What Do Cockatoos Eat?

A cockatoo’s diet can be split into two main categories — fresh food, and dry food. Fresh food includes items such as fruits, and dry foods being foods such as seeds, feed and pellets.

Typically, a healthy cockatoo will have a diet that is 60% dry food and 40% fresh food.


Dry Foods

Dry food should form the bulk of a cockatoo’s diet. In the wild, cockatoos survive primarily by eating nuts and seeds. This is why cockatoos have such large and powerful beaks, as well as feet that are good at manipulating small objects.

They are skilled at picking up large nuts, and biting through the shells with just their beak. They then use their skillful tongue to pick out pieces of the nut with dexterity almost on par with that of a human finger.

Cockatoos in the wild usually do well in densely forested areas. They can travel for long distances to find food supplies. However, when their natural habitats are destroyed they sometimes have to move to agricultural regions to forage for food. They are considered pests by farmers, especially when they arrive in large flocks.

In captivity, it is often best to feed your cockatoo either pellets or pre-mixed seed. Some owners want to give their cockatoos large nuts like they are used to in the wild, but the problem is this is that the cockatoo may “cherry-pick” their favorite nuts and eat nothing else. This does not equal a healthy and well balanced diet.

In seed mix that has already been mixed, there has been a proper distribution of all the seeds and minerals needed for your bird to have a healthy diet. However, you should be careful what brand you buy, as many tend to just use cheap seeds that aren’t very nutritious.

Pellets are a favorite for many owners, as they are made from ground up seeds that are then made into a pellet shape. What is so ideal about this is that it makes it impossible for your cockatoo to pick out any favorites or dismiss any seeds they don’t like; everything is mixed together in such a way that your cockatoo gets everything they need in their diet.

Much care has been given to develop pellets for different species of cockatoos. Be sure you purchase the best food for your particular type of cockatoo. Your avian veterinarian should be able to suggest a quality brand.


Fresh Foods

The rest of your cockatoo’s diet should be made up of fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to fruits, cockatoos are not picky as a species. Individual cockatoos may form their own personal preferences, but there are very few fruits that the typical cockatoo will turn away.

The only real exception is avocado, as this is poisonous to many birds including cockatoo and parrots.

Try giving your cockatoo different types of fruit and see what they like best. You’ll want to give your cockatoo one piece of fruit per day. If your cockatoo is small, you can slice off a small piece of fruit to give to them, and gradually increase the size of the piece you give them as they grow larger.

There is little prep work you have to do when feeding your cockatoo fruit. You may want to wash the fruit as you would before eating it yourself. If your cockatoo is fully grown you may not even need to slice their fruit. They are skillful eaters and you do not need to peel their fruit for them; with their powerful beaks and agile tongues they can work around almost any peel, even those like oranges.

When it comes to vegetables, your cockatoo will be a bit more particular. First, you need to cook your vegetables before your cockatoo can eat it. Secondly, you need to use fresh produce when giving your cockatoo vegetables. Never feed them anything from a can.

The reason cockatoos cannot eat canned vegetables is because they need to eat their food without any additives, such as salt or pepper. Canned foods often have additives in them, such as sugar.

While your cockatoo can eat fruit once every day, they will not need to eat vegetables quite as often. You can instead try feeding them some mixed vegetables every two or three days.

Do not be surprised if your cockatoo does not finish a meal. They will often only eat something halfway before discarding it or moving on to something else. They are very casual eaters and can get messy at times.

You should try feeding your cockatoo a variety of fruits and vegetables early on so that they will become more curious about trying new foods and will have a broader sense of taste. If you only feed them one or two favorites until they reach adulthood then they will have a very hard time wanting to try anything new.

A cockatoo should always have fresh water available in a bowl that can’t be tipped over.

As with people, cockatoos can become obese if they’re fed too much food or the wrong kinds of food. At your regular checkups with the veterinarian he should tell you if your cockatoo is the correct weight for its age and species. If not, he can suggest changes in diet.

When you purchase or adopt a cockatoo, be sure and ask what its current diet has been. You can then make subtle changes instead of an overnight, complete change that can upset your bird’s digestion. This includes the schedule of when food was given, the type of pellets given, and the types and amounts of other food.

Cockatoos also need plenty of wood toys to chew on. Otherwise they’ll find things within your house to chew on instead.

When purchasing a cockatoo it is important to remember that a diet of bird seed will not keep your bird healthy. For optimum health you’ll need to provide the 40/60 mix of dry food and fresh food. Set up a schedule for your bird for snacks and meals.