cockatoo food

Cracking The Cockatoo Diet Puzzle: Tips For A Healthy Pet

Embark on a journey to learn about cockatoo parrot food. Our comprehensive blog gives you step-by-step tips on crafting the perfect. cockatoo diet. Elevate your feathered companion's well-being. Explore how to get your cockatoo to eat better. From essential nutrients to delightful treats. Learn more now!

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Step into the fascinating world of Cockatoos, those delightful companions that have enchanted bird enthusiasts around the globe. Celebrated for their elegance, incredible smarts, and captivating personalities, Cockatoos demand special attention when it comes to their diet and overall well-being.

Get ready to transform into a Cockatoo culinary expert as we uncover the secrets of crafting the perfect parrot diet. Throughout this journey, I'll unravel common cockatoo food misconceptions and empower you to become the go-to guru for providing your feathered friends with the nutrition they need for a vibrant and enduring life. By the end of this blog, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art and science of a health Cockatoo diet. Get ready to soar into the realm of Cockatoo expertise!

What Is Special About Cockatoos?

Cockatoos, including the enchanting Umbrella Cockatoos, playful Goffin Cockatoos, and vibrant Moluccan Cockatoos, have firmly established themselves as extraordinary companions in the avian world. What sets these feathered friends apart, and why is it crucial to pay special attention to their dietary needs? Let's uncover the distinctive qualities that make Cockatoos truly stand out.

  1. Cockatoo Sociability: In their native habitats, Cockatoos, whether Umbrella, Goffin, or Moluccan, are far from loners. Thriving in close-knit flocks, they showcase their social nature through lively chatter, playful antics, and engaging interactions. This strong sense of community underscores the importance of companionship and safety in their lives.

  2. Discerning Diners: Cockatoos exhibit selective eating habits in the wild. Their diet comprises a rich variety, including raw seeds, fruits, greens, and the occasional insect. This diverse palate ensures they receive the essential nutrients they need. As natural foragers, these birds are adept at finding the best food sources, and parents invest significant time teaching their young about safe and nutritious food options.

  3. Lifelong Commitment: Just like African Grey Parrots, Cockatoos, including Umbrella, Goffin, and Moluccan, have the potential for a long and fulfilling life. With proper care and a balanced diet, they can live for several decades. This longevity emphasizes the substantial commitment required in nurturing them as feathered companions, demanding special attention to their overall well-being.

While many people may not delve into researching their Cockatoo's dietary needs or educating them about safe eating habits, it's crucial to recognize these unique traits. Cockatoos, with their vibrant personalities and diverse species, deserve a diet that aligns with their natural preferences, fostering both their physical health and mental well-being. Let's dive into the specifics of their dietary requirements and explore how to provide these captivating birds with the exceptional care they deserve.

The Myth Of A Complete Cockatoo Diet

Before we unravel the intricacies of crafting an optimal Cockatoo diet, it's crucial to dispel some common misconceptions surrounding their nutritional requirements. Let's untangle the top myths that often swirl around the internet. Remember, even though you Cockatoo is a bundle of fun antics it is still an exotic pet that needs a special diet.

Cockatoo parrot diet

Myth 1: Cockatoos Can Thrive on an All-Seed Diet

FACT: Wild cockatoos have a varied diet that changes with the seasons, including fruits, nuts, berries, flowers, seeds, and greens. To keep them healthy and happy, it's essential to understand and adapt their diet to offer them a full range of nutrition. Instead of a bag of seeds, cater to their diverse nutritional needs. 

Myth 2: Commercial Seed Mixes Mimic The Diet of a Wild Cockatoo.

FACT: The notion that bird seeds replicate a natural diet is tempting, but in reality, they fall short. Wild birds enjoy a diverse menu of fruits, veggies, greens, and the occasional insect, providing essential vitamins and minerals. However, a seed-only diet leaves your bird lacking these crucial nutrients. Despite marketing claims, the outer hulls coated with vitamins don't cut it because, in reality, birds chip them off, and the vitamins end up on the floor. Seeds are essentially nutritionally empty and high in fat. It's vital to consider the overall nutritional needs of our feathered friends beyond marketing tricks.

