Is your bird a seed only eater? Did you know in that wild seeds form only a small portion of the natural diet? While seeds are an important part of a pet parrot’s daily diet they should not comprise all of it.
Parrots are opportunistic omnivores, which in plain English means they eat whatever they encounter in their day (“opportunistic”) and, like us, eat from all the food groups – veggies & fruits, grain, and animal protein (“omnivores”).
The seed based diets that have traditionally been fed to pet birds are not representative of that parrots eat in the wild. Little is actually known about exactly what comprises their daily diet, but their natural diet does include a variety of things like seeds, nuts, fruits, shoots, buds, corms, and invertebrates (insects, worms, and larvae). Wild parrots have even been observed eating dead fish that wash up from lakes and streams. Because some of the plant material they eat also contains toxins, parrots in South America flock to natural mineral beds regularly to feed on the clay and minerals available in order to detoxify their systems.
We do know that a seed only diet generally cuts your pet’s potential lifespan in half, as well as leading to deficiencies in vitamins, especially vitamin A, minerals, especially calcium and protein. They also tend to be too high in fat.
While formulated diets (aka pellets) are now becoming widely used, they also do not comprise a complete diet and can lead to health problems if used exclusively, especially with the kidneys and liver. Formulated diets were originally based on research done in the poultry industry, where the focus is on rapid growth and maximum size, not longevity. While they’ve come a long way, and like seeds, form an important part of a complete diet, they can not do it alone. What’s important for your bird’s health and happiness is variety, balance, and moderation. Veggies, whole grains, and some fruit should form the basis of a well fed bird’s daily diet.
A parrot’s “job” in the wild is to spend the day searching for food, then working to access it. Nuts are a prime example, as getting to the nut meat involves removing not only the hard shell, but the fibrous outer husk as well. It’s important to give your pet a “job” and make her have to work a little for her goodies as well. Having to peel veggies and open nuts helps offset boredom. (Just be sure the veggies are organic and not contaminated with pesticides. )
Patience, creativity and common sense will work wonders in improving your parrot’s diet and overall health. The rewards are well worth the effort, resulting in a well feathered, bright-eyed, playful companion who can share your life for as long as possible.
Your Parrot Place
Marilu Anderson, Bird Nutrition and Behavior Consultant, (503) 771-BIRD. Marilu is a regular contributor to the Your Parrot Place Newsletter. YourParrotPlace.com - Only the Best for Your Parrot!
140 pages! A compilation of parrot articles from 2000-2004.