Female Gang-gang Cockatoo

Caring for Cockatoos - Recommended Cockatoo Diet

Moluccan CockatooThe natural habitat of cockatoos ranges from dry bush land in Australia to humid forests in Indonesia. Therefore their diets can vary considerably, consisting of fruit and fruit seeds, nuts, flowers, corn where they can find it.

We can only attempt to emulate the variety of the diet for our birds in captivity. So many pet birds are sadly fed on a seed only based diet.

Cockatoos, in particlular the Roseate or Galah cockatoos, are prone to becoming obese and suffer with fatty tumours, particularly if they do not get sufficient exercise.

Seed Based Diets OR Complete Diets?

Seed based diets can be healthy PROVIDED they are offered along with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Seed only diets are a total no no. So many times we hear from people who say their bird won't eat fresh items so they continue to offer only seed. This is total nonsense and unacceptable. Most parrots relish fresh fruit and vegetables and they will eat them if the human perserveres with offering them.

We have fed our birds for many years on any variation of the following diet. Many of the birds here can and do fly so watching their weight is not a problem. If your bird(s) cannot fly however, for whatever reason, you will need to keep check on the amount of fat they eat.

The following diet is suitable for many parrots not just cockatoos, including amazons, macaws, conures etc; but you will need to vary amounts for different species; i.e. the amount of seed offered to cockatoos and the type of seed.

All parrots must have as varied a diet as possible, and fed at least twice a day. Once in the morning and also in the afternoon/evening. This stops them from eating all their 'favourites' at once and as with humans, gives them something to look forward to. The daily diet should consist of seeds, nuts, cooked or sprouted pulses, fresh fruit, vegetables and animal protein such as cooked chicken.

An inadequate diet lacking the correct balanced nutrients, can cause health problems and/or behavioural problems, which in turn can lead to feather plucking.

Please note that inadequate housing and lack of mental stimulation can also lead to feather plucking.

FRUIT - Fresh

Apple, banana, blackberry, cherry, figs, grapes, kiwi, mango, melon, nectarine, orange, papaya, pear, pineapple, plum, pomegranate.

FRUIT - Dried

Currants, dates, figs, raisins. These should preferably be soaked overnight and thoroughly rinsed. Buy dried fruit without added preservatives e.g. No sulphur or E additives. Dried banana chips are usually popular. Suitable foods are:


Alfalfa, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, courgettes, cucumber, green beans (French/Runner), kale, peas, sweet peppers, pumpkin cooked, spinach, spring greens, sprouts, sweet corn, swiss chard, tomato, watercress.


Almond, brazil, hazelnut, peanut, pecan, walnut, cedar nut, pine nut.

All nuts can be given in shell or shelled. If these are given in shell you may need to crack the shell a little for your bird, to give it a start, walnuts should be halved, your bird will then eat from the two halves.

Don't buy palm nuts for you parrot, these are harvested from palm forests which have been planted in place of natural rainforests purely for commercial gain.

Similarly do not buy palm oil!


Hard cheese, cooked chicken, boiled eggs, mixed pulses - soaked and cooked, brown rice and pasta - cooked. Cuttlefish bone, millet sprays, sunflower or other seed soaked, toast with honey (preferably Manuka) or peanut butter.

Your bird should be offered at least three different varieties of vegetables and two of fruit daily, minimum.

Protein such as cheese or egg occasionally, cooked lean chicken should be offered at least twice per week.

Soaked and cooked pulses and soaked sunflower can also be offered regularly, as with toast, pasta etc. Do not offer your bird too many treats as it will eat only these and ignore the rest, therefore not get an adequate supply of vitamins/minerals. (However do not be mean with your treats either). Common sense is necessary.

Cuttle fish and iodine block can be available at all times.

It goes without saying that clean fresh water, preferably filtered water, should also be available. A vitamin and mineral supplement can be added to the water daily. Plus a limited amount of good parrot mix offered daily.

Vitamin A is absolutely essential to your bird, this can be found in items such as sweetcorn and carrot. Fresh frozen mixed vegetables (defrosted) are a good standby such as sweetcorn and peas.

Of all the things listed above, there are usually items of food which are favourites. These being: Sweetcorn on the cob, this should be washed and cut into slices or quarters, broccoli, spinach or swiss chard, cheese, chicken, hard boiled egg, cherries, beans, peas, pine nuts, walnuts, millet spray. Obviously a selection of all listed above should be offered in addition.

Fruit and vegetables should be given in a separate feeding dish and available at all times, along with the seed and nuts.

Complete Diets

If a complete diet is your choice (and they are often recommended by vets these days) there are a great number on the market to choose from. Some very good and some not so good. It can be quite daunting making a choice. Whilst they contain all the nutrients for your bird's requirements, I think they can lack in interest for your bird. If you do feed one of these diets to your bird, you must provide extras such as fruit and vegetables to maintain their interest in eating healthily.

The commercial complete diets are great for overweight or sick birds (if they will eat it) as they regulate the amount of fat intake so your bird should not go hungry but will not overeat and become obese which can lead to all sorts of health problems. They also help improve feather quality and general all round well being of your bird.

Try to opt for the natural or organic complete diets which are not artificially coloured.

We do use here at the Sanctuary both seed based and complete diets, depending on the individual bird and their dietary requirements.

NOTE: Chocolate is POISONOUS to your bird as is avocado and mushroom.

Do not feed your bird sweets, cakes, crisps or alcohol.

Anything else which is not on this list, consult an avian vet before feeding.