How can you tell the weight of a bird?
Diane Burroughs, ©2020

Myth 3: Cockatoos Are Picky Eaters

FACT: It is critical to teach your cockatoo what is safe and good to eat. Have you ever wondered why your bird flocks to your side when you're eating your own meal? You are modeling that "this food is safe to eat." Our pet birds may have been weaned onto seeds before being rehomed. They probably watched their parents eat a seed diet rather than nutrient rich pellets. I'll teach you how to teach your bird that pellets and veggies are good for it!

With these myths out of the way, we're ready to dive into the fascinating world of crafting the perfect cockatoo parrot diet.

How Do Cockatoos Eat In The Wild?

cockatoo food

Imagine a bustling scene in the wild, where Cockatoos, the social butterflies of the bird world, gather in massive flocks. At feeding time, smaller groups break away on a culinary search, stumbling upon a seasonally available hidden feast. Soon, the air is filled with unique calls, as if the bird is shouting, "Hey, everyone, come join the feast!" It's a symphony of communication and an open invitation to dine together.

Now, let's zoom in on the wild buffet when mom and dad are teaching baby cockatoos how to forage and what to eat. Not everything on this menu is safe to eat! This is where the wise elders step in. They become the "food critics," teaching the young ones the art of looking before they munch. It's like a family eating class, with the lessons about eating a diverse range of safe, ripe food that helps them thrive.

Back in our homes things are a bit different. A lot of breeders wean chicks on seeds because they are cheap and tasty. But, here's the twist – introducing a variety-packed menu, like pellets and veggies, can take a bit like convincing. We, the pet owners, step into the shoes of the bird parents, guiding our companions toward a diverse and healthy diet.

And here's the grand reveal: parrots aren't really picky eaters; they don't really have a lot of taste buds! They are simply instinctually wired to be weary of new foods because they don't know if it is safe.

By understanding how Cockatoos do their dining dance in the wild, with the older generation passing down food wisdom, we become the "parronts" in our homes. It's a journey that needs a sprinkle of patience, a dash of persistence, and a big dollop of commitment to giving our bird buddies the happiest and healthiest life ever. Ready for the adventure?

What Happens If My Bird Only Eats Seeds?

Feeding your cockatoo an exclusive seed diet can result in a range of health disorder, affecting its overall health and well-being. One prominent hazard is the potential for poor feather condition, feather plucking, and self-mutilation. Seeds lack the essential nutrients necessary for maintaining healthy feathers. A seed-only diet can lead to nutritional imbalances, which may manifest as feather disorders and behavioral issues like excessive plucking.

"Cockatoos may exhibit neurotic, anxious behavior like feather picking & self-mutilation when they don't get the care they need, including a proper cockatoo diet."

Adapted from Chloe Sanctuary

The second significant hazard associated with an all-seed diet is the increased risk of fatty liver disease and obesity. Seeds are naturally high in fats, and a diet predominantly consisting of seeds can lead to excessive fat intake. Birds fed only seeds often develop fatty liver disease, a potentially life-threatening condition. This high-fat diet can also lead to obesity which can affect heart health, depression and anxiety, joint pain, breathing problems, and more.

Beyond external signs like poor feathers, the third hazard involves nutritional deficiencies that impact every organ in the cockatoo's body. Seeds lack essential vitamins and minerals, leading to imbalances that can affect the heart, kidneys, and other vital organs. Nutritional deficiencies can have widespread consequences, affecting the overall health of the bird and potentially leading to severe health issues.

cockatoo diet

Finally, an all-seed diet can contribute to a shortened lifespan and a slow decline in health. Cockatoos require a diverse range of nutrients for optimal longevity, and a seed-centric diet falls short of providing these essentials. By understanding these hazards and diversifying their diet to include pellets, vegetables, and fruits, cockatoo owners can actively promote a healthier and more fulfilling life for their feathered companions. 

What Is The Best Cockatoo Parrot Food?

bird diet
© Diane Burroughs

Having demystified the notion of vitamin-coated seeds and scrutinized the potential health issues associated with exclusive seed diets, it's now imperative to explore the vital elements of a comprehensive diet tailored to your cockatoo. Diversity is the key, and it's the secret to ensuring your fine-feathered companion's health and contentment."

