Cockatiels and parakeets are the two most popular species of pet birds in the world. Many people keep both species.
If this describes you, it is only natural to wonder if you can feed your cockatiel and your parakeet the same food!
Can cockatiels eat parakeet food? For that matter, can parakeets eat cockatiel food? Let’s find out!
Can Cockatiels Eat Parakeet Food
The simplest answer to the question can cockatiels eat parakeet food is yes. However, there are some important caveats you will want to know about, which we will discuss in the rest of this article.
Learn About Feeding Parakeets and Cockatiels
In this short YouTube video, you can learn how to make your own seed mix that you can feed to both your parakeets and your cockatiels.
You can also feed a pre-prepared (commercial) seed blend mix, but if you like to have more control over your birds’ diet and know exactly what goes into your pet birds’ food, this is definitely the way to go.
Differences Between Cockatiel and Parakeet Food
If you compare your parakeet and your cockatiel side by side, you can see how a parakeet is a smaller parrot species in every way, including its beaks.
Cockatiels have larger, stronger beaks than parakeets. This means cockatiels are typically able to grasp and handle larger seeds and pellets than parakeets can.
Often, cockatiel food mixes feature larger pellets or bigger chunks of dried fruits and veggies than what you will find with parakeet food mixes.
Of course, as this Reddit cockatiel and parakeet owner thread points out, some cockatiels don’t like the larger pellets or chunks and prefer the parakeet-sized food mixes.
The key thing to remember is that you want your bird to be able to grasp and eat their food easily and without risk of choking.
As MIT’s bird forum points out, the only way you can know whether the food mix is comfortable for your cockatiel or parakeet to enjoy is to watch them eat it.
If you see either species of birds struggling, this is a signal to try a mix with smaller pieces.
Do Cockatiels and Parakeets Have Different Nutrient Needs
In a wild setting, both parakeets and cockatiels are native species to Australia.
As VCA Animal Hospital explains, parakeets have the same basic food foraging habits in a wild setting that cockatiels display.
Both cockatiels and parakeets are ground-foragers, seeking among the grasses for edible sun-dried seeds, grains, fruits and berries, ground-dwelling insect species, various vegetation and even ripening vegetables that are intended for use as crops.
So in a wild setting, both cockatiels and parakeets basically have the same type of diet.
Where problems often arise is in a captive setting when parakeet and cockatiel owners assume their birds only need to eat seeds.
This is one of the leading causes of parrot obesity, fatty liver disease, and early mortality.
So while parakeets can eat cockatiel food (as long as they can handle the larger pieces) and cockatiels can eat parakeet food, neither species should be given either seeds or the more nutritionally complete pellets as a sole nutrient source.
When you are feeding your cockatiel or parakeet a nutritionally appropriate diet, it isn’t going to make as much of an impact if the commercial seed or pellet mix you are using is labeled for cockatiels or parakeets.
How to Feed Cockatiels and Parakeets a Nutritious Diet
As we shared in the previous sections here, when you feed your cockatiel or parakeet a complete and balanced daily diet, the main concern you will need to watch out for when switching between parakeet or cockatiel food is the size of the food itself.
Parakeets might struggle to eat larger seeds or pellets that cockatiels could easily handle.
But some cockatiels prefer the smaller pellets and seeds used for parakeet mixes and it is fine to offer those to your cockatiel if that is preferred.
Overall, however, you need to make sure your bird’s diet does not consist entirely of either seeds or even pellets.
Let’s take a closer look at how to feed your cockatiel or parakeet the most nutritionally appropriate and enriching daily diet.
What Foods Should You Give Your Cockatiel or Parakeet Daily
As Wellesley Animal Hospital explains, all pet birds need a nutritionally varied diet.
This should include the many foods your bird would naturally enjoy in a wild setting.
However, you don’t want to feed every single food every single day – this would likely result in a very fat pet bird!
Rather, you can use this guide to put together a weekly menu rotation that will offer your parrot a little bit of everything they need and would naturally eat in the wild.
As the New Plymouth Veterinary Group points out, neither seeds nor pellets should represent the sole source of parrot daily nutrition.
You can offer pellets as the main source of nutrition – up to 80 percent of your cockatiel or parakeet’s daily caloric intake.
Seed can comprise another 10 percent of the daily diet.
The remaining 10 percent should come from fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables, grasses and herbs, and also appropriate plain “people” foods like cooked (steamed and un-seasoned) beans, pasta, and even hard-boiled chicken eggs for protein.
To summarize, here is a basic daily menu you can follow for your cockatiel or parakeet:
- 75 to 80 percent pellets (formulated for cockatiels or parakeets).
- 10 percent seed blend (formulated for cockatiels or parakeets).
- 10 percent fresh produce and “people” foods as outlined earlier here.
What If Your Cockatiel or Parakeet Won’t Eat Pellets
One of the biggest advances in avian veterinary medicine in recent years has been the discovery that seed mixes can cause nutrient deficiencies and health problems for birds.
Sure, your cockatiel or parakeet loves seeds! But in a wild setting, your bird would have to work hard to find the seeds that deliver nutrient-dense protein and fatty acids.
In a captive setting, you just keep bringing the seeds and your bird just keeps eating them. It is a far different situation and health issues can easily develop.
Yet for many adult cockatiels and parakeets, a seed-centric diet is all they have ever known.
Just like you might be quite hesitant to try new strange-looking food and worry if it would be toxic or poisonous, your bird feels the same way the first time you offer pellets.
So you want to be patient as you slowly introduce pellets in with your bird’s daily seed. Never remove the seed and hope starvation will force the bird to eat the pellets.
A much safer and kinder strategy is to offer only pellets during the normal morning and evening foraging hours. Do this for two hours in the morning and two hours at night. Watch your bird see if they try the pellets.
If they do not, after the two hours is up, remove the pellets and replace them with the bird’s normal seed.
An alternate method is to mix the pellets with the seed. However, this makes it harder to see if your bird has actually eaten any of the pellets.
For truly resistant birds, you can crush the pellets into a powder and sprinkle it on their fruits and veggies and over their birdseed.
Always ask your avian veterinarian for guidance during seed-to-pellet transition periods.