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Cockatoo Diet

 What is safe and what is toxic

With so much information available on the internet it is hard to know what is factual and what is myth. So on this page we hope we can clarify what is safe for cockatoos to eat and chew and what items are toxic.

When we got our first cockatoos back in the late 1980's the internet was not invented - hard to believe but true. So we had to rely on books and the advice of our avian vet at that time and common sense.

There are some items you should never give your bird: 

Avocado, chocolate, rhubarb, alcohol. These items spring to mind immediately - the first 3 do have toxic properties which could harm or kill if ingested. However I have to say we have a rescue Umbrella cockatoo here which was fed chocolate daily and he still says 'chocolate, chocolate' sadly. So however much he ingested, it did not affect him.

Please note though chocolate is proven to have toxic properties so please avoid.

Avoid alcohol at all costs.

Then there are the items which many people say are toxic but which I would disagree with:

Apple pips, stones from cherries and peaches/apricots, raisins or other dried fruits, garlic. There is a substance called amygdalin in apple pips which releases cyanide into the body, however your bird would have to eat a cart load before it caused any harm. The same with cherry pips, apricots stones. Most birds do not in any case eat the stone, they may pick around it but mostly they end up on the floor. I have never understood why dried fruit has been on anyone's list of toxic foods. There is sometimes (depending what you buy) sugar added to dried fruit, which is not healthy, but not toxic.

With regards to garlic, a small amount is fine and garlic does contain health giving properties, purchase specifically made for parrots garlic sticks to be safe.

So many items which we are told not to feed to our cockatoo or other parrot because these items are bad for them, too many to list but including:

chips or fries, cheese, crisps, fatty meat, tea, coffee, biscuits, bread, peanut butter, many other human foods items.

In the main that is good reasoning, however I do feel a small amount of cheese is fine and the odd treat of a biscuit or toast and peanut butter. Cockatoos like us - like treats. We can all be totally proper and never feed our companion anything naughty at all, but what is life without a treat?

Food items which are TOTALLY safe, rather a lot if we think about it.

Apples, bananas, pears, cherries, oranges, celery, tomatoes (no they are not toxic), sweet potato (cooked), swede or turnip (cooked), carrot, egg (you can give the shell also is a good form of calcium), kale, spinach, pineapple, mango, papaya, sweetcorn, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, mange tout, runner beans, sweet pepper, melon, pumpkin (cooked) walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecan nuts, cashew nuts (not salted), roasted monkey nuts - roasting the shell kills off any potential harmful fungus in the shell.

Avoid lemon and lime these are too acidic.

Avoid milk - parrots cannot tolerate lactose in their system.

Lettuce and cucumber - these will not harm your bird but they are mostly water.

Please be careful with chilli peppers - these are often found in many parrot seed mixes. If the chillis have not been stored correctly they can contain a fungus which is sometimes even obvious to the eye at the top of the chilli, sometimes only obvious once the bird bites into it. 

With regards to peanuts - we never feed raw peanuts in shell. Peanuts are ground nuts (they grow on the ground) and the fungus is found in the shell - not on the nut itself, so when breaking the shell to get to the nut, this is when the birds ingest the fungus. Roasting the shell kills 99% of any potential fungus.

I have no doubt there are many other foods which will spring to mind which we can add to this page as time goes on. If you have any information about safe (or unsafe foods) please feel free to contact us.