Food for Smaller Parrots, such as Cockatiels, Lovebirds, Parrotlets, etc.

Food for Smaller Parrots, such as Cockatiels, Lovebirds, Parrotlets, etc.

Lutino Cockatiel

Bird Nutrition


The key to a good diet is variety. A cockatiel's diet should consist of a quality small parrot mix (some are listed below), supplemented with various fruits, green foods, millet spray, and occasionally some mealworms (or other forms of protein - as listed below). Ensuring a varied diet for our pet cockatiels may sound easier than it really is. Cockatiels are known for their "pickiness" when it comes to trying out new food items. It is best if fresh foods and a varied diet is provided from early on. But if they did not have that advantage, it does time, patience and persistence! to get them to accept healthy food items.

  • One of my favorite tricks is to place a shallow dish on top of their regular food dish (I found some that fit snuggly - so no soft food gets mixed into their actual seed dish). Alternatively, take out the seed dish and exchange it for one filled with fresh food items at those times of the day when your cockatiels are most likely to eat (usually first thing in the morning or in the evening).

  • Role modeling: Even the pickiest birds try new foods if they watch other birds eat them ... So a "birdie" role model would be great -- but not everybody has another "willing" bird for that purpose. Human caretakers can also be such a role model. When eating a healthy food item, I usually allow my birds to get their pickings off my plate. Please do make sure that any food on your plate is safe for birds to eat (for relevant tips scroll down) ...

LutinoBase Diet:

  • I would start with a good quality (if possible organic) dry food / seed mix. I would look for preferably "organic" or at least "all-natural" dry bird mixes. "Fortified diets" are not necessarily good as often inferior, artificial additives are used, which may have no health benefit at all or indeed may even be harmful. It is far better to buy unfortified mixes and add a good quality bird supplement instead.

Dr. Harvey's Bird Food Mixes or Lafeber are convenient options that lack many of the harmful additives that are commonly found in commercial mixes and have a great variety of quality ingredients (including dried fruits, veggies, herbs / greens and even superfoods, such as bee pollen!) - in short: myriad nourishing ingredients that are not found in other commercially available bird mixes.

However, our biggest grievance with their products is that they use sulphurated dried produce (a process which also requires chemicals), but it is very difficult to find mixes with unsulphurated fruits and veggies. You could just buy the seeds, nuts and grain mix and buy human-grade unsulphurated dried produce / greens as well as bee pollen and mix them in. Even organic trail mixes (WITHOUT CHOCOLATE!) work great. With a little creativity you can put a mix together that offers superior nutrition without the chemicals typically found in commercial brands.

    Bee Pollen Granules: The ultimate whole food

    Nuts: Macadamia, Brazil pieces, Almond pieces, Filbert pieces, Cashew pieces, Pecan pieces, Pistachio meats, Pignolia pieces, Walnut pieces

    Dried Fruit: Banana Chips, Apples, Mango pieces, Coconut Chips, Orange Peel Strips, Raisins, Cranberries

    Vegetables: Petite peas, Carrots, Celery Stalk and Leaf, Parsley Flakes, Green Beans, Spinach Flakes, Red and Green Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Zucchini

    Seeds: Canary Grass, White Millet, Canola, Safflower, Sunflower, Niger, Caraway, Hemp, Sesame, Flax

    Grain: Oat Groats

    Bean: Soy Bean

    Herbs: Echinacea Augustifolia, Dandelion Leaf, Red Clover blossoms, Papaya Leaf, Oat Straw, Peppermint Leaf, Calendula Flowers, Red Raspberry Leaf, Alfalfa, Fennel Seed, Thyme Leaf, Rose Hips, Rosemary Leaf, Basil Leaf

This bird food mix lacks the harmful additives that are commonly found in commercial mixes and has a great variety of quality ingredients that are not found in other commercially available bird mixes. You may want to ask your local store to add quality bird food items, such as Dr. Harvey's, to their product line. Oftentimes, bird stores are happy to oblige, which is far less likely to be the case with the large chain pet stores. Bird stores generally have a better selection of bird foods than pet stores, but they also carry those brands that contain harmful chemicals. Reading the list of ingredients is really important. The general rule is: if you can't pronounce it -- don't buy it! All ingredients should be natural and healthy.

