While a cockatoo is a companion bird that can live for decades, its life span is shortened and its good health threatened by an unbalanced diet. These stubborn birds can become complacent, picky eaters, so it's up to you to enforce a healthy diet that will keep your companion in top shape for years to come.
Offer your bird a combination of foods that favors pellets. Different types of pellet foods are tailored to different age groups, and according to the Wisconsin Veterinary Referral Center, they should make up about 75 to 80 percent of your cockatoo's diet.
Mix seeds in with your cockatoo's pellets as a treat. Try seeds like safflower, sunflower, eucalyptus and fennel, and monitor how your bird eats -- he will typically develop favorites and eat around the rest. At most, seeds should represent 25 percent of the bird's diet.
Feed your cockatoo an assortment of fruits in addition to pellets and seeds. Fresh or naturally dried fruits like apples, bananas, oranges and raisins are just a few healthy fruits that your bird will enjoy. If you give your bird dried fruits, keep an eye on his water -- he may mix the fruit in with his water before eating it, necessitating more frequent changes of his water dish. You may use fruits as a substitute for up to half of your bird's pellet intake, but be mindful not to give him too many vitamin C-rich foods, as this can create a toxic overabundance of the vitamin.
Feed your bird according to the portion guidelines on his bag of pellets. Arrange his food in a dish and present it to the bird in the morning, leaving it in the cage throughout the day before removing it at night. If your bird is only eating certain pieces of food, like nuts, gradually reduce the amount you offer to encourage him to try other foods, like pellets. Remove and discard any fresh fruit that has not been eaten by the end of the day.
Monitor your bird's behavior. If your bird exhibits signs of boredom like screaming and plucking his own feathers, present his food in a more challenging way. For example, skewer fresh fruit on a stick for your bird to nibble at, or present pellets in a food-hiding toy from your pet supply store.
- Even if your bird is unresponsive to pellets, do not give up hope or stop offering them. They are the healthiest food your cockatoo can eat, and while it can take weeks or even months for a stubborn bird to start accepting them, it is ultimately for the best.
- If your bird favors only certain food, like nuts, do not respond by cutting off his supply. Instead, gradually reduce the amount of these foods that are in his daily mix.
- Do not feed your cockatoo avocado, it can be toxic to him.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.