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 ours crave good company and food. In this handbook we will learn a few fun facts about parakeets: basic considerations to have in mind when purchasing a parakeet, why we should be concerned about the food our parakeets eat, what we should feed our parakeets, and a Frequently Asked Questions section about parakeet food.
The name budgerigar comes down from the Australian aboriginal name for them, “gijirrigaa,” from the Yuwaalaraay language of the Aborigines. “Gijirrigaa,” means “good food.” Their playful attitudes, mimicry, and colorful feathers, have catapulted them to become widely popular in the aviculture world. From here on out budgie and parakeet will be used interchangeably.
Since the 1850s they 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.” Ever since, we have been slowly learning about their needs for companionship, hygiene, and diet.
What things should I consider before buying a parakeet?
Customers that are fairly new to owning birds ask what they should expect from parakeets before purchasing one. We recommend looking over your daily activities and see if you have ample time to play with, whistle to and with, and letting them fly around the house. They require cleaning, both their feathers and their homes (cage floors and several times daily cleaning of food dishes). Usually a good optimism about having the songs and companionship of your parakeet, will make these things enjoyable, as owning a little budgie requires interacting and caring for them daily.
They are good pets for kids, allowing them to learn to take care of other creatures. Although it is recommended that they are always accompanied by a parent, as parakeets (especially older ones) are less docile and require getting used to their owners. As sometime they bite and jump around and may result in everyone involved being scared if not handled with patience and care, so it is recommended that they are handled by adults.
Just like all animals, they require daily maintenance such as cleaning, feeding, and playing with them.
What else do I need when considering to buy a parakeet?
Perhaps you have decided to buy a parakeet for yourself or for someone else (with their permission). Great!
If you have decided to purchase a bird you’ll need a few things, such as:
- Water dish
- Parakeet food bowl
- Cage sand
- Cuttlebone or mineral block
- Bird bath
Be mindful to not overload the space for budgies, as they need to move around in a cage that is more wide and horizontal, and has more surface area, than it is tall or round.
Outside of these, what will need to be replenished is parakeet food which will keep your budgies colorfully happy, well-fed, and on a path to live long.
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 as 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. There are nutritional needs and considerations that 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.
The usual nutrition deficiency in parakeet diets is simply because the interest has only existed since the early 1990s, when the Association of Avian Veterinarians and the board certification for avian veterinarians was established. For the longest time we have accepted that parakeet diets are simpler than ours. The science was simply just too undeveloped. Until now, where interest and attention to the diets of budgies has soared.
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.
What should I feed my parakeet?
The best parakeet food, is one similar to the one which they have been adapted to in their natural habitats. Beginning with seeds, the best are those with a 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! Below, we will learn about seeds, pellets, and their implications for a budgie’s health. As well as healthy and holistic choices going forward.
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 a 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 are seeds.
Nuts, legumes, amino acids (proteins), and essential fatty acids (fats)
It is important to have a balance of protein that assists with seasonal molting, to keep them dancing and looking good!
Seasonal molting and natural development requires a consistent and balanced amount of protein. Nuts along with legumes and whole grains can satisfy the protein intake required for our parakeets. Some of these include garbanzo beans, lentils, soy beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, and split peas; nuts include almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pecans. About 10% to 16% of all daily nutrition should be from one of these protein sources. A balanced diet will ensure budgies will not suffer from gout, vitamin D or iron toxicity. If you’re looking for that nutty and balanced mix your budgie’s always been looking for, try Bird Street Bistro’s Cinnaspice Delight blend.
Fruits and vegetables are wonderfully nutritious, and will be joyfully accepted by your budgie(s). A few veggies that are safe and nutritious for parakeets include: lettuce, broccoli, carrot, corn, peas, spinach, and celery. Fruit options include: apples, tangerines, melons, bananas, mango, pineapple, and coconut. Please see below (in the FAQ section) for a larger list of edible fruits.
It is important that you buy organic options for all these foods, as all non-organic fruit and vegetable pesticides and herbicides contain enough doses of chemicals to kill parakeets as their bodies are too small to handle the toxicity. It is also important to note that apples contain seeds that have cyanide – so these seeds must be removed before feeding the fruit to parakeets!
About 10% of your feathered companion’s diet should be fruits. About 50% of a budgie’s food should be vegetables. Always keep in mind that fruits have a lot of sugar, so this will make their stools more watery and will affect the mood and the appetite of your bird towards more nutritious food. So it is important to feed them fruit sparingly!
These veggie and fruit nutrients are essential to your budgie’s diet, as seeds and budgie pellets will not be able to replace the enzymes, vitamins, proteins (amino acids), and other nutrients contained by fresh and raw foods.
Other good sources of carbohydrates for your budgie’s diet should include are grains such as millet, buckwheat, oats, rye, barley, wheat, quinoa, spelt, kamut, amaranth, and rice. Some must be soaked, others, cooked, sprouted, and others can be eaten raw. A nutritious and tasty catering of many of these goodies can be found here!
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 assumed that most parakeets owners will use parakeet pellets because they will not take the time to make a balanced 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.
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 of the different lifestyle 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.
Parakeet Food FAQ (Frequently Asked Question):
Some frequently asked questions we get about parakeets and parakeet diets include the following:
Can parakeets eat bananas?
Yes, bananas are a great source of fiber and potassium for parakeets. An interesting yet scary fact is that feather picking and other forms of aggression are expressed in birds that do not eat fiber. Bananas and other fruits should be part of a balanced and planned diet.
Can budgies eat banana?
Budgies and Parakeets are different names for the same small feathered creature!
Can parakeets eat strawberries?
Strawberries is one of those fruits where people are not too sure because of their seeds, but in fact they are small enough that they are fine for parakeets.
Can parakeets eat peanut butter?