  • Another option: A good quality formulated diet. Vets often recommend Harrison's -- which is a good diet, but mostly available at vet's offices and, as is the case with pellets in general, acceptance may be an issue.

Vegetables and fruits should be part of a cockatiel's daily diet. This includes apples, grapes, many garden vegetables such as spinach, watercress, field lettuce, poppy, chickweed, dandelions, carrots, corn on the cob, peas, endives and sweet potatoes.

  • Convenient Sources of Fruits / Veggies:
    • Baby Food: Human baby food with fruits and vegetables (i.e. Gerbers)Dry Fruits / Veggies: When fresh fruits and vegetables are not available, dehydrated fruits and vegetables work wonderfully. Many birds love their crunchiness, or they toss them into their water dish (creating a "soup" of some sorts) and then eat them once they are rehydrated. Be prepared to change the water more often throughout the day. Dried fruits and vegetables have the advantage that they don't go off. You could literally leave them in their cages for days (unless they get wet, of course). This surely comes in handy when traveling. Dried fruits and veggies also help convert "seed junkies" to a healthier diet. When you are at home, you can moisten the dried fruits and veggies with warm water to rehydrate them. Birds tend to LOVE warm fruits and veggies, maybe because it gives them flashbacks to the times when they were chicks and were fed warm regurgitated food by their bird parents.
      • It is important to keep in mind that some companies add artificial coloring to their dried fruits and veggies to make them visually appealing.Only purchase naturally dried fruits without any sulfur dioxide, as this preservative is known to increase hyperactivity, aggressiveness, feather shredding or picking due to allergies.

  • Sprouting or germinating is an excellent method (and most certainly one of the most cost-effective) of providing nutrient-dense (living) foods to birds. Even those that are less cooperative in eating their daily portions of fresh foods in many cases will enjoy eating sprouted seeds.
    • Sprouted seeds are healthier as the sprouting changes and enhances the nutritional quality and value of seeds and grains. Sprouted seeds are lower in fat, as the process of sprouting utilizes the fat in the seed to start the growing process - thus reducing the fat stored in the seeds.Sprouted seeds will help balance your bird’s diet by adding a nutritious supply of high in vegetable proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and chlorophyll.Soaked and germinated "oil" seeds, like niger and rape seeds, are rich in protein and carbohydrates; while "starch" seeds, such as canary and millets, are rich in carbohydrates, but lower in protein.It is an invaluable food at all times; however, it is especially important for breeding or molting birds. Sprouted seeds also serve as a great rearing and weaning food as the softened shell is easier to break by chicks and gets them used to the texture of seeds.

      Sprouting is easy -- this webpage has step-by-step instructions ... You can also germinate the sprouting mix - rather than going through the process of sprouting, which may be somewhat intimidating initially. Germinated seeds offer their own unique sets of valuable nutrition and are quicker to obtain and less likely to spoil.


Additional proteins should be offered such as cottage cheese, hardboiled eggs or monkey chow.

Peanuts are also a valuable source of protein -- however, peanuts are often contaminated with aflatoxin, a fungal toxin. Aflatoxin is carcinogenic and causes liver damage in birds and other animals. Roasting reduces aflatoxin but does not eliminate it entirely. North American peanut producers are currently working on eliminating contaminated peanuts from their products. Caution is advised when feeding peanuts. Some bird owners, opting to be on the safe side, are eliminating peanuts from their pets' diet.

A cuttlebone, mineral block, gravel and oyster shell can be provided to provide the necessary calcium and minerals

Fresh water should be provided daily.

Food Items Not to Feed to Birds, or only in Moderation

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