OUR RECOMMENDED PARROT DIET
FOR SMALL TO LARGE HOOKBILL PARROTS
| DISCLAIMER | DRY FOODS | FRUITS | VEGGIES | TABLE FOOD | PELLETS |
| SUPPLEMENTS | TOXIC FOODS | DON'TS | SPECIES SPECIFICS | LINKS |
The following recommendations may not apply to all species and are meant only as a guideline. Certain species may have special requirements not included here. RECIPE: Get as much information as possible regarding the type of bird(s) that you own, put it all together, mix well with a dash of common sense, and then feed!
My suggestions for a dry food diet consist of a good clean seed mix labeled for the right size bird (no wild bird food), hulled oats (oat groats), pellets, spray millet, and large mixed nuts. Even the smaller birds such as conures get halved walnuts which are a good source of Omega3 fatty acids. Otherwise, small birds unable to crack nuts get finely diced walnuts and slivered almonds. Many species are grain eaters in the wild, so should be offered different types of seed and millet spray. It is a myth
that seed is more fattening than pellets. Both can be fattening if overfed. It is also a myth
that sunflower seed is fattier than safflower seed. A decadent treat that I give the birds once or twice a week are Mini Ritz Bits with peanut butter. They love it. Many cockatoos, greys, cockatiels, and Senegals like spray millet - both the regular and the mega millet - since they are basically grain eaters in the wild. I was shocked to see a Yellownaped Amazon eating a piece of millet that I added to their dish by mistake. Click here
for observations from an Australian breeder on diet.
Dry diets (except pelleted diets) do need to be supplemented with a good vitamin/mineral/amino acid combo fine powder that adheres to seed. Nuts such as pistachios, pignolis (pine nuts), pecans and macadamias can be given sparingly for variety. Macaws' diet should consist of mainly mixed nuts in-shell, some seed mix and plenty of produce. Working to get nut meat out of a shell is all part of the joy a parrot or macaw gets from their diet.IMPORTANT:
Don't buy seed that has been sprayed with vitamins or adulterated in any way by vitamin processing. It can become rancid quickly. The shelf life on it may have already expired by the time you get it home. It's usefulness in vitamin/mineral supplementation is debated since the birds discard the shells. It may also destroy the good live nutrients of the seed. DON'T EVER REFRIGERATE SEED
to keep it longer! Freezing is safer. Just keeping it in a plain brown bag or breathable poly bag should be a sufficient means of storage in most climates. Larvae is healthier than mold! Invisible mold will grow in a matter of a day or so in the refrig.AMOUNTS: Weaned babies
need to have extra amounts of food, especially if they are fully flighted and active. Small birds
from finches to cockatiels need extra amounts of food because of their higher metabolism and activity. Medium sized birds
such as conures should have at least 20oz. food and water containers. Larger birds
should have no less than 30oz. cups for both food and water. All birds should have large enough water cups to bathe in.
Fresh fruits consist of well scrubbed or rinsed fruits such as: grapes, bananas, apples, carrots, melon, grapefruit, oranges, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries ( Don't let them poop on you for a day or you'll have blue stains on your clothing.), pomegranates, pears, papayas, nectarines, mangos, and other unlisted produce. Frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh and in the summertime provides a refreshing cold treat for the birds. Just don't overdo their sugar content. Also do not use canned fruit if it's labeled with high fructose corn syrup.
When feeding very juicy fruits such as oranges and pomegranates, mix some CheeriOs (not too many because they contain too much iron) in the bowl with it to absorb the healthy juices. The birds love the tasty oat rings.
Fresh veggies consist of well scrubbed or rinsed produce such as: carrots, chicory (sometimes called curly endive - real curly dark greens, slightly bitter, birds love it), swiss chard, dandelion, sprouts, green beans, pod peas, snap peas, cooked sweet potatoes, raw or cooked pumpkin, all varieties of cooked squash, corn on the cob, frozen corn, warmed frozen mixed veggies, peppers, broccoli, kale, spinach, cucumbers, celery, and other unlisted produce.
