You can learn from others’ experiences and
avoid tragedies of your own!
Seed-Only Diets Lead to Premature Morbidity and Mortality
A very sad cautionary tale comes from the case of a blue-fronted Amazon who died recently. This was a long-time pet of a woman who knew very little about avian health. She had the bird for 12 years, and he was probably a year old when she got him. She fed the Amazon a seed-only diet for those 12 years and the bird was extremely obese. Because the bird was not tame, it spent a lot of time in its cage, hence no exercise. The bird died this week due to liver failure. Amazons have been reported to live for forty or fifty years, and there are some stories of them living even longer. However, birds are like humans: the better their nutrition and care, the longer they live. This woman was well-meaning and loved her bird dearly, she simply did not understand the importance of a well-balanced diet for her parrot. She is devastated by the loss. When I first met the parrot I warned her that the bird was much too heavy and let her know that seeds were a treat, not a sole source of nutrition, for this type of bird. This was only a few months ago, so I doubt dietary changes would have saved the bird’s life at that point. Liver damage is something that progresses over the years and is usually permanent.
Certain parrots are more prone to obesity. These include many of the Amazon parrots and African Greys. The primary source of nutrition for these birds should be in non-seed forms.
NOTE: Please do not suddenly change your bird’s diet–slow transition works best. Also, you MUST bring your bird to an avian veterinarian for a check-up before making any major change in its diet!!! Change = stress!!!
There are many excellent pellets on the market. If your bird rejects one, try another. It may take a few days of seeing a new food for your bird to try it. Don’t leave the same old bowl of untouched pellets in the cage: change it every other day even if the bird ignores it. They’ll start to get the idea eventually. I have tried various pellets and have found that I must use two or three types since some birds like one and some like another. A list at the bottom of this page will give some of the types we’ve used in our aviary.
Parrots relish fresh vegetables. We feed fresh wheatgrass, which has 10-20 times the vitamins of other vegetables. We also feed green beans, carrots (slightly steamed so beta carotene can be assimilated by the bird), sprouted beans and seeds (sprouted seeds are far more nutritious and lower in fat) and various squashes. We mix and match depending on what’s in season. On “lazy days” you should give at least some romaine lettuce and peppers (no prep and big parrots love them).
Birds love whole wheat bread, brown rice, and a wonderful grain called “quinoa.” Quinoa is high in protein in calcium as far as grains go. You can also get quinoa pasta. Quinoa is easy to prepare and can be cooks in a mere 15 minutes. This is a wonderful grain for your birds, especially Bluefronts and Greys who need the extra calcium. We have a recipe on our nutrition page.
Fruits do not need to be given every day. They are high in sugar. Grapes, apples, and oranges on occasion are a nice treat.
Yes, your bird needs exercise too! A good bird gym can provide this. If space doesn’t permit this, make sure there are lots of hanging toys in the bird’s cage for it to hang from and swing on. This is physical activity and that’s what keeps the bird healthy. An excellent series of bird gyms are available from Avian Inc. My bluefront loves her parrot tower. Click on this link to visit the Avian Inc. web site: www.birdgym.com
This list is based solely on personal experience and does not imply that one brand is superior to another in quality. To much reliance on pellets as a food source has been reported to cause liver and kidney problems and intestinal blockage. Use common sense. Birds don’t eat pellets in the wild so don’t make it their primary source of food. A well-balanced diet of fresh vegetables, whole grains, sprouted beans and seeds is best, with pellets and seed mixes as supplements to add protein and “fun” to the diet.
Some of the best research on avian research has been done at Hagen in Canada. The pellets have a strong fruity odor and many picky birds will try them. They also make a quality seed mix. If you can’t find them locally, try finding them on-line.
Mazuri Parrot Maintenance, Breeder, Small Bird Pellets
These pellets are used at the San Diego Zoo for their exotic birds. It is very easy to get most birds to try these little pellet “balls” because they look intriguing to the bird.
For information and dealer locations call Purina Mills, Inc., 1-800-227-8941
Avi-Sci, Inc. makes many different formulas of pellets. The maintenance parrot pellets have been readily accepted by most of our small parrots (lovebirds, budgies).
For information and to order call Avi-Sci, Inc., 1-800-942-3438
Kaytee produces Exact pellets (original) and Rainbow Pellets. The brightly colored Rainbow Pellets are sometimes more accepted by birds, but I tend to prefer the original Exact pellets without dye added. Exact pellets are much easier to find and are usually available at any well-stocked pet or avian store.
For information call Kaytee, 1-800-KAYTEE-1 or visit their website www.kaytee.com
The original pellet manufacturer, I have found that lovebirds-known for their stubborn unwillingness to try new foods-will pulverize Roudybush small-size maintenance pellets. It is lower in fat than some of the other pellets, so it is good for parrots prone to obesity. My neighborhood bird supply store special-orders the 25-pound bags for me since they are not readily available in most pet stores.