Don't let the term "eats like a bird" fool you. Your umbrella cockatoo requires more than just a few ounces of bird seed every day. Arm yourself with the facts on how much your white-feathered friend should eat each day as well as what foods are nutritious for her.
More Art Than Science
Unfortunately there are no specific measurements that have been determined in feeding a cockatoo. Even the experts in the bird food industry recommend starting out by feeding your bird one cup of pellets, then increasing or reducing that amount as needed. Compounding the uncertainty is that the amount might vary from day to day. Some days your cockatoo could be more hungry or might be more inclined to eat out of boredom. Just like your appetite fluctuates depending on what you're doing or how you're feeling, so can your bird's. Keep an eye on your cockatoo's bowl throughout the day, and if you notice that she's emptied it, refill it with half as much as you fed her to begin with to assure that she has access to food at all times.
Parrots can display quirky eating behaviors, and your umbrella cockatoo is no exception. You may find that she throws food out of her cage or that she dumps half of it into her water dish. With manners like that, you might be tempted to cut back on the amount of food you feed her. You don't want to risk her health, though, by not giving her enough to eat. Instead, make modifications to how you feed her to encourage her to eat more and waste less. Tricks like feeding her on top of her cage or dividing her food into two or three servings that you give her at different times throughout the day can help. Also, if she likes to make "soup" in her water dish, try switching her to a water bottle so that she can't defile her drinking water.
A Healthy Diet
Umbrella cockatoos shouldn't be expected to live by pellets (or seeds) alone. Parrot and Conure World recommends that only 80 percent of your cockatoo's diet should be a quality pellet formulated for cockatoos. The other 20 percent should be a combination of fruit, vegetables and grains. Most human foods are acceptable to feed your cockatoo, and she'll enjoy sharing meals with you on a regular basis.
Although most fruits and vegetables are healthy for your umbrella cockatoo to eat, some foods are toxic to her and should never be fed to her in any amount. Parrot and Conure World cautions against feeding your cockatoo avocados, chocolate, alcohol, asparagus, eggplant, cabbage, raw potatoes and rhubarb. Parrots can't digest dairy products very well, so milk, cream, butter and cheese should be kept to a minimum or avoided altogether. It may be difficult to hold out on your cockatoo when she wants to share the potato chips or cookies you're eating, so if you can't say "no," either limit how much junk food you give her (to an extremely small amount) or try giving her a healthy, cockatoo-approved snack to munch on while you're eating the less healthy stuff.
- Lafeber's Parrot Food; Cornell, Illinois
- Avian Web.com: Umbrella Cockatoos aka White Cockatoos, Umbrella Crested Cockatoos
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.