Parrots are flock animals and in the wild, young birds learn what is good to eat by following the flock. In captivity, hand-raised birds identify with humans as their ‘flock’. This is why your birds will want to eat what you are eating, whether it is healthy or not. It is your responsibility, as a bird owner, to teach your bird how to eat healthily. The majority of health problems in pet birds originate from dietary excesses (fats) and deficiencies (vitamin and minerals).
Cockatiels, Galahs, Cockatoos and Budgies originate from dry, desert or semi-desert environments. Their metabolism is geared to low fat diets. Before the arrival of Europeans, no Australian parrot had access to sunflower seed. This seed has a very high fat content and birds, like children, tend to seek out fatty foods that taste good but lack nutritional content. Birds that selectively feed on sunflower, end up with obesity related problems. Healthy liver cells are replaced with fat cells, the immune system becomes compromised and the bird is prone to secondary infections.
We recommend Breeders Choice low fat seed mixes. Diet parrot mix is a small parrot seed mix without sunflower. Diet Budgie mix is a very low fat seed mix without sunflower, safflower or canary seed.
Parrots on a seed based diet need vitamin supplementation, (pelleted diets should contain the necessary vitamins) as we can never replicate a completely balanced diet for our birds, we recommend that all pet birds on a seed diet have access to a vitamin supplementation. Vetafarm Soluvet provides an economical and palatable supplement. Used according to directions, it can e added to the bird’s drinking water or be sprinkled over the vegetables.
PELLETS OR FORMULATED DIETS
Pelleted diets are nutritionally balanced. Many brands are commercially available (both Australian made and foreign). Birds need to be converted to pelleted diets, under supervision. To be effective pellets need to comprise 80% of the total diet. Birds on a pelleted diet still need vegetables, green grass seed and green leafy browse for behavioural enrichment.
Sweet corn, silver beet, spinach, beans, peas, celery, sprouted seeds etc
Sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, broccoli, brussels sprouts should be served lightly steamed to break down the cellulose content and make them more digestible for the birds.
Fresh seeding grasses are an important and healthy food supplement for your bird. If none are available, plant some birdseed and allow it to mature to grass with seed heads. Tropical chick weed, milk thistle, dock weed, dandelions are also readily available and highly nutritious wild foods.
BROWSE FRESH, GREEN, LEAFY BRANCHES
Parrots like to chew – give them something healthy to chew on. Provide green leafy branches from Australian native trees (wattle, bottle brush, melaleuca, ti tree, gum, grevillia, lilly pilly, banksia, acacia etc.) Birds love the seeds and pods from these trees as well. Cockatiels and Budgies especially love the little, nutty seed pods left after the Bottle Brush flower has died off.
Avocado and chocolate
Never feed fatty, salty, processed human foods. Never feed dairy products – butter, cheese, milk, etc. Never feed tea, coffee, alcohol. Birds don’t have the metabolism to cope with these foods. Always be guided by what they would eat in the wild.
Information supplied by (c) Currumbin Valley Vet Services August 2010