The Parakeet (also called budgerigars or budgies), natives of Australia, ramble in flocks in their natural habitats from fresh seeds and water to more seeds and water across the nearly three million square miles of Australia. So it is easy to imagine that these little friends of our crave good company and food.
Since the 1850s budgies have captured our attention with that ability to mimic the funniest of things or perhaps the most absurd of things, and they do so with innocence as they are only trying to fit-in to their adopted local “dialect.”
Should I be concerned about what my parakeet eats?
Many future parrot owners ask if they should be concerned about what type of food parakeets eat. The answer is YES! What our pet birds eat has a large impact on their overall health. Just like any other creature on Earth, they must be cared for with the best.
The typical diet of a parakeet normally just includes seeds, however, this does not mean that this is the best parakeet diet. Some nutritional needs and considerations should always be kept in mind when providing food for your parakeet. Such as how active your pet parakeet is compared to wild birds, the energy exerted by a domesticated bird will be different than a wild one, as well as the Vitamin D synthesized due to exposure to the sun.
Seeing as how our budgie friends can also develop heart diseases such as atherosclerosis, the diets we give our pets will determine how long they will stay with us, and how happy they will be. According to Valerie Campbell, D.V.M., “60% of the birds presented for autopsy showed signs of nutritional deficiency.” This is a very sad and unfortunate situation many bird owners face, so there absolutely must be a balance in the nutritional content in the diet of parakeets. This means the best parakeet food for them includes a mix of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts; a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals & vitamins.
What exactly does my parakeet naturally eat?
In nature, the budgie’s diet consists of vegetation, seeds, fruits, and insects. Grabbing a spectrum of nutrition from nature itself.
The problem with all-seed diets?
All-seed diets predispose parakeets to nutritional deficiencies, infections, and other health problems. Seed-only diets do not meet calcium requirements, nor do they meet protein requirements. These seeds are also genetically modified, as they are grown for cooking oil. Meaning these are not the seeds found in the wild, but less healthy food packed with fats that can cause obesity for our bird friends. The optimal budgie diet, then, will be one where 10% to 20% of the budgie’s diet is seeds.
The problem with an all-pellet diet
Many times, new bird buyers look to budgie pellets for a way to easily feed their parakeets. Everyone is looking for quick fixes, but as we all know, they usually do not end up well.
The common perception among pellet food diets is that they are one of two lesser evils; one being pure seeds, the other pure pellets. These two options do not have to haunt our parakeets though! According to Pamela Clark, CPBC, CVT :
“Many avian veterinarians believe that parrot owners should be encouraged to feed a 100% manufactured diet to their birds because the majority of owners are not capable of providing a good diet otherwise. I never fail to feel saddened when I encounter this ideology, for it essentially removes the benefit and privilege of choice from the parrot owner. In other words, the owner is encouraged to feed a pelleted diet, not because of strong conviction that the diet is optimal, but because it is perceived as the lesser of two evils.”
It is assuming that most parakeet owners will use parakeet pellets because they will not take the time to make a balance parakeet diet. Many times this is true. With our busy, hectic schedules and lives, a lot of pet owners find it difficult to properly feed their beloved parakeets day-in and day-out. So foods such as parakeet pellets are the way out for many people.
There are problems with all-pellet diets, unfortunately. The first of these is the lack of enzymes found in processed, synthetically made budgie pellets. A lack of enzymes means a lack of kidney, liver, and stomach health for our pet parakeets. The high concentration of protein and otherwise nutritious elements found in pellets lead to gout in parakeets, vitamin D toxicity, and iron toxicity quickly deteriorating bird health.
What should I feed my parakeet?
The best parakeet food is similar to the one which they have been adapted to in their natural habitats. Beginning with seeds, the best are those with lower amounts of fat content such as safflower, millet, canary, sunflower, and groat seeds. However, seed-only diets are not enough to provide a fully nutritious parakeet diet!
Just as we need fresh and balanced nutrition, so do our pet parakeets. Just as we do not solely subsist on vitamin-enriched, multi-grain, protein bars, neither should our pet budgies.
This does not mean that all-pellet or all-seed diets, or any other extremes are the only food choices available. Just as any other decision for diets, we do not go to extremes but we keep a healthy balance or at least try to!
A balanced budgie’s diet is achieved through mimicking what is normally found by our parakeet’s wild relatives in nature, in the wide prairies, forests, jungles, and the outback of Australia. But of course, taking into account the different lifestyles of our sedentary parakeets.
This means feeding parakeets a healthy, nutritious, mix. Provide your budgie nutritious, wholesome, and filling food that will keep your budgies living long and living large.
Always remember to consult your avian veterinarian to determine your bird’s individual dietary needs.
For more information on Parakeet visit our Parakeet Handbook and leave us a comment or share with a parront!