Improper nutrition is the primary cause of disease and behavioral problems, such as obesity,
fatty liver disease, feather plucking and even death, in pet birds. It is your responsibility
as a bird owner to provide proper nutrition to help guarantee a long and healthy life for your
bird. Birds should never go without food! If your avian vet has instructed you to put your bird
on a "fast" then follow the instructions to