The phrase “you are what you eat” has great implications when it comes to the health and well-being of your bird. Are you asking yourself, “what food should I feed my parrot”? The answer is parrot food that nourishes your feathered friend’s body and mind, this is how your bird will thrive, there’s no doubt about that.
The question is, what is good food for parrots, and what else should we know in order for them to live a long and happy life? This short blog post covers the history of pet bird food, and the difference in options available for our avian companions, so that caretakers can feel good about what to feed birds.
History Behind Pet Bird Food
Birds have long since fascinated humans. Though this relationship has roots dating back thousands of years, it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that wild birdseed manufacturing began. It all started in small agricultural towns with already-established grain retail stores. Sometime after World War II people became more interested in the animals that would frequently visit their lawns and parks. This was when the spike in demand for wild birdseed increased dramatically.
Types of Parrot Food – From Seed, to Pellets, to Natural Foods
Nowadays, bird seed for avian pets is a mix of various nuts, seeds, grains, and fruits. But, within the last two decades formulated diets, commonly called “pellets”, have been on the rise. Consequently, pet birdseed (which mimics natural avian food) has decreased. The current trend is that pellets should be the main source of nutrition with pet birdseed being a treat. However, enough time has passed to show that we have started to see problems with diets limited only to pellets.
Concerns with An All Seed Diet
Have you ever heard the term “seed junkie”? A junkie is someone who devours junk, junk food in this case happens to be seeds. As a bird parent, by now, you know that mass-produced bird seed has too much fat and not enough minerals, vitamins and proteins. Our feathered friends are not as active, soaring through the skies as free birds, so they’re caloric burn rate is not as if it would be in the wild. Parrots that are fed a seed-only diet are in fact malnourished. Regrettably, malnourishment is a leading cause of premature death in pet birds.
Avian veterinarians estimate that poor nourishment is the underlying cause of about 75 to 80 percent of the medical problems they seeBird Talk April 2010
So when should you feed your bird seeds? Seeds should constitute no more than about 20 percent of your parrot’s diet. When serving seeds, parrots will usually eat it first, ignoring everything else that’s been offered. In other words, when serving seeds make sure it is blended with other nutritional goodies.
Concerns with a Pellet only Diet
So if a seed-only diet lacks nutrition, should I feed those “complete nutrition” pelleted diets instead? The answer is: NO.
Pellets are processed foods. Much like you, I don’t eat or feed my family a daily diet of processed dry, chalky, protein bars. Not only do they taste horrible, but they’re packed full of synthetic minerals and vitamins. I’m sure your family enjoys natural, unprocessed, healthy foods. Likewise with our birds.
Some of the concerns regarding an only pellet diet are related to their protein levels. Studies have shown levels too high for some species, including but not limited to cockatiels and pionus parrots. These new finding begs the question, is an only-pellet diet optimal for your feathered companion? Pamela Clark, CPBC, CVT, a certified parrot behavior consultant once wrote:
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.Pamela Clark, CPBC, CVT
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 evilsPamela Clark, CPBC, CVT
When you look for the best parrot food, natural foods are always going to be a better option. By combining the right ingredients, you can provide your bird with healthy and delicious food. Birds such as: the cockatoo, macaw, cockatiel, african grey, amazon parrot, parakeet, and conure are all naturally prone to foraging. Parrot food that encourages these instincts is beneficial to their mental health.
Allen Schoen, DVM and Susan Wynn, DVM in their book, Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine, confirm that
Many veterinarians who recommend home-prepared diets find that pets who eat the better quality, human-grade ingredients therein exhibit even more dramatic health benefits.Allen Schoen, DVM and Susan Wynn, DVM, Complementary and AlternativeVeterinary Medicine
While a quick google search will oftentimes show a list of foods that parrots can eat, it is important to remember that what they can is not the same as what they should. Make sure you source your grains, fruits and vegetables from all natural and organic providers when possible.
It’s important to note that the types of foods initially offered to your parrot can impact its appetite over time. When a parrot is used to eating fatty and unhealthy foods, it becomes difficult to make the switch to eating healthy. How food is offered will many times dictate whether or not it is ultimately accepted. Knowing how to introduce new foods to your parrot is very important.
Bringing it All Together
Creating healthy meals to add on top of a pellet diet is something that various loving parrot parents do. Where or how to start can be difficult. What to cook and how to create a balance blend that’s optimal for your bird’s health can be a challenge. Bird Street Bistro can help with all-natural blends by only using freeze dried and air dried natural fruits and vegetables and healthy grains – no added fillers, preservatives or sulfites. Various members of the Bird Street Bistro flock will attest to the simplicity and the nutritional boosts their birds receive. Some may even exclusively prepare bistro to their birds because time allows.