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16 human foods safe for cockatiels (and 9 that are not)

Cockatiels are very inquisitive birds, and they often take a keen interest in what their owners are munching on. If you’ve got a parrot, you never eat alone! But can you share your snacks with your feathered friend?

While it can be hard to say “no” to your crested companion, it’s always best to research the impact of feeding a bird a particular food on a bird’s health prior to offering it.

Can cockatiels eat snacks for humans?

Foods that appeal to humans tend to be loaded with sugar, salt, fats, seasonings, preservatives, or some combination of the aforementioned items. These additions to food make it taste terrific, but as we’re unfortunately all aware, they are ultimately unhealthy and lead to weight gain or other health concerns if we overconsume them.

Feeding processed foods to a cockatiel would result in similar complications, but they would be magnified due these parrots’ tiny size To ensure that you are providing your bird with healthy food options, keep reading for a list of 16 human foods safe for cockatiels to consume.

Remember: the majority of your cockatiel’s diet should consist of a pelleted food made for small parrots, supplemented with plenty of vegetables and some fruits. The foods discussed here are mostly meant to be treats only. Please have a look at the full article on cockatiel diet to find out what your bird should be eating on a daily basis!

White cockatiel parrot eating from human hand

16 safe human foods for cockatiels

Can cockatiels eat shrimp?

Unseasoned shrimp that has been cooked (not fried) is safe for your crested companion. Cooking shrimp, or any shellfish for that matter, removes any bacteria that could otherwise be harmful for birds to ingest.

Shrimp is among the best sources of animal protein that a bird can consume due to its low fat content, but it should still be nothing more than a rare snack. These parrots simply don’t need that much protein!

Can cockatiels eat pecans?

Cockatiels enjoy eating pecans, as these tree nuts have a crunch that is simply irresistible. Pecans are a good choice for an occasional treat, as they offer protein, fiber, healthy fats and various (micro)nutrients.

When training your cockatiel, you could use small pieces of pecan as rewards.

Can cockatiels eat pumpkin seeds?

Considering that seeds make up a sizable portion of a cockatiel’s diet in the wild, it should come as no surprise that they enjoy pumpkin seeds.

Both raw and cooked pumpkin seeds will be appreciated by your feathered friend, though offer small amounts, since they’re very fatty. Avoid salted pumpkin seeds.

Can cockatiels eat rice?

Definitely! All varieties of rice are safe for ‘tiels to consume as long as they have not been fried or seasoned. This being said, since white rice is not that high in beneficial nutrients, it is best to stick to other rice varieties if you want to include some in your cockatiel’s chop mix. Black rice is a great option.

You may have heard the myth about birds and rice: you shouldn’t feed uncooked rice to pigeons, because they can explode. Luckily, this is not true, and birds like cockatiels (and pigeons, for that matter) can eat raw rice just fine.

Can cockatiels eat pine nuts?

Yes, pine nuts are just fine for cockatiels to eat. Being rich in antioxidants and manganese, the pros of pine nuts outweigh the cons of them being high in fat and quite caloric.

Just don’t feed pine nuts too often, and if you use them as training treats, break them in half so your cockatiel doesn’t end up eating as many.

Can cockatiels eat pasta?

Yes, both cooked (with no salt) and uncooked pasta are fine for parrots to eat. Include some cooked whole-wheat pasta in your cockatiel’s fresh food mix or make a foraging toy that includes some uncooked pasta for your bird to snack on.

White cockatiel parrot taking a bite of some penne pasta.

Can cockatiels eat hard-boiled eggs?

Although it can be a little weird feeding egg to a cockatiel (like giving them their distant cousin’s kids, maybe?), eggs are actually a popular way to offer protein to parrots that need it, like nesting hens.

Cockatiels can eat eggs prepared in any way as long as they don’t contain salt or oil. If you’re having a hard-boiled egg, there’s no reason you can’t share a piece with your feathered friend!

Can cockatiels eat mealworms?

OK, I know this article is about human foods for cockatiels, and mealworms are arguably more popular to feed reptiles and wild birds than people. They’re becoming more popular for human consumption, though, so who knows!

Mealworms make for a great cockatiel snack, as they contain healthy amino acids, protein, fiber, and more! Cockatiels can be fed both live and dried mealworms, though dried mealworms tend to be the safer choice. Live mealworms could make your bird uncomfortable if they remain alive after ingestion, and in rare cases, they act as vectors for disease.

Can cockatiels eat meat?

Yes, cockatiels are omnivorous, so meat is technically an acceptable food for them to ingest. However, it’s not a necessary component of their diets, since they would never really have a chance to consume meat in their natural habitat.

For this reason, it may be better to feed your bird a different protein. The mealworms discussed above are a good example, as cockatiels do regularly consume bugs in their natural environment. Even shrimp are a better choice than “regular” meat, since they’re basically underwater insects!

If a cockatiel is fed a small piece of meat such as beef, pork, or chicken as a treat, it should be cooked to kill any bacteria.

Can cockatiels eat pistachios?

Full of heart-healthy benefits and a delicious taste, pistachios are a nut that your cockatiel will love (just make sure they are unsalted)! If you’re trying to train your cockatiel, small pistachio pieces should definitely help motivate it.

Can cockatiels eat peanuts?

