to seed and the bird is more inclined to try it.

VEGETABLES AND FRUIT: Dark leafy veg and fruit should make up 25% of your cockatiels diet. The healthiest veg for your bird is dark leafy veg and orange veg rich in vitamin (A). Fruit should be in season, and choose fruit rich in vitamins.

Here is a little list of examples: broccoli, spinach, squash, corn, carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, parsley and dandelion! Fruit: Apple (remove seeds) Apricots (remove pip), banana etc.

TIP! Parrots are suckers for brightly coloured fruit and veg, so the more colourful you make it the better!

GRAINS: Grains should make up 15% of your cockatiels diet such as: cooked rice, pasta, corn, whole grain toast, cooked oats, sprouted pluses such as mung beans, Black eye beans.

TABLE FOOD: Table food should make up 10% of your birds diet, these include: boiled eggs , boiled chicken , cooked white fish such as cod ( no shell fish) and cottage cheese. Note: Birds are lactose intolerant, so no dairy should be given. (Cottage cheese is safe as it is lactose free)

So this is how your cockatiels diet should look like:

Seeds -25%

Pellets -25%

Veg &fruit - 25%

Grains -15%

Table food -10%

= 100% balanced diet.

AUTHORS NOTE: With all diets; it is important to check with your avian vet that the diet you have your bird on is suitable for your parrots needs. Remember every bird is an individual!

NEVER FEED: Alcohol, avocado, caffeine, chocolate, or any other unsafe foods to your bird.


There have been disease problems and deaths associated when sprouting seeds. Unfortunately, some batches contain dangerous bacteria.

So, please make sure you are sprouting good quality seed. Test the batch first before giving it to your birds! To do this; take 100 seeds out the batch and sprout them. If 80% don’t sprout, then you know that’s a bad batch.

ONLY use glass or stainless steel to sprout! Never use plastic, as it is porous and harbours bacteria.



Your bird’s feathers, skin, nails and beak can give you tell-tale signs about what’s happening in your bird’s body, especially, about their nutritional needs. The old saying “You are what you eat” is very true and will reflect in your bird’s feathers, skin, nails and beak. Firstly, what should health feathers look like? They should be clean, shiny and lustrous. They should not be dull, tattered and frayed. A “Healthy” bird will clean it’s feather meticulously daily. Healthy birds will preen their feathers often throughout the day; dirty feathers will not do for a bird because it affects their flight, they of course want the best-looking feathers to attract a mate too. Therefore, if your bird is not interested in preening, take that as a red flag; the bird is possibly sick and needs to see a vet.
Firstly, let us look at nutritional deficiencies which can affect feather health:
Vitamin A- feathers will be dull and thin.
Biotin- feather loss
Calcium- feathers will be brittle and frayed
Copper- there can be depigmentation to dark feathers
Iron- uncharacteristic colour changes to feathers
Lysine- this will delay feather growth. You may find pigment deficiency and stress bars.
Pantothenic acid- delayed growth of contour feathers and pigment deficiency.
Zinc- thin and brittle casings of pin feathers.
In the list below you will find examples of food sources for each vitamin and mineral listed above:
Vitamin A- Bell peppers, broccoli, cooked sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots etc.
Biotin- Eggs, fish, banana, nuts, cooked sweet potatoes, bread, etc.
Calcium- Eggs, leafy greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, plain corn flakes, etc.
Iron- Nuts, dried apricots, lentils, spinach etc.
Lysine- Dried apricots and mangoes, beets, pears, red and green peppers, etc.
Pantothenic acid- Broccoli, eggs, whole grains, sunflowers seeds, etc.
Zinc- Spinach, broccoli, kale, some fortified cereals, etc.

What else can a bird’s feathers tell us about their health and dietary needs?
Dry brittle feathers- dry brittle feathers can be caused by lack of humidity in the environment. This can cause dry skin too, therefore, a humidifier will help, especially, in the winter months.
Dull feathers- this can be caused by lack of sunlight (Vitamin D3). Vitamin D3 is also needed for the absorption of calcium in your bird’s diet.
Stress bars- these are dark bands (dis-coloured or de-pigmented) which run crosswise through the feathers. These bars can indicate either stress, dietary issues, lack of care, or it can be due to overuse of antibiotics when the feather was first forming. Stress bars are a red flag that your bird’s diet, emotional health and general care needs to be looked at and addressed accordingly.
Dark feathers (discolouration)- this is usually due to nutritional deficiencies; however, it can also indicate that there is a health issue that need to be addressed by your vet asap.
Oily feathers- are commonly linked to liver issues. If you notice your bird has oily feathers, see your vet straight away.

