Can Cockatiels Eat Sunflower Seeds?

We know that sunflower seeds are a healthy snack for all of us, but what about our feathered friends? Can cockatiels eat sunflower seeds? Are sunflower seeds good for them? Absolutely! Many people give their cockatiels seeds or milletOpens in a new tab. as their main food, along with some fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Can Cockatiels Eat Sunflower Seeds? Yes, sunflower seeds are healthy, tasty, and fun for cockatiels to eat. They can help your cockatiel’s immune system, improve its heart health, give it energy, reduce swelling, and give it the vitamins and minerals it needs. However, moderation is quite important, as they are very nutrient-rich, so avoid feeding them too many sunflower seeds.

Can Cockatiels Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Black oil and striped sunflower seeds are high in fat, so do not give your cockatiel more than 2 tablespoons per week.

Also, cockatiels can bite through and shell sunflower seeds. They even consider this enrichment, as it transforms eating into play. Never roast sunflower seeds, as the added salt, oil, and preservatives are harmful.

We are trying to analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly of adding sunflower seeds to your cockatiel’s diet. So keep reading to find out how healthy sunflower seeds are in general and what the negatives are. We also give you advice on how many sunflower seeds are safe for your cockatiel.

Are Sunflower Seeds Good For Cockatiels?

Sunflower seeds are harmless and do not contain any poisonous or harmful substances. However, the high-fat content of sunflower seeds means that they should only be given to cockatiels in small amounts.

Sunflower seeds have many health benefits for people, and the same is true for cockatiels too.

A quarter cup of roasted, dry sunflower seeds contains the following:

Calories207 kcal
Protein5.8 grams
Fat19 grams
Fiber3.9 grams
Carbohydrates7 grams

As a threat, they can give your cockatiel a stronger immune system, more energy, and additional vitamins and minerals.

Let’s explore these health benefits in more detail:

More energy

Sunflower seeds are rich in protein, which is necessary for the production of energy.

But sunflower seeds also have things like vitamin B1 and selenium that help the body make energy.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Sunflower seeds are recognized for their rich protein and healthy fat content. They also contain a lot of antioxidants, which keep your cockatiel healthy.

Here are some of the nutrients:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B6

Sunflower seeds are rich in minerals, including:

  • Selenium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Potassium

Reduce inflammation

According to Aging and DiseaseOpens in a new tab., inflammation has been associated with disorders associated with aging. These diseases include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer.

However, sunflower seeds have anti-inflammatory properties due to their compounds, such as vitamin E and flavonoid antioxidants.

If a cockatiel becomes sick, whether that is from a virus or bacteria, sunflower seeds can aid in healing. This can also lower the risk of age-related diseases later in your cockatiel’s life.

Immune system booster

Sunflower seeds can benefit the immune system in addition to assisting with inflammation. Sunflower seeds are loaded with immune-boosting minerals, including zinc and selenium.

Zinc is especially important for a healthy immune system because it keeps immune cells alive and helps them grow. Selenium reduces inflammation and fights infection.

Do Cockatiels Like Sunflower Seeds?

Cockatiels like sunflower seeds. This seed’s rich flavor can sometimes induce addiction in birds. However, it’s very easy to avoid this problem when seeds are fed in moderation.

There are two main types of sunflower seeds:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds.
  • Striped sunflower seeds.

Your cockatiel can safely eat both of them, but it may show a preference for one over the other.

Cockatiels tend to like black oil seeds most of all. However, they have a higher fat content, making it necessary to ration the amount your cockatiel is given.

Further, we are going to give a detailed explanation for both types of sunflower seeds.

Black oil

Black oil sunflower seeds, also known as oil seeds, have thin shells, making them easy for cockatiels to open. They can be distinguished from other species by their distinctive black shell.

All sunflower seeds are high in oil. However, as the name suggests, black oil seeds contain considerably more than other varieties. Since this is the case, black sunflower seeds are often used to make sunflower oil.

This high oil content also makes the seeds tastier and more appealing while giving the cockatiel that eats it a boost of energy. As such, it’s no wonder that cockatiels often gorge themselves on this type when given the chance.

In moderation, a cockatiel can snack on themOpens in a new tab. freely. In fact, most commercial bird seed contains a small proportion of black oil sunflower seeds.