A controversial choice! Peanuts are a nice snack for your feathered friend, as they are crunchy and packed with healthy nutrients. However, there’s always been much ado about this groundnut, because improperly stored unshelled peanuts (also known as monkey nuts) can be infected with aspergillus mold spores. These can make parrots sick.

The good news? Human-grade, unshelled peanuts are actually fine to feed as long as they’ve been stored safely. Most cockatiels will enjoy opening the shells to get to the tasty legume inside. This being said, peanuts also have substantial fat content, so it is best to limit your bird’s peanut consumption to no more than a few a month.

Can cockatiels eat peanut butter?

All-natural unsalted peanut butter is fine, though very high in fat. I like to use it by spreading a tiny bit on items I’d like to get my cockatiel used to. This trick comes in very handy if you’re trying to switch your cockatiel from a seed-based diet to pellets, for example!

Can cockatiels eat almonds?

Absolutely! These tasty tree nuts offer your plenty of vitamin E and B2, so one or two as an occasional snack would be perfect.

Can cockatiels eat walnuts?

Sure thing, walnuts have the highest antioxidant content of any nut, so they’re a healthy snack option for your cockatiel. Do remember that, like all nuts, walnuts are very fatty. Consider feeding small pieces rather than whole walnuts or even halves at a time.

Cockatiels don’t have the beak power to crack a walnut shell, so you’ll have to go for unshelled here.

Can cockatiels eat flax seed?

Yes, adding a few flax seeds to your bird’s normal mix of seeds makes for a fantastic treat that is full of omega-3 fats and other health advantages. They also make for good training treats since they’re so tiny.

Can cockatiels eat oatmeal?

Cockatiels can eat uncooked oatmeal and all forms of oats. Cooked oatmeal may be a little too messy and sticky to feed – though if you don’t mind the mess, you can cook or soak it in water rather than milk for a wholesome meal.

Foods to avoid (or offer in very small amounts)

There are a few foods that are explicitly toxic to cockatiels and other parrots. These include:

  • Chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Alliums (garlic, onions, etc., especially in powdered form)
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Apple pips and stone fruit pits

Other than these, there are also many foods that, although they won’t make your cockatiel ill, are just not suitable for them to eat. Unsurprisingly, these include many of us humans’ favorite snacks.

Can cockatiels eat tortilla chips?

It’s a good idea to avoid feeding a cockatiel tortilla chips, as most are salted, fried, and full of preservatives.

And yes, I know that your bird probably comes flying over whenever it hears you open a bag and will beg incessantly, but chips are just not good for them!

Can cockatiels eat yogurt?

Feeding dairy to your feathered friend should be avoided. It wouldn’t take much yogurt to give your bird an upset stomach. Besides, the artificial flavors and added sugars in most yogurts don’t exactly constitute a healthy meal for a parrot!

Can cockatiels eat goldfish crackers?

While goldfish crackers are a fun snack for humans to eat, ‘tiel owners should steer clear of these snacks for their birds.

There is very little nutritional value that can be obtained from goldfish crackers, so there are many infinitely better snack options.

Can cockatiels eat graham crackers?

Sorry, but no s’mores for your feathered friend! Graham crackers are simply too sugary to be a healthy snack for your bird.

Can cockatiels eat cereal?

The amount of sugar and processing that goes into most cereals make them a poor food choice for a cockatiel. Find a healthier, more wholesome breakfast item for your pet. As mentioned earlier, uncooked oats are a good option!

Can cockatiels eat chips?

Considering that the vast majority of chips consist of seasoned potato starch or corn flour and are devoid of nutritional value, it is safe to say that chips are not a good option for your bird. Salt, fat, flavor enhancers, additives… none of these belong in a cockatiel’s diet.

Can cockatiels eat cheese?

A little bit of cheese probably won’t do any harm, but this is really a human food, not a bird one. Soft cheeses are also high in lactose, which cockatiels and other parrots can’t digest.

Can cockatiels eat bread?

You can totally share a few crumbs with your cockatiel, but don’t overdo it, especially with the ‘American style’ bread that contains sugar.

Can cockatiels eat toast?

Your crested companion will love the crunch of toast, but it’s the same story as with bread: no more than a few crumbs here and there, please.

Conclusion

As a general rule, it is wise to avoid giving your cockatiel any food items that have been heavily processed. Instead, provide your bird with healthy, wholesome foods that are been minimally altered from their natural state.

It’s also important to remember that moderation is key. Given that it is highly unlikely that a cockatiel would find any of the foods mentioned on this list in its natural habitat, owners should stick to offering small portions only.

It may be fun to see how a cockatiel reacts to trying one of your favorite snacks, but be sure to prioritize your bird’s health and refrain from including too many human foods in its diet!


If you have any more questions about cockatiel diet and nutrition or if you’d like to share your own experiences with these Australian parrots, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Sources

Amanda L. Foreman, Jesse A. Fallon, and Joseph S. Moritz “Cockatiel Transition From a Seed-based to a Complete Diet,” J. of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 29(2):114-119 (2015).

2 thoughts on “16 human foods safe for cockatiels (and 9 that are not)”

    • Thanks for commenting, but there is no need at all to avoid white rice for all birds. First of all, white rice will have low arsenic levels because the outer hulls are removed. Secondly, even brown rice can be fed fine, it’s not like it’d be a cockatiel’s daily staple food anyway. Those concerned about possible arsenic content can select rice from low-arsenic areas (it’s easy to find on Google), go for basmati (lowest arsenic levels generally) and wash their rice.

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