Budgies love treats, but peanut butter is not one they should eat. Please note that budgies are susceptible to fungi that grow on peanuts that is deadly to budgies. These fungi emit a toxin called aflatoxins (first discovered after more than 100,000 turkeys were killed by the toxin) which are also harmful to humans due to their carcinogenicity. Although low levels of it are permitted in humans, what can be tolerated by us is deadly to parakeets. Besides the toxin, butter and other nut butters are very high in fat which may lead to obesity and cardiovascular health problems for your pet companion!
Can parakeets eat watermelon?
Absolutely, parakeets love watermelons. Please do note however that watermelons are high in sugar, and will disrupt your budgie’s diet and lead them away from wanting a more nutritious diet. So feed sparingly! This usually means a couple times a week, the same with other fruit. As with other fruits, remember to portion the serving according to the small size of your parakeet.
What to feed parakeets?
A balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Please see the section above, “What Should I Feed My Parakeet?” for more information on nutrition.
Can parakeets eat crackers?
There is not much nutritional content in crackers, and the salt in many crackers may overload the parakeet’s kidneys leading to kidney stones or other urinary problems. Crackers are perhaps best treated as a snack, occasionally, as there are more nutritious foods out there. Be mindful of best budgie food practices, because crackers and other such foods can fill them up quickly!
Can parakeets eat in the wild?
The breed of parakeets that we have in our homes are domesticated and bred to be sedentary. This along with the lives they normally live means they would not be accustomed to the elements. There is also the possibility of the parakeet flying away and never coming home! There are however parakeet harnesses that allows parakeet owners to let their birds outside either tethered to their wrist or to a stationary object. However, we cannot say exactly how trustworthy these harnesses are as we have not tested them.
What do I do if my parakeet flies away?
If your parakeet has managed to escape try placing food or water outside to entice it near your home. If it has a partner, place the partner in the cage in a place where the escaped bird could hear their calls this may work if the bird has not gone too far away.
List of fruits for parakeets?
A list of edible fruits for our birds includes:
- fresh pineapples
- juniper berries
- kiwi fruit
- rowan berries
- rose hips
- hawthorn berries
- wild elderberries
The seeds in apples, apricots, pears, peaches, and cherries, must be removed as they have varying amounts of cyanide concentrations.
What should I not feed my parakeet?
Definitely avoid any foods that are usually hazardous to other animals, such as foods with caffeine such as chocolate, tea, or coffee. Feeding your budgies avocados, onions or garlic, tomato leaves, potatoes, eggplants, and foods with solanine. For a list of foods to avoid take a look at this article. When in doubt always research!
Junk food is not good budgie food, and should be avoided, such as butter, cheetos, doritos, food with high sugar, fat, or salt content will quickly damage your parakeet’s health as this food is already bad enough for humans!
What about people food?
Many times people food are densely packed with calories, fats, and sugars, compared to what parakeets would find in nature. This means the intensity of people food ends up to be a glut of sugars, fats, or calories, leaving little space for a more nutritious and balanced meal. Seeds and other food produced for humans are usually produced for more densely packed calories and fats meaning measuring diets is harder. This may throw your parakeet off balance!
Does my bird need extra vitamins, minerals or amino-acids?
The best parakeet food will have a mix of vitamins, minerals, and amino-acids which can come from the grains, legumes, seeds, veggies, and fruits. If you would like to make feeding your budgie a constant joy for both your feathered friend and yourself, consider these rich blends of carbohydrates, proteins (amino acids), vitamins, essential fatty acids, and minerals.
What pointers should I remember about feeding my budgie?
- A few pointers are as follow:
- Do not use gravel and grit as parakeets remove the hull of seeds before ingestion, grit can cause digestion problems
- Fresh water should be provided every day
- As mentioned above people food is produced for humans, and is not similar to the concentrations birds find in nature
- Fruits and vegetables should only stay for a couple hours at most, as they can spoil and contaminate the home of the parakeets
- Seeds should only account for a portion of your parakeet’s diet
- All food should be washed before serving
I’m going away, can I just put food in a food dispenser and water dispenser when I’m away?
Be mindful of your parakeet, whether he or she is afraid of the dispenser and whether they use it or not. If they are afraid of the dispensers then they might not feed themselves, leading to their deaths, unfortunately. So always be take great care to test and watch your parakeets, before leaving them alone with new equipment.
Is there anything else that will be needed for my parakeet besides Bird Street Bistro?
We highly recommend to our customers that they buy a cuttlebone and a mineral block, as these provide calcium and other trace minerals, respectively. As well as providing sunlight to your bird for about 5 to 10 minutes per day depending on the season. This will help your pet parakeet synthesize the calcium from the cuttlebone for a continued growth of their bright feathers.
How can I get my parakeet to eat healthy? They just will not eat it!
Just like children, and many adults, it may take a while to get accustomed to new food in a diet. First we recommend that you feed your budgie twice daily, in the morning and in the early evening so they have a routine to follow and learn when to expect food.
Food should be cut up into small pieces, especially if trying to introduce something new so that the new food blends into the other food. If they leave it alone, or separate it to reach other food this does not mean they will keep doing so. Be persistent in the food that needs to be introduced for a healthy diet. However, please do make sure food does not stand still for too long as it can go bad quickly, and because budgies are susceptible to mold and fungi. For more information on how to introduce new foods to your parrot visit this page.
Keep in mind that the science and research behind parrot diet is still young and expanding. First we fed our birds what they wanted (seeds), which lacked the necessary nutrition. Then we overcompensated with jam packed pellets. What we ought to to do is not lean on extremes and go back to the basics, going back to what mother nature has provided us. Pure. Simple.
Consult your avian veterinarian to determine your bird’s individual dietary needs.
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Have a wonderful day.