What an Umbrella Cockatoo Can and Can't Eat

Umbrella cockatoos can be fun and entertaining pets. They are affectionate and love to cuddle and be held. They are very social, and bond well with humans, but may develop separation anxiety when left home alone. They can also be loud at times.

Animated white cockatoo putting on a show.
What an Umbrella Cockatoo Can & Can't Eat
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Umbrella cockatoos crave a lot of attention. They need owners who can train them and set healthy boundaries. They need to be properly socialized and trained to avoid some negative behaviors and self-destructive patterns.

They do not like being confined and can be prone to self-harm if not properly socialized and well-cared for. They need ample space to live in, such as a large cage filled with lots of toys, mirrors, and other enrichment activities, to keep them safe as well as entertained and occupied, according to the veterinarians at Lafeber Company.

Cockatoo lifespan

Umbrella cockatoos are native to Indonesia and can live up to 70 years in the wild. When kept in captivity, the cockatoo lifespan is often not as long. Their lifespan in captivity averages about 30 to 40 years, but with proper care and socialization, it can be longer. Giving your pet a healthy diet, alleviating his anxiety, and giving him enough access to sunlight all help him enjoy a long, happy life.

What do cockatoos eat?

Umbrella cockatoos need a varied and balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Feeding your pet cockatoo fresh foods along with a pelleted diet is best. Cockatoos eat seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, greens, and berries. Poor nutrition can become a problem among pet birds, so consult your veterinarian to make sure you are feeding your cockatoo the correct variety and proportions of the nutritious foods she requires.

A common misconception among bird owners is that feeding pre-made bird food or seeds is enough. According to Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, board-certified bird specialist and owner of the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, New York, "Cockatoos need a varied diet, including greens, vegetables, and fruits, with around two-thirds of a typical diet coming from nutritionally-balanced, formulated pellets."

Pelleted diet

Pelleted diets alone do not provide enough variety and balanced nutrition for your pet cockatoo. Introduce new fresh foods to your cockatoo to add healthy options to his diet. It may take a few tries before your cockatoo accepts a new food and acquires a taste for it, but you should continue to introduce new foods regularly.

Pellets should be a significant part of your pet bird's diet since they are formulated by veterinarians to specifically meet the nutritional needs of birds like your umbrella cockatoo and contain vitamins and minerals that contribute to a well-balanced diet. Pellets should be given daily along with fresh foods for optimal wellness. Consult your veterinarian for the best brand and type of pelleted diet for your cockatoo's unique health needs.

Seed diet

Seeds are fine for cockatoos, but a seed-only diet is not recommended. It does not have enough nutrients and vitamins. "Seeds should make up no more than 10 percent of a cockatoo's diet," according to Dr. Alicia McLaughlin, DVM, associate veterinarian at the Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine in Bothell, Washington. She recommends incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables as well as cooked grains and legumes into your umbrella cockatoo's diet.

Fruits and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are tasty and packed with nutrition for your pet cockatoo. Make sure to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables to get rid of pesticides and chemicals. VCA Hospitals recommend that fruits, vegetables, and greens should account for approximately 20 to 25 percent of your cockatoo's daily diet.

Plenty of fresh water

Give your umbrella cockatoo plenty of fresh water every day to keep her hydrated, and wash the water bowl daily to get rid of bacteria.

People food

People food can contain excess sugar and calories and is not healthy for umbrella cockatoos. These generally processed foods contain a high amount of fat, sodium, and preservatives and should be avoided.

Artificial sweetener Xylitol

PetMD warns against feeding any food that contains the artificial sweetener Xylitol. It can cause liver damage, hypoglycemia, and even death in many animals and should be avoided. It is used in gum, candy, and other diet products to replace sugar.

Can I feed honey to my cockatoo?

Honey is not recommended to feed to your cockatoo because it could contain bacteria and mold. This could make your bird sick or even cause death. It can be difficult to determine the quality of the honey, so it is best to avoid it altogether.

Avocados are toxic to birds

Avocados are toxic for birds and should not be fed to your umbrella cockatoo. PetMD explains that avocados contain persin, which is a fungicidal toxin. Ingesting persin can cause heart problems, respiratory distress, and death in birds.

Processed bread

Store-bought processed bread offers little nutritional value to birds and is not recommended. Bread with mold on it can be harmful to birds. Mold can cause respiratory infections, and stale bread can be a breeding ground for bacteria, according to The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Apple and pear seeds and fruit pits

While apple and pear slices are fine for your cockatoo, apple and pear seeds are not. PetMD warns that apple and pear seeds contain cyanide and must always be removed prior to feeding the fruit to your bird. Cyanide is a cardiac toxin for birds.

Fruit pits from peaches, cherries, plums, apricots, and nectarines also contain cyanide so you must remove all pits before giving your umbrella cockatoo these fruits.

Chocolate is a no-no

While birds may like the taste and seek out chocolate, it contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both classified as methylxanthines. These chemicals can cause hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, tremors, possible seizures, and potentially death in pets if ingested at a toxic dose. Steer clear of chocolate altogether.

Onions are not safe

Onion may seem like a healthy choice, but raw or cooked, onions are not safe for birds. Dr. Hess explains, "Onions contain sulfur compounds that, when chewed, can irritate the lining of a bird's mouth, esophagus, or crop, causing ulcers and can induce rupture of red blood cells resulting in anemia." Onions are also unsafe for dogs and cats. Stick with milder vegetables that will not cause digestive issues for your cockatoo.

Garlic contains allicin

Dr. Hess also warns that "Garlic contains allicin, another chemical that can cause anemia and weakness in birds." If you want to add some spice to your pet bird's diet in a safe way, she recommends giving her a small piece of hot pepper which contains vitamin A.

Monitor your cockatoo's diet

Remember to monitor the food that your umbrella cockatoo eats each day. Be sure to regularly introduce new foods to his diet for variety and nutritional value, and offer him plenty of fresh water every day. Your umbrella cockatoo will appreciate the healthy and delicious foods you feed him, and his diet will make a positive impact on his overall health and well-being.