Did you know that the most common companion parrot illnesses are related to poor nutrition? Liver and kidney diseases (brought on by vitamin and mineral deficiencies) and obesity and heart disease (brought on by diets too high in fat and calories) are vastly responsible for the premature deaths of countless pet parrots. It is sad to think about it…
The good news? All that suffering is completely preventable! You just have to understand how to feed your bird.
Ordinarily, we try to mimic the life of the wild parrot in the way we do things for our companion birds – we try to use natural branches in the cages for perches, we offer wooden and natural plant materials for toys.
However, that approach does not work with their diet for a couple of reasons:
First, captive birds are fed foods that are available in grocery stores and could not be given their natural diet no matter how hard we might try to duplicate it. Many of our birds do not live in their native countries and we don’t have access to the foods their wild cousins are eating. Additionally, because birds fly from one feeding spot to another, researchers are unable to follow them and we do not have the complete picture of the wild parrot diet. In captivity, our birds eat the foods the avian sciences have deemed appropriate to keep them healthy.
Secondly, captive birds have a very different lifestyle than wild birds, who are only still when they are sleeping. Comparatively, our birds get very little exercise. This means that they must not be fed the high fat diet that wild birds thrive on. Our birds simply do not have the means of burning off the calories. A diet that is made up mostly of seed, the diet you were probably told to give to your bird when you got him, is responsible for generations of fat, unhealthy companion parrots.
The best parrot diet is made up of mostly vegetables – 60% or more. We aim to give our birds about 75-80% vegetables in their diet.
The term “fruits and vegetables” just seems to roll off the tongue, but they don’t go hand-in-hand in the parrot diet. The human-cultivated fruit we get at the market is of poor quality nutritionally. It is entirely different than the fruit that grows naturally in the wild and should be offered sparingly as a snack food.
Cooked whole grains, like brown rice can part of the daily diet but in very small portions. Grains and pasta are very high in carbs which are broken down into sugars, the excess of which are stored in our cells for use when we need energy. Too many carbs results in excess body weight.
On the internet, there are places which proudly post recipes for pet parrots that contain excessive and unhealthy amount of grains, pasta and beans. They are simply casseroles of carbs with little else to offer. Please avoid them and feed your bird in the manner we know is working for captive parrots.
To round out the diet, our parrots should be given a high quality pellet. Pellets on their own are not an adequate diet. They are only PART of the diet, but an essential part. They are there to fill in nutritional gaps making them especially important for picky eaters.
Our pellet brand, Feed Your Flock, has the most impressive list of ingredients of any brand available and are minimally processed to keep their nutritional quality intact.
There is a gentle balance to the parrot diet, not too little - not too much. If you feed all the foods that are parrot appropriate in moderation, the diet will be complete and your bird will be healthy. Nothing feels better than your vet telling you what a great job you are doing!
If you are feeling insecure about how to feed your bird, please check out Cooking with Parrots, our popular cookbook set in which you will find everything you should know about parrot health and nutrition. The main diet we feature, intended for everyday use, is perfectly balanced to cover all your bird’s nutritional needs.
For more resources on this topic please check out the following:
- The role carbohydrates play in the parrot diet
- The truth about oxalic acid in the parrot diet
- How and why to use flax seed in the parrot diet
- Converting your bird from an all seed diet
- The real deal about seed in the parrot diet
- Parrot diets that will make your vet rich
- 5 Tips to get your bird to eat good foods
- Ways to sneak good foods into your picky parrot's diet