Healthy Parrot: Diet, Nutrition, Toxic Foods

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By JeraldDossantos

A parrot’s diet should include a mix of high-quality pellets and fresh, whole foods. Seed mixes should not be fed to parrots, contrary to popular belief. Because of their high energy and metabolism, small bird species like budgie parakeets and cockatiels can have a mix of pellet and high-quality seed. Because they lack sufficient healthy nutrients, seed is not suitable for larger species like Amazons, macaws, macaws, and cockatoos. Unhealthy seed mixtures can lead to excess weight gain and liver disease.

Pellets for parrots

According to board-certified avian veterinarians, pellets should comprise between 50-70% of a bird’s diet. Because additives can have a cumulative effect on the body, and may cause disease over time, or even reduce birds’ lifespan, it is best to avoid pellets that contain dyes or sugar. The following brands are recommended: Lafeber and Harrison’s, Roudybush and Zupreem Naturals.

Fresh food for birds

  • Fresh foods should make up 30-50% of the diet of a parrot.
  • Steamed or raw vegetables (preferably organic, if possible)
  • Whole grains cooked and/or pseudo-grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, and rice brown, wild, or forbidden.
  • Soaked, cooked, or sprouted legumes
  • Nuts and seeds can be soaked, sprouted or raw.
  • Only a small amount of raw fruit

A parrot’s diet should not include more than 10-20% fruits, nuts, and seeds. While many people believe that wild parrots eat only nuts and fruits, researchers are finding that this is not the case for most species of parrots. Wild birds also require more sugars and fats than those in captivity, which means they are much more energetic than their captive counterparts. The wild fruits they eat have much more sugar and fiber than those that are cultivated for human consumption. Fruits, seeds, and nuts should be treated as treats. Focus on fresh berries, raw nuts, and unsalted nuts. Peanuts can be very dangerous so avoid giving them. You can also use almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Before giving food to a parrot, make sure it is free from mold and rot.

Parrot diet preparation

A simple, cost-effective, time-saving and easy way to feed your bird a variety fresh foods is to chop. Then, you can put 3-4 portions of your daily meals into individual containers or sandwich bags and freeze them. One batch of chop may last up to several months depending on how many you make and how big your birds are. Chop can be made to suit the preferences of each bird, or you can mix in new ingredients to spark curiosity. You can find more information in the Resources section.

How to convert your parrot into a healthy eater?

Although many parrots are not able to learn how to eat healthy food, they can be taught. For information on how to make your parrot eat healthier foods, please see the Resources section.

Avoid toxic foods and foods that can cause damage to parrots

You should not feed your bird toxic foods such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Cassava (tapioca)
  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products
  • Garlic, onion, and scallions
  • Meat
  • Mushrooms
  • Cocoa or chocolate
  • Peanuts
  • Fruit seeds and pits
  • Uncooked beans
  • Foods intended for humans
  • Avoid foods high in fat, salt, sugar, and/or dyes or preservatives.