Cockatoo Food You Can Trust
The Cockatoo family inhabits a greater portion of Oceania including Papa New Guinea Indonesia, and Australia. Like cockatiels, these larger relatives have regal feathers on their heads called a crown that expresses very vividly their moods. Cockatoos are known to be needy, so good cockatoo food will go a long way, along with long and daily open-space time. They tend to become depressed and aggressive if kept in a cage all day; they need about four hours of playtime outside the cage every day (depending on their size). Cockatoos tend to live for 50-80 years many time outliving their owners and then spending time in bird shelters, so having a plan on where your cockatoo will go is a must!
What should I know about what my cockatoo eats?
A huge factor in cockatoo health is what they eat, and this is one of the things a pet owner must be proactive in. Food impacts your bird’s health in the following ways.
When cockatoos are in a domestic setting they are normally given seeds, but this does not mean this is the best food to give them. Cockatoos expend different amounts of energy when they are in cages compared to free flying cockatoos. This has to be kept in mind because cockatoos develop heart disease such as atherosclerosis if given only all-seed diets and overloading their bodies with only fats. Another consideration is how much Vitamin D is synthesized from sun exposure, and how this affects balding and feather growth.
Common malnutrition in cockatoos can be traced to our lack of knowledge. The Association of Avian Veterinarians and the board of certification that certifies avian veterinarians was only created in the early 1990s. Before this we thought a simple diet of only seeds or only pellets could provide for our birds’ needs, but luckily our increased interest and care for cockatoos, their diets, and their well-being can help them live longer and happier lives.
What exactly does my cockatoo naturally eat?
These natives of Australia use the vegetation, seeds, fruits, nuts, and insects around them in nature. Finding a spectrum of nutrition in the wild Australian outback.
What about an all-pellet diet?
Another easy solution that many cockatoo owners run into is the all-pellet diet. Cockatoo pellets are seen as the lesser of two evils, a common view when creating recommendations. One being seeds, the other being pure pellets.
Neither has to hurt our cockatoos! According to Pamela Clark, CPBC, CVT :
“Many avian veterinarians believe that parrot owners should be encouraged to feed a 100% manufactured diet to their birds because the majority of owners are not capable of providing a good diet otherwise. I never fail to feed saddened when I encounter this ideology, for it essentially removes the benefit and privilege of choice from the parrot owner. In other words, the owner is encouraged to feed a pelleted diet, not because of strong conviction that the diet is optimal, but because it is perceived as the lesser of two evils.”
This lesser of two evils view from manufacturers comes from an understandable view of the average consumer and hectic schedules. Especially as nearly 60% of domestically kept birds show signs of malnutrition when dead, this is according to Valerie Campbell, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Whether pellets contribute to it or not we do not know, but cockatoo pellets are a way out for many people to keep some form of nutrition for their birds.
All-pellet cockatoo diets have some nutritional problems such as a lack of enzymes in synthetically made, and processed pellets. Just like us if we do not have these enzymes, our kidney, liver, and stomach health begins deteriorating. Resulting in declining health. Gout, vitamin D and iron toxicity can all result from the high density of protein and otherwise nutritious elements in pellets
Just like we do not rely on multi-grain energy bars to keep us fed throughout the day, neither should cockatoos rely on processed foods. There needs to be a balance in nutrition. Both extremes are luckily not the only choices around, we have the choice to keep a healthy balance!
By looking at how wild cockatoo relatives survive, flying through all the different ecological zones of Australian outback, jungle, prairies, and badlands we can try our best to imitate a diet that is balanced. While also noting the absolutely different cockatoo lifestyles our feathered friends have. Through this lens we try to provide our friends wholesome and delicious mixes that will keep your cockatoo delighted!
What do I feed my cockatoo?
A balanced diet will surely keep your feathered friend happy. Insects and nuts make up the usual protein in a day of the life of a wild bird. Protein helps with seasonal molting, natural development, preventing balding in cockatoos, and keeping your bird friend’s feathers beautiful. Healthy veggie options include: lettuce, spinach, corn, carrots, broccoli, kale, and chard. The darker the leaf, the healthier it is! Lettuce and celery on the other hand do not contain many nutrients. Healthy fruit options: pineapples, mangoes, melons, bananas, tangerines, apples, and coconuts. Whole grains such as millet, buckwheat, oats, rye barley, wheat, quinoa, spelt, kamut, amaranth, and rice, are all great sources of carbohydrates to mix in with a cockatoo’s diet. Owners usually soak, cook, sprout, or even let their cockatoos eat them raw. Remember to wash them so some of the pesticides and other micro-contaminants are washed away! A nutritious and tasty catering for your cockatoo, and many other of these goodies can be found here!
Keep in mind that the science and research behind a cockatoo’s diet is still young and expanding. First we fed our fids what they wanted (seeds), which lacked the necessary nourishment. We them overcompensated with jam packed pellets. Consider taking a holistic approach, by not leaning towards either extreme. It is always best to use what mother nature has provided us. Pure. Simple.
Always remember to consult your avian veterinarian to determine your bird’s individual dietary needs.