For a large flock of birds, a nice recipe for a medley of ingredients is to mix brown rice, a small amount of shredded cheese, heated frozen mixed veggies, a seasonal fruit, and another seasonal veggie or leafy greens. This is a good way to introduce birds to new produce. In moderation, you can give them cooked eggs and even include the shells for the calcium, oatmeal, veggie pancakes (add frozen mixed veggies to them), bits of fish or chicken, spaghetti, plain cooked pasta, toast, pizza, and tastes of your cooked veggies. Just remember that they can't exist primarily on table food. Cheese, and other dairy products should be kept to a minimum because the cassein in them can obstruct the digestive system. Many parrot owners give their birds chicken bones, but this should be done rarely if at all since the marrow is loaded with cholesterol. The frequency of vascular and liver disease in young birds is frightening!
Avoid any kind of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, chocolate, cocoa, dill, apple seeds, rhubarb leaves, raw beans, cabbage, eggplant, asparagus, honey, avocados, cessia cinnamon quills. If you must feed raisins, use only organic unsulphured raisins. See the explanation of avocado toxicity
, and onions
(garlic, chives and leeks are in the same family - err on the side of caution by also avoiding them).
There are several good manufacturers of pelleted avian diets who maintain good quality control of their products. Pellets provide a more balanced diet than that of special chop, mix and blend guessing game diets. Birds without a dietary supplement should have pellets available to them. Birds on seed diets should also have pellets available not only for extra nourishment but for crunchy fun. It may take a while to find the preferred pellet brand or type for your bird. Some like colored pellets and others don't. They also have preferential taste buds. Buy in small quantities until you find out what your bird(s) prefer.
greasy foods, fatty foods, salty foods, or foods that are heavily supplemented with preservatives such as hot dogs. GMO
foods such as corn and soybeans should be avoided if possible since the DNA in them actually contains chemical pesticides or fungicides. More info can be found here.HOT FOOD:
Do not offer
to the touch cooked foods. Birds' crops are very delicate and can burn easily. Microwaved food should be thoroughly checked before serving.BEANS:
Many bird keepers make a bean mix for their birds for extra protein, but I feel that the birds receive enough protein from the seed mix biscuits and pellets. Bean preparations also spoil rapidly in warm weather and must be removed right after eating. Most parrots don't require a high percentage of protein. Too much protein can have adverse irreversible effects such as gout and then renal failure. Moderation is the key with beans. I do add well rinsed chick peas to my birds' diet once or twice a week.DRY UNCOOKED BEANS:
- Do not feed them. Doing so can be very dangerous, as several varieties of beans are acutely toxic when uncooked. Varieties known to be toxic include soy, black, red, yellow wax, and kidney beans. Cooking destroys the hemaglutin toxin. I do give my birds well rinsed cooked chickpeas once or twice a week (up to 5 each).BONES:
Avoid chicken bones and any other meat bones since the marrow contains very high cholesterol.SMOKE:
Second hand smoke will have a detrimental effect upon the general health of your bird.COOKING VESSELS:
Non-stick pots, pans and utensils can kill your birds if heated beyond a certain temperature. Avoid using them.
Since produce has approximately 30% of the nutrients that they did decades ago, it's wise to supplement your birds with a quality vitamin containing minerals and amino acids. With a well-rounded diet, you might only need to do this once or twice a week. An all-pelleted diet would not require supplementation.NEVER
put vitamins or supplements in the drinking water despite what the manufacturer guidelines state - because:
- Birds generally don't drink that much, so you don't know how much they are getting.
- They can cause bacteria to form quickly in the water.
- They lose potency quickly in water.
- If the bird bathes in the water, feathers can get sticky.
A good probiotic or acidophilus will act to keep the bird's gut flora at a ph level for proper absorption of food. While it might not be necessary in most cases, it doesn't hurt and is necessary after a round of antibiotics or in a state of stress.HERBAL REMEDIES:
Use only if medically necessary under the advice of your vet.