As implied by their name, striped sunflower seeds are black with white stripes running along their length. Their shell is thicker and larger than that of their black-oil counterparts.

In terms of nutritional value, striped sunflower seeds have less oil. If you get seeds manufactured for human consumption, they are likely from the striped variety.

Black vs. Striped Sunflower Seeds For Cockatiels

Frequently, black sunflower seeds are prepared for birds. The shells are much easier to open, taste better, and give cockatiels the energy they need.

Due to their high oil content, they might contribute to weight gain when consumed in excess or as a regular diet. Wild birds can often burn this extra weight off, but pet cockatiels can become obeseOpens in a new tab..

On the other hand, striped sunflower seeds are usually cleaner than black sunflower seeds because they are made for human consumption. It is not uncommon for black sunflower seed packaging to contain dirt, stones, and other detritus.

Most notably, the decreased oil content of striped sunflower seeds makes them more difficult to overfeed.

Roasted Sunflower Seeds For Cockatiels

Sunflower seeds can be provided to cockatiels in moderation. However, roasting makes sunflower seeds extremely unhealthy for cockatiels.

Here are all the main reasons why:


Frequently, roasted sunflower seeds sold commercially contain dangerous chemicals and preservatives. These enhance the flavor of the seeds and increase their shelf life.

However, they are hard to digest and can lead to adverse effects on your cockatiel’s digestive system. For small parrots like cockatiels, this could be harmful.


Roasted sunflower seeds contain a high amount of salt.

For example, 1 ounce of roasted sunflower seeds may contain around 170 mg of salt. This is far above what a healthy cockatiel should be consuming in a single meal.

Your cockatiel already gets enough sodium from a balanced diet. Any extra sodium, especially from table salt, can make them more likely to get sick, especially with kidney and heart problems.

High oil content

To roast anything, you will need oil, and sunflower seeds already have a very high oil content. Roasting the seeds, and adding more oil in the process, make them more harmful to cockatiels.

Instead, offer the seeds plain and unroasted. This allows the cockatiel to eat more seeds in one sitting, gaining nutrients without overloading on salt, oil, and additives.

Can Cockatiels Eat Sprouted Sunflower Seeds?

The nutritional value and health benefits of any seeds will improve after sprouting. Sprouting increases the amount of folate, magnesium, vitamin C, and other compounds, among others.

Critical Reviews in Food Science and NutritionOpens in a new tab. says that this rise in nutrients is because sprouting gets rid of antinutrients. These substances inhibit the body’s capacity to absorb nutrients.

Can Cockatiels Open Sunflower Seeds?

Cockatiels can open sunflower seeds. This holds true for both the thin-shelled black oil seeds and the thicker-shelled striped sunflower seeds.

However, not all cockatiels will have a good time opening seeds. This may be because they are too you, too old, or have mobility issues.

For these cockatiels, consider only giving them black oil sunflower seeds with thinner shells, or provide seeds that have already been hulled.

How Many Sunflower Seeds Can A Cockatiel Eat?

You can feed your cockatiel 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds a week.

When feeding sunflower seeds, always provide a balanced and nutritious diet alongside them; they should never be the only source of nutrition. Sunflower seeds are a snack, a training aid, and a nutritional supplement.

As we said above, sunflower seeds are high in fat, therefore you should only offer them to your cockatiel in moderation. A good rule of thumb is to give your cockatiel a small handful of seeds per day.

But, if you notice that your cockatiel is starting to put on weight, cut back on the number of seeds you are offering.

Also, as with all foods, it’s important to offer your cockatiel a variety of seed mixes to ensure that they are getting all the necessary nutrients.

By including sunflower seeds as part of a balanced diet, you can help your cockatiel stay healthy and happy for years to come.


A small number of sunflower seeds as occasional treats should be just fine. Most of your cockatiel’s diet should be made up of a high-quality pellet dietOpens in a new tab., with seeds making up only a tiny portion of that.

Just give your cockatiel 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds once a week, and only provide them with unsalted seeds. You can give them seeds with the shell, as cockatiels are more than capable of cracking them open.

However, if you are still feeling unsure if you should give your cockatiel sunflower seeds speak to your vet. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when taking care of a bird.

Your cockatiel is a part of your family, and while sunflower seeds might seem to make them super happy, you also want to keep your feathered companion in good health.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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