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All-seed diets are deficient in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
In their native habitat, some parrots like cockatiels, budgerigar parakeets, as well as many
cockatoos and macaws are seed-eaters. These birds are able to balance their diet because of the
large numbers of seeds eaten (over 60 types). Companion birds are often weaned onto all-seed
diets, but the number and type of seeds offered in captivity is insufficient to offer a balanced
nutrition. Commercial seed mixes lack the normal complement of nutrients including vitamins A,
D3, E and K, certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein), calcium, and other minerals.
Over time, seed diets lead to vitamin A deficiency, poor feather quality, and weakening of the
immune system, making your pet more susceptible to infections.
The physical and emotional health of your pet bird is affected by its diet.
Feeding a balanced diet keeps your bird healthy and improves the sheen of his feathers. Parrots
also seem to require the mental stimulus that comes from foods with different shapes, textures,
Healthy foods for the pet bird include:
• A high-quality formulated food such as those made by Lafeber Company, Harrisonís Bird
Foods, or ZuPreem. Formulated foods provide good nutrition in a convenient form, however
pellets and extruded foods should never make up the entire diet.
• Offer fresh vegetables and greens daily. Yellow and orange vegetables and dark, leafy greens
are an excellent source of vitamin A.
• Dark, leafy greens and hard-boiled or scrambled eggs with the shell are also a great source of
calcium. Calcium is required in greater quantities than any other mineral and is need for
healthy bones, normal metabolism, as well as eggshell calcification. A syndrome of low
blood calcium (or hypocalcemia) is seen in some African grey parrots so it is particularly
important to offer these birds calcium-rich foods.
• Other foods that may be offered to pet birds in small amounts include:
- Whole grain products such as bread, toast, low sugar or unsweetened cereal, pasta,
wheat germ, and wild rice.
- Nutrient-dense fruits such as berries, mango, and papaya.
- Nuts like palm nuts or walnuts
• Very infrequently, pet birds may be offered well-cooked meats and boneless white fish.
• A quality seed mix can be a part of a healthy diet, but should never be the main or sole source
Increased energy needs
Birds have increased energy needs during growth, molt, and egg laying. Egg laying is associated
with increased needs for dietary protein and calcium. There are also increased protein
requirements during molt or feather replacement. Certain foods serve as triggers for breeding behavior
Bird owners must try to balance the need for stimulation and variety, with the reproductive
stimulus that may come from offering an abundance of different foods such as sprouts, greens,
high-fat nuts, and berries. The importance of diet in stimulating breeding activity will vary with
the species, the individual, and the environment. Warmed soft foods may also stimulate breeding
behavior in adult birds and should be avoided.
Some bird species, like pigeons and doves, or songbirds like canaries and finches, require grit for
proper digestion. These birds swallow seeds whole. The presence of grit within the stomach
helps to grind the whole seeds. Since parrots remove the shell before swallowing seeds, they do
not require grit. Ingestion of the occasional piece of grit is harmless, although the occasional
individual will overeat grit when ill or stressed potentially leading to intestinal blockage.
Some species require specialized diets such as the nectar eaters, lories and lorikeets and soft bills.
Some birds like the mynah bird and toucan require a low-iron diet.
Conversion to a healthy diet
Dietary change must be performed gradually. Introduce small amounts of new food at a time, and
carefully monitor food consumption and dropping production. See the YVCipedia artical FEEDING YOUR BIRD A HEALTHY DIET for more detailed conversion information.
• Provide fresh water at all times.
• Remove old food and clean all food and water dish daily.
• Wash produce thoroughly.
• If products are cooked, do not add salt, sugar, or fat such as butter or margarine to your
• When feeding a balanced diet, only offer vitamin/mineral supplementation when
recommended by your avian veterinarian. Formulated diets fed with supplements may
actually lead to over-supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals.
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