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Cockatiel Nutrition Guide
A proper diet helps insure a happy, healthy life. Cockatiels need a varied diet for both their physical health and their mental well-being, just like us!! Provide a variety of food sources daily so they can enjoy a change of food (whatever their mood desires) and still get a healthy mix of nutrition. Have a bowl of pelleted food and filtered water always available, then provide a dish of fresh raw vegetables (grated or cut into small pieces) that should be replaced daily. That is the majority of their diet. Occasionally give them a treat of Millet Spray, scrambled egg, some crackers (pepper treats, or Ritz), nuts (unsalted is best), food off the table (bread, vegetables and cooked meats), birdie bread (recipe available upon request), as well as some seed. The occasional foods provide them with the same variety we enjoy at our meals, as well as required nutrients. Avoid milk, as birds lack the enzyme necessary to digest lactose and they may get diarrhea.
The following list (not to be considered complete) of various components of foods, their benefits, as well as what foods they can be found in to provide for good health, along with a list on page 4 of dangerous and deadly foods have been copied from articles from our local Veterinarian, as well as from: http://www.cockatiel.org/articles/nutrition.html, http://www.cockatiel.org/tips/people_food.html and http://www.cockatiel.org/articles/dangerous_foods.html (please see these articles for additional information):
CARBOHYDRATES: - an essential part of their diet.
Complex carbohydrates (starches) provide a steady source of energy. They can be found in whole grains: bread, cereals (low in sodium and sugar), pasta and rice.
Simple carbohydrates (sugar) provide no nutrition.
PROTEINS: - building materials of body tissue, enzymes that regulate growth and functioning.
Made up of amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be manufactured by the body and therefore must be a part of their diet (humans have 8 essential amino acids, the exact number required by the bird species is still unknown). Complete proteins contain at least 8 of the essential amino acids, Incomplete proteins have less then 8. If a bird eats an incomplete protein along with a complete one, its body can combine amino acids to create additional complete proteins (such as peanut butter on whole wheat bread).
Sources: yogurt, low fat cheese and cottage cheese, meat, poultry (chicken, turkey), fish (water packed tuna), dried beans, corn, eggs, nuts, some bread, cereals, beans, rice and pasta.
FATS: - provides energy and aids in the absorption of calcium and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
A fat free diet is nearly impossible to achieve and would ultimately be unhealthy for your bird. Linoleic acid is a nutrient supplied by fats and cannot be manufactured by a bird's body. Fats are a mixture of 3 types of fatty acids - polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated. High fat diets are associated with obesity and liver disease. The largest amount of saturated fats are found in foods from animal sources (meat and dairy) and certain vegetable oils (palm and coconut).
Sources: meats, egg yolks, grains, nuts and seeds.
Be careful of feeding seed as more then 10% of your birds diet. Too much seed can contribute to an early death (8-17 years of age, instead of 20-40 years of health).
CALCIUM AND PHOSPHORUS: - a balance is necessary for optimum health and strong bones. Calcium is more easily absorbed in the presence of Vitamin D-3 and moderate amounts of Fat.
Source: cottage cheese, unprocessed cheeses, yogurt, tofu (bean curd), egg shell, collard and turnip greens, kale, broccoli, cuttlebone and mineral block.
Seed is high in phosphorus and therefore another reason to limit your bird's supply of seed to less then 10% of its diet. A phosphorus excess can lead to calcium deficiencies. The oxalic acid in spinach and beet greens decreases calcium absorption.
IRON: - produces hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying red blood cells). Lack of sufficient iron in the bird's diet may cause the bird to appear lethargic and fatigued.
Source: meat, poultry, fish, soybeans, egg yokes, wheat germ, nuts, kidney beans, chickpeas, and may have been added to cereals or breads (check the ingredient listing).
SODIUM: - helps maintain the body's fluid balance. Naturally occurring in many foods and therefore no supplementing in the diet is required.
Avoid any food showing a high-sodium content as this may cause serious neurological problems.
You will note that any one food may contain several necessary elements for your bird's good health, such as pellets, leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale), whole wheat, eggs, rice, cereals and nuts, just to name a few. Look at the list and make yourself up a plan for feeding your bird (just as you plan your family's meal) and enjoy a good healthy life together.
The following alphabetical list is for DEADLY/DANGEROUS foods, which must be avoided:
If you have any further questions, please give us a call or search the Internet (a terrific source of information from qualified Avian Veterinarians and other experienced people).
Ron and Charlie