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At http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WR9870105.htm there's an abstract of a scientific paper on the feeding habits of wild cockatiels in a grain-growing district. It's interesting stuff! Here's the text:

The feeding ecology of the cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus was studied in a grain-growing district near Moree, in northern New South Wales, between August 1980 and June 1982, by direct observations and monthly collections of birds in feeding flocks. Cockatiels fed from the ground, on fallen seed or by felling stems, and, when feeding on sorghum and sunflowers, while perched on the seed heads. The mean size of a feeding flock was 27; large flocks of more than 100 birds were formed only during periods of limited food supply. Cockatiels showed a clear preference for sorghum over sunflowers, and when on cereals they appeared to prefer softer, younger seed to harder, mature seed. Overall they fed on 29 seed types, including four grain-crops, 17 grasses and eight non-grass ground plants. Sorghum was by far the most important food item, making up almost 60% of total crop contents; sunflower made up only 6% of crop contents, and grasses 19.3%; 90% of this last was contributed by Phalarisparadoxa and Setar~a sp. Some management implications, based on apparent food preferences, are discussed.

I first found out about this study from an old issue of Bird Talk that I recently acquired, and today somebody told me about this online summary. Bird Talk had more to say about crop contents that isn't online:

"Of the birds studied, there were pieces of charcoal in 29 percent of all crops,
mineral items in 13 percent of all crops, plus dense woody material in many of
the crops. It could be postulated that the intake of charcoal was to de-toxify
other items the birds eat as part of their normal diet. This could be for
reasons similar to why some of the macaws of South America eat clay from cliff
faces. The intake of a bland substance must have a purpose, otherwise the birds
wouldn't include it in their diet."

It seems to me that "mineral items" are equivalent to grit.

Still more from BirdTalk:

"They also attack standing crops, particularly sorghum and millet, and can cause
significant damage. They are known to be particularly fond of acacia seeds and mistletoe berries. They are ground-feeding birds that search for whatever seeds are available from grasses, herbs, and trees. Cockatiels have been seen in mixed flocks with red-rumped parakeets picking up spilled grain in stubble paddocks.”

"Some grain farmers devised a special method of preventing cockatiels from
devouring their sunflower crops. They sowed a strip of sorghum around the
perimeter of the sunflower field, timed so that the ripening sorghum has a milky
head just as the sunflower crop is at its peak. Because the milky head of the
sorghum is their favorite food, the cockatiels devoured the "sacrificial"
sorghum strip, leaving the sunflower crop untouched."

"The daily feeding routine includes a morning ritual whereby, 30 to 50 minutes after sunrise, they fly in a group from their roosting trees and perch in dead trees with their backs to the sun, to sun themselves before going to ground to feed. Even the late arrivals follow the same procedure before feeding."

"The afternoon session starts 60 to 90 minutes before sunset."
 

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