Capital Region Parrot Society 

We are for the birds!     

This is one of the most important aspects of being a parront and must be taken seriously. Diet affects the health, attitude and pretty much every aspect of a parrot.

Seed:

Many years ago a long held believe was that parrots should be fed a seed majority diet because it's “what they'd have in nature”. This is farthest from the truth. In nature parrots consume a diverse diet consisting of but not limited to nuts, berries, special clay, nectar, sprouts, some seed (usually becoming a sprout), flowers and so on. Store bought seed is high in fat and extremely low in nutrients. It's pretty much the human equivalent of junk food. Most of the seeds usually aren’t even the ones they’d have access to in there natural environment. Some packages claim to be “enhanced” or some how provide a “good balanced diet”. This simply means a mist of vitamins was sprayed on the seeds. The birds don't ingest much of it because it's on the hull of the seed which is tossed away. Similar to a candy bar. We eat the inside but toss the wrapper. Our feathered companion's cousins may eat quite a bit of seed in the wild but they fly miles upon miles a day, which burns off the calories and fat. Now some might say “my bird is very active, he climbs all around and flies around all the time!” This doesn’t even come close to flying miles upon miles. Some of the most unhealthy seeds are sunflower and safflower. A treat many people give to birds are peanuts. Sure they may be readily accepted but some harbor a fungus called Aspergillus. Their are healthier alternatives such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios and so on. (Salt free of course!) This is highly lethal and takes tons of medication to combat. In many cases the bird doesn’t survive. Some birds such as finches, canaries, cockatiels, and parakeets should be given some seed but it shouldn’t be what their diet is mostly made up of. Seed shouldn’t be a main role in their diet. Parrots can not be given the choice between seed and something healthy such as fresh foods/pellets. Birds tastes buds are very sensitive and so they pick up on the unhealthy foods the most. Variety is key.

Diet Conversion:

Many parrots are stuck on a diet that isn’t very healthy for them. It can be a challenge to convert them over to a proper diet but its worth it in the long run. Here are some common conversion techniques. Place pellets, fresh foods or whatever it is you are trying to get your parrots to eat in a high up dish or their normal dish.  If you wait awhile and it hasn’t been touched put the seed or other undesirable food in a small amount in another dish at the bottom of the cage. Make a huge deal when they interact with the good food. Praise, cheer or whatever it takes to show your encouragement. If he or she goes to the junk food act disgusted and walk away, have no reaction whatsoever. Another technique is to slowly mix the new food with the old and lessen the old food until it is no longer in the diet. You can try combinations of the two or other ways that work. This by no means will happen overnight. It can take weeks! Be prepared for some wasted food at one point or another. The NUMBER ONE reason conversions fail is the person gives up to early, not the parrot. People tend to want results instantly or in a short period of time. Many arrive at the conclusion “my bird just doesn’t like it so I give up”. It takes time, determination, commitment and persistence to make a change in a parrot's diet. It's worth it because a healthy bird is a happy bird. In some cases switching cold turkey also works. *Note* It is not recommended to change a parrots diet dramatically if they are extremely ill. This may cause unneeded stress on them in a time of healing.  You should always consult with your avian veterinarian.

People Food:

Parrots are flock creatures and so they truly enjoy eating with their flock. (Which is us!) This however can lead to issues if not monitored. Most people tend to eat foods on the not so healthy side and so when our feathered companions see us eating this food they, you guessed it, want some too! Some may fly over and steal bites. This is when willpower plays a huge role for the health of our companions. They can’t burn off the calories/fat and so even if unhealthy food is given “once in awhile” it builds up overtime and takes years off their lives and weakens their health in the long run. It doesn’t matter how cute they may look or how much ruckus they make you need to be strong for their sake. A good solution would be to only eat healthy appropriate foods (fruits, vegetables, etc) you can share with them or/and eat unhealthy foods out of their view. Any foods high in sodium (salt), fats, and generally low in nutrition have no place in a parrot's diet.

Dairy:
Many people love offering their feathered companions dairy products. This however shouldn't be done! Birds physically can’t digest dairy (don’t consume it naturally) so it can cause blockages, stomach discomfort, inflammation, diarrhea, death and so on. All birds are individuals and some are more sensitive than others. *Note* Many grocery stores offer dairy free yogurt in case you need to administer medicine this way.
Pellet:

These are formulated to provide a proper base of any parrot's diet. They provide nutrients seed, fresh foods and so on simply can’t provide alone. Any pellet is better than no pellet. However some are better than others. For example Zupreem natural (no dyes/artificial coloring) is better than the fruity pellet mixes. Some more examples of pellets are Harrison and Roudybush. Remember a proper pellet provides proper nutrients for a good base of a companion parrot’s diet. (There are many different brands of parrot pellet) Some parrots can only have a specific type of pellet/foods such as the Eclectus. (Best to know the specific dietary needs of your feathered companion.)

Fresh Foods: 

Parrots do need their fruits and veggies! Fresh foods are full of amazing nutrients for parrots and people alike. Fresh foods also can be used as enrichment and means of foraging. (Like in the wild) Some birds will develop quite a taste for fruit and ignore their veggies. Moderation is key (To much fruit can actually be a bad thing overtime)

Clean Water and Clean Food Bowls: 

Birds use their water dishes for eating, drinking, bathing and sometimes as toilets! They must be changed 2-3 times a day or whenever they are soiled. Bacteria also may grow in the dish which can lead to illness so it's important to consistently offer fresh clean water. If you run your fingers along the interior of the dish and feel a slimy smooth texture that is bio-film. Bio-film is a layer of bacterial growth, old food, and any other debris. Same goes for food dishes. Don’t leave fresh foods in there too long or they go bad. Remove them after a few hours so they stay fresh for your feathered companion.

Important things to consider!

No fruit pits or apple seeds. They’re toxic. Always research a food to make sure it's safe. A few examples of foods toxic to parrots are Avocados, Chocolate, Alcohol, Onions, any moldy foods, Salt and many others. Never take unnecessary risks and always play it safe!

Sprouts:

This is truly the best way parrots should be getting seed and is closest to how they’d get it in the wild! Its a very simple process that turns plain old seed into a nutritious part of a companion bird’s diet. First off you will need human grade or high grade seed, lentils or so on. Place them in a container that can be easily rinsed out with out the seeds falling out. (Screen mesh can help) Let them soak overnight and rinse a lot the next day. Once the waters gone let them sit for a bit (with access to sunlight for some added nutrition from the sun) and you will have sprouts! Time mainly depends on the type of plant. Personally we usually use lentils and other prepared seed mixes. Many places online have sprouts for sale or local health food stores. Below is a very helpful video introduction.