Just to let you know, in my book “What the flock do I feed my parrot?” Available on amazon, you will find many of the vitamins and minerals we have disccused in this article plus dozes more and their food sources. This book will help you place your bird on a well-balanced nutritional diet and it gives information on vitamins and minerals needed to help keep a bird healthy. It will also help picky eaters try new foods and has over 40 nutritional recipes. This book is not species specific. Always consult with your avian vet on the correct dietary requirements for your individual species of parrot.


Charcoal is often used when a toxic substance has been ingested by a bird. It should not be used on a regular basis. Using charcoal regularly has been shown to absorb the vitamins A,B2 and K. If your bird does ingest a toxic substance, call your vet immediately; if you have administered charcoal before contacting your vet, ensure you let them know you have done so.


Buying cheap seed is a mistake, and can be extremely detrimental to a bird's health. Many manufacturing companies have stated that cheap seed contains at least 10%: mould, grit, dust, chaff and industrial substance impurities, that can cause all types of health problems! Vets have reported that when looking under a microscope at cheap seed, they often find: glass, string, metal, human and other animal faeces, to name a few! A good quality seed from a reputable supplier is needed for the health of the bird.


· Corn flakes
· Dried fruit (ensure its sulphur dioxide free)
· Nutri-berries
· Plain digestive biscuits (Graham cracker)
Popcorn (plain, unsalted & un-buttered
· Rice krispies
· Rich tea biscuits
· Safe berries
· Safe nuts
· Safe seeds
· Shredded wheat
· Unsalted pretzels



Firstly, before your bird’s diet is changed in any way a vet check is in order. If a bird is sick or has   any underlining conditions, the stress of a diet change can play havoc on a bird’s health, and may cause their health to deteriorate further. Sudden loss of weight can be very detrimental to a bird, a qualified avian vet needs to monitor your bird and guide you accordingly. When changing a bird onto a pelleted diet, the bird’s weight should be recorded daily.

When choosing pellets, one should choose organic pellets such as Harrison’s or Roudybush. These organic pellets are recommended by vets.  Coloured pellets are not good for your parrot’s health, and can change the colour of their poop, which makes it very difficult to examine their droppings daily for first signs of illness!

One of the safest ways to introduce pellets is by giving a 50/50 seed and pellet mix in the same bowl. Once you notice your bird is eating the pellets , then gradually reduce the seed in the bowl over several weeks until you left with only 10% seed , which then should be given as part of their daily diet (unless you are told otherwise by your vet )

Another way to introduce pellets is by offering only pellets early morning, this is a time when your bird is most hungry. REPLACE the seed in the afternoon. Please never remove seed longer than a few hours, parrots metabolism requires a constant supply of food. If they do not get a sufficient amount, your parrot will become quite unwell. Fresh fruit and veg should still be offered throughout the day.

Another method is making birdie bread, or cookies and introducing pellets that way; adding pellets into the mixture for the bird to become accustomed to them.

Whichever method you choose, please never go cold turkey, this puts horrendous stress on the bird, and unlike dogs and cats, a parrot will rather starve than eat a foreign food. Unfortunately, this has sadly happened with many parrots, and owners have lost their birds this way.




  • Start with the most basic fruit and vegetables which will be gentle on the the bird's digestive system, such as; apples (remove seeds) broccoli, shredded carrot. Add a few safe herbs such as mint and parsley.
  • Begin by threading apple and broccoli through the cage bars. Once you observe your bird eating these, you can add a wider variety of safe veggies and fruit.
  • Most parrots prefer veg and fruit hung up in the cage; you can do this by sliding the food onto an animal safe skewer.
  • Offer very finely chopped vegetables and fruit. Try sprinkling millet, seeds or a favourite treat over the new food.
  • You can try mashed up food; very young birds often prefer to start off with mashes as it replicates the formula or regurgitated food they have just been weaned off. Cooked sweet potatoes are a favourite, as well as hard boiled eggs.
  • You can hide food in little homemade parcels, larger parrots especially enjoy this!
  • Eat the food yourself; parrots learn how to eat and what’s safe to eat from their parents. By eating the food yourself, or pretending to eat the food, will show the parrot it’s tasty and safe to eat.
  • Parrots learn from observing fellow birds. If you have a parrot that already eats fruit and vegetables, allow your bird to watch them, they will often copy their behaviour.
  • The secret to getting your bird to eat ANY new food is consistency and perseverance. Offer the food daily in a number of ways, eventually they will try it. Don’t give up!

AUTHORS NOTE: Do not remove your bird’s normal diet in order for your bird to try new foods. You’ll end up with a very sick bird. Dogs and cats will eat whatever you offer them when hungry enough. Parrots on the other hand, will rather starve to death than eat a foreign food. A parrot’s metabolism is extremely fast, and they need a constant supply of food to maintain their body’s functions! 