Perhaps because of the amount of powder dust that their bodies produce, African Greys can easily become calcium deficient. This can be manifested by seizures, poor muscle control and coordination, and falling off their perches. Don't assume that the cause of these symptoms is lack of calcium until you've had blood work done by your vet. Treating with calcium is tricky. Too much can result in death. This is why a well-balanced diet with vitamin supplements is so important.ECLECTUS:
Eclectus Parrots require a different diet of a large percentage of soft foods/produce to a lower percentage of seed. Pellets should be given very sparingly, and only non-colored pellets. Too much can cause toe-tapping and other unwanted habits.LARGE MACAWS:
Hyacinth and Greenwing Macaws need higher fat content. Their diets should consist of mixed nuts including high fat macadamias in shell, and plenty of produce including palm nuts. Scarlets and Blue and Gold Macaws should also have a diet of mostly nuts in shell and produce.PARROTLETS:
This small bird cannot tolerate pellets well and should be on a diet of seed mix and produce.ARTICLES:
Please submit species specific articles to us here.
One of the advantages of Australian aviculturalists is that we see parrots all the time feeding in the wild, and many studies have been done on their feeding habits. Ignoring specialised birds such as lorikeets, Eclectus (mainly fruit) and some rare tropical rainforest birds, almost all of our wild parrots feed on seed as their dominant food source. Originally of course it would have been the seed of our native grasses, shrubs and trees, but parrots are very adaptable, and many species are happily eating seeds from introduced plants, including unfortunately grain crops. It is this latter adaptation of course which leads to conflict with farmers and the shooting of many galahs, SC2's and corellas. I might add that one of their favourite crops is sunflower!
as they would get through a normal pet budgie seed mix. I have often watched flocks of budgies in Central Australia (some flocks with thousands of birds) industriously picking away on the fallen seed (ie fully ripe) on the ground from native grasses and ignoring the fresh green seed on the plant above their heads.
Perhaps for this reason Australian aviculturalists have never been caught up by the pellet propaganda. As I said in the previous post, I doubt that 1 in a 1000 aviculturalists here would feed a pellet based diet. Some will supplement seed with a high protein pellet (usually Roudybush) during breeding season, but even they are a very small minority.
My own feeding methods would be typical. I feed almost all my birds, from lovebirds to corellas and SC2's a small parrot mix, typically with about 40% canary seed, 20% white millet, 20% Japanese millett, 15% panicum, and 5% sunflower, which gives a fat content of about 5.4%. Some variation is made when breeding season is around and chicks are in the nest - usually more sunflower. In addition they get a wide range of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as green grass seed, dandelion, milk thistle (our Australian milk thistle is a different species to the USA one), flowers and leaves from eucalypts, acacia and grevillea, and chickweed. I also give some multigrain bread as well.
I also am a BIG believer in sprouted seed, and will give it for much of the year. At this time (late autumn here) I only give it once or twice a week to my breeders, but by mid June I start to increase the amount and frequency, and by mid July, the start of our breeding season in outside aviaries, they get it every day. Once babies are hatching they get unlimited amounts of sprouted seed. My mix for sprouting includes plenty of sunflower, mung beans, wheat, and barley. Birds such as budgies and tiels that breed all year round outside will get sprouted seed as breeding demands. My pet birds get sprouted seed most days but not in large amounts - maybe a dessert spoon each for a tiel size bird. Hand fed babies are weaned onto sprouted seed as their first food, along with millet sprays. The range of fruit and veggies follows soon after.
My reason for varying the sprouted seed intake is to mimic the seasonal cycles. In autumn and early winter the wild food sources are often at their poorest, and wild birds are surviving on a very low protein diet, but by mid to late winter when wild breeding is getting underway the food sources ar eimproving in quality, and the protein intake of the wild birds is increasing. By mimicking this variation in the aviary birds, using sprouted seed as the main protein source, we hope to encourage the same stimulus into breeding condition that the wild parrots get. Seems to work!
Some breeders go as far as only giving seed from mid April to mid June, cutting out all fruit and veggies, but my feeling is that the birds need their vitamin intake all year, not just at breeding time, so I give my birds their goodies almost every day. At this time of year I might miss an odd day with fresh food, but 6 days out of 7 they get their goodies, albeit in smaller quantities than they will in a month's time.
So, that is diet for Parrots, Australian style.
Mike Owen, Queensland
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