Parrots are lively and popular companion animals in Southern California. In this article we would like to discuss how to feed parrots for optimum longevity and quality of life.
It is a common misconception that parrots can remain happy and healthy on an all-seed diet. Although inexpensive , an all-seed diet will eventually result in malnutrition. Seeds are high-fat “junk food” with few vitamins and minerals, similar to only eating candy or French fries. In fact, your pet bird simply cannot thrive on an all-seed diet. The lack of vitamins A and D, minerals such as calcium, and essential proteins in your parrot’s diet can lead to a weakened immune system, health problems, and decreased life span. Instead, choose a high-quality pelleted diet that offers balanced nutrition with proper nutrients. Commercially formulated pelleted diets will contain the right amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that your bird needs to stay healthy. You should be able to easily find a pellet feed for your bird at your local pet store or through your veterinarian.
The Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) recommends that you ask your veterinarian which type of pelleted diet is best for your kind of bird. One thing to keep in mind is that a pellet-only diet can result in kidney problems in small parrot species, especially budgerigars, but also parrotlets, lovebirds, and cockatiels. They recommend free choice pellets plus meal feeding some seeds each day. Meal feeding means you’re providing seeds to your bird only at specific times during the day and can therefore keep track of the amount of seeds eaten. For other birds, seeds and nuts should be reserved as a special treat or as a reward during training.
Healthy human foods may supplement the pelleted diet, but should only be fed in small amounts, approximately 10% of your parrot’s meal. AAV recommends you focus on healthy vegetables and fruits, but other choices do also need to be healthy, low fat, and low salt items. Cooked pasta, beans, carrots, yams and broccoli are tasty extras that are healthy for your pet bird. Remember to wash fresh fruits and vegetables before you offer them to your parrot. Even though you are sharing your human food, don’t feed your parrot from your own plate or eat food that has been in your bird’s mouth. Some birds can carry bacteria in their mouths that may make you sick. Also, it is best to remove uneaten cooked foods within an hour after feeding to avoid possible foodborne illnesses.
Some foods and drinks that you enjoy are not appropriate for birds and might make your parrot sick. Do not offer chocolate, avocados, alcoholic drinks, onions, garlic, fatty foods, sugary foods, dairy products coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages, cassava (tapioca), fruit seeds or pits (like apple seeds), or anything with the artificial sweetener xylitol.
If your bird is a “seed junkie” and you need help for the transition to a nutritious diet, your veterinarian can craft a unique diet for your parrot and offer more recommendations. Check out our Find A Vet page if you need to locate one in your area!
As with any pet, it is vital that your bird has access to fresh water at all times and that the water dish is washed regularly. Because bacteria can grow in water and may not be completely removed by rinsing alone, always use soap and hot water when washing the dish and best to do this daily. Unless your veterinarian prescribes you to do it, avoid adding anything to your bird’s water since additions could encourage bacteria to grow and may cause your bird to drink less than they should.
If you’re not sure how to set up your bird’s home with food and water, check out our article on housing options here!