PELLET BASE: For optimal nutrition in your Cockatoo's diet, we recommend integrating high-quality pellets as a foundational element in their meals. Recognized brands like Roudybush, Harrison's, and Zupreem Naturals shine as outstanding choices, offering a comprehensive mix of vital nutrients. These pellets are meticulously crafted to meet the distinct dietary needs of Cockatoos, ensuring they obtain the essential vitamins and minerals crucial for their overall health and well-being.


In broadening the dietary spectrum for your Cockatoo, consider enriching their meals with a diverse array of bird-safe "superfood" vegetables. Enlist options such as kale, alfalfa leaf, moringa leaf, spinach, and broccoli, all packed with essential nutrients that contribute to your Cockatoo's overall well-being.

The significance of variety cannot be overstated, as each vegetable brings a unique set of vitamins and minerals to the table. Think of color.  Not just green veggies, but yellow / orange, purple  / blue, red, and white.

By introducing a wide range of options, you're ensuring that your Cockatoo revels in a comprehensive and balanced diet. This concept harkens back to the substantial portion of plants in the wild Cockatoo diet, making the incorporation of Organic Bird Greens particularly noteworthy!


While incorporating fruits into your Cockatoo's diet adds a delightful touch, it's crucial to exercise moderation. The natural sugars in fruits can accumulate, potentially leading to weight gain and other health considerations. However, choices such as apples, pears, berries, and melons can function both as a delectable treat and a wellspring of essential vitamins for your Cockatoo. Balancing these fruity indulgences ensures your feathered friend enjoys the flavors without compromising their health.


Adding a dash of variety to your Cockatoo's culinary palette extends to incorporating bird-safe herbs. Choices like parsley, cilantro, basil, and dill not only enhance the flavor profile but also contribute additional nutrients to your Cockatoo's diet. These herbal accents provide a savory twist while offering a nutritional boost to their overall well-being.


Floral additions can be a whimsical yet nutritious component in your Cockatoo's diet. Selecting edible flowers like dandelions, nasturtiums, pansies, and hibiscus not only adds a burst of color to their meals but also introduces a range of beneficial nutrients. Just ensure the flowers are free from pesticides, ensuring a safe and enjoyable culinary experience for your feathered companion.


Incorporating grains into your Cockatoo's diet provides a hearty and energy-packed foundation. Opt for whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats, as they offer a diverse array of nutrients. These grains serve as a substantial source of complex carbohydrates, supporting your Cockatoo's energy needs while contributing to their overall nutritional balance.


While raw seeds should not constitute the primary portion of your Cockatoo's diet, they can still play a role as a supplemental treat. Organic millet, daikon radish, adzuki bean, lentils, buckwheat, and flax when soaked and offered in moderation, introduce healthy fats and additional nutrients. 


Introducing beneficial oils into your Cockatoo's diet can offer additional nutritional advantages. Red palm oil and coconut oil, when used sparingly, can contribute to your feathered friend's overall well-being. Red palm oil is rich in antioxidants and contains essential vitamins, while coconut oil provides healthy fats that can support your Cockatoo's feather health and immune system. Incorporating these oils in moderation ensures a balanced and flavorful addition to their diet, but it's essential to consult with your avian veterinarian to determine the appropriate quantities for your Cockatoo's specific needs. Remember, a well-rounded and diverse diet contributes to the vibrancy and longevity of your cherished avian companion.

Convert To Healthy Cockatoo Parrot Food With The 'Slow and Steady' Method

🩺 Vital Note: A sudden shift in diet may pose significant risks, potentially resulting in severe weight loss and, in extreme cases, proving fatal for certain Cockatoos. To consistently monitor your bird's health during dietary adjustments, first, get a wellness checkup. Next, obtain a baseline weight maintain a regular weighing schedule. Also, observe the droppings daily.

Should your Cockatoo show signs of distress, consult with your avian veterinarian. Your bird's well-being is of utmost importance, and professional guidance ensures a seamless transition to a healthier and more balanced culinary routine.