Sadly, seeds have been given a bad name over the years to the point where people have removed them from their bird’s diet completely. Pellets are recommended in their place for a healthier diet, however, what many people do not understand is that an “all pelleted” diet can be equally as bad as an “all seed” diet. In order for a bird or mammal to be on a healthy diet it has to be BALANCED, meaning contains differing kinds of foods in certain quantities and proportions. Therefore, everything in moderation! Seeds are nutritious in their own right (take the time to look up the vitamin content of millet, you will be shocked).
Research your bird’s species and look at what they eat in the wild, if the bird does eat seed, it will be eaten as PART of their wild diet. Unfortunately, in captivity we feed ONLY this one food group, which is why these birds run into so many nutritional deficiency problems. The same applies to the beloved pellet diet; no manufacturing company in the world would ever be able to add every vitamin and mineral a bird requires into one pellet; therefore, their pelleted diet is insufficient for their nutritional needs; other foods such as seeds, vegetables, fruit, grains, protein, etc, needs to be fed as well.
All birds should be on a well-balanced diet and seed should be included. Larger parrot species enjoy small seeds too, such as canary seed; watching a Macaw hulling this seed is a delight, it’s amazing how they can use their giant beaks to manipulate something so tiny. NOTE: When it comes to diet, always follow your vet’s advice.


NEVER feed your parrot a peanut, peanuts contain mycotoxins and aflatoxins which can cause: cancers, liver damage, respiratory disease and Aspergillosis. Do you know that parrots are up to two hundred times more sensitive to aflatoxins than us humans are?!

Many new bird owners do not know how much food their birds should consume in a day. So, they either over-feed them or under-feed them. Overflowing food bowls can result in seed becoming stale and mouldy (mouldy seed can be fatal to birds) Seed often left unchanged for days, maybe even weeks, becoming contaminated with dust, poop, mould etc.
Unfortunately, many birds have starved to death too with overflowing food bowls; the seed has been eaten and only the husks remain, unbeknown to the owner as the bowl appears full. Routine wellness checks with an avian vet helps bird owners to control their bird’s weight and diet. Speak to an avian vet about how much your individual birds should be eating on average a day. The vet will take their weight, age, exercise allowance and general health into consideration in order to give you and accurate quantity of food to feed.
NOTE: As a general rule of thumb, birds should be given FRESH food and water daily to remain healthy.


(List not in alphabetical order)

Apple (remove seeds)
Apricot (remove pip)
Strawberry (wash well)
Blood orange (remove seeds)
Red currents
Cantaloupe melon (seeds safe to eat)
Cheery (remove pip)
Figs (raw)
Kiwifruit (peeled)
Lychee (peeled)
Mandarin (peeled)
Mango (remove pip)
Orange (remove seeds, feed on occasion as very acidic)
Papaya (seeds safe to eat)
Peach (remove pip)
Pear (remove seeds)
Pineapple (peeled, feed on occasion as very acidic)
Plum (remove pip)


Barley, brown rice, basmati rice, corn on the cob, (red, white and black) Quinoa, pasta, rye and wheat.


The following food list is safe to feed your birds, please remember that whenever you are introducing new foods to your parrots, you start off giving in small quantities. If not done slowly your birds may develop upset tummies. Please always wash fruit and vegtables before you feed them to your birds.Preferably organic.

VEGTABLE LIST: (Not in alphabetical order)

  • Asparagus                   
  • Broccoli                           
  • Beets                                
  • Bok choy
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Dark green lettuces
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Peashoots
  • Pumpkin
  • Butternut (cooked)
  • Chilli peppers
  • Sweet peppers
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes (cooked)
  • Watercress
  • Cabbage
  • Parsnip
  • Zuchinni


It's extremely important that parrots are not fed solely on an all seed diet. Parrots need vitamin A which lacks in an all seed diet. If parrots don't have any Vitamin A in their diet; owners will begin to see the following symptoms: the bird will be prone to respiratory infections, swelling and abscesses will show in the mouth and around the tongue, they will be stress prone and can die with only minor handling. Parrots that are fed only on seeds will suffer from malnutrition; this will affect their all-round physical health, and may lead to early death!

Examples of food which are high in vitamin A: Carrots, kale, spinach, cantaloupes, apricots, mangoes, broccoli, pumpkin, asparagus and peaches.


Here is a list of POISONOUS foods , that you should NEVER feed your parrots.

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Raw/dried beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Apple seeds
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Garlic
  • Olives
  • Peanuts
  • Fruit pits (example plum and peach pits)
  • Rhubarb
  • Tomato (steams and vines)
  • Tobacco


A cockatiel

Need Cockatiel Advice?

Contact me to see how I can help you:
Contact me via Facebook Facebook
Find me on TikTok TikTok