Converting your cockatoos diet to pellets can occur quicker than you think when you use this evidence backed method described by Dr. Scott Echols,(1998). Here's a simple step-by-step guide to help you do it:

Materials Needed:

  • Pelleted bird food
  • Your bird's current food

Setting the Stage:

1. The evening before introducing the pellets, remove all food from your bird's cage.

2. The next morning, offer only the pellets for 4 hours.

3. In the afternoon, provide a small serving of your bird's previous food in a separate bowl if needed.

4. The previous diet should be removed in the evening, leaving the pellets as the only food overnight.

5. Make sure to have fresh pellets available at all times, refreshing them daily.

Ideal Bird Types:

This approach is suggested for birds that prefer feeding from their feet or those displaying less sociable behaviors. In a recent study encompassing 90 parrots of diverse species, an impressive 90% smoothly transitioned to a pellet-based diet within a week. This swift adjustment provided significant reassurance to their caregivers.

Singing is believing!" 🎶🎵

Do Cockatoos Eat Meat?

Cockatoos are primarily herbivores, with a diet that mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. However, in the wild, some species of cockatoos have been observed consuming insects and small invertebrates as part of their natural foraging behavior. This behavior is often associated with obtaining additional protein and essential nutrients.

In captivity, providing a balanced diet that mimics their natural nutritional needs is crucial. Plan to incorporate occasional protein sources such as legumes or insect treats, such as mealworms or crickets.

While not a staple, these insectivorous tendencies reflect the adaptability of cockatoos and their capacity to explore diverse dietary options when given the opportunity. Always ensure that any treats offered align with your cockatoo's specific nutritional requirements and consult with an avian veterinarian for personalized dietary recommendations.

Treats For Cockatoos

Training Treats: When it comes to training cockatoos, selecting appropriate treats is paramount. Opt for small, easily consumable bites that your cockatoo finds irresistible. Seeds, nuts, or dried fruits cut into small portions can be excellent choices. These treats should be distinct from their regular diet to maintain their allure during training sessions. Consistency is key, and positive reinforcement through tasty treats can be a powerful motivator for your cockatoo to grasp new commands and behaviors.

Nutritious Treats: Offering nutritious treats is a thoughtful way to enhance your cockatoo's overall well-being. Fresh fruits like apples, berries, or slices of papaya provide essential vitamins and antioxidants. Vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, or leafy greens add variety and valuable nutrients to their diet. Nuts, in moderation, offer healthy fats. Always ensure treats align with your cockatoo's dietary requirements and avoid excessive sugary or fatty options. Balancing indulgence with nutritional value ensures that treats contribute positively to your feathered companion's health and happiness.

In conclusion...

Crafting a well-rounded and thoughtful cockatoo diet is a testament to the care and commitment you hold for your feathered companion. By incorporating a diverse array of foods, from pellets and vegetables to fruits and nutritious treats, you're not just providing sustenance; you're creating a foundation for a vibrant and thriving avian life. Remember, a carefully planned diet isn't merely about meeting nutritional needs but is a powerful tool to promote mental stimulation, physical well-being, and a joyful existence for your cockatoo.

Related Posts:

Unlocking the Secrets to a Parakeet Diet

Forage to Flourish: Revamping Your Cockatiel's Diet

Discover the Optimum African Grey Diet and Help Them Thrive

References:, Transitioning Pet Parrots Away From a Seed Diet.

A Cure for Feather Destructive Behavior., Chloe Sanctuary.

Bingham, B. Harmony Animal Behavior, Dr. Scott Echols Series.

Cummings, A. M., Hess, L. R., Spielvogel, C. F., & Kottwitz, J. J. (Year of publication). An Evaluation of Three Diet Conversion Methods in Psittacine Birds Converting from Seed-Based Diets to Pelleted Diets. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 36(2), 145-152. URL: 

Ford, S. Balancing Your Parrot's Lifestyle.

Schwarz. D. What can African grey parrots eat?; 22 February 2021.

Stahl, S., & Kronfelt, D. (1998). Veterinary Nutrition of Large Psittacines. Seminars in Avian and Exotic Medicine.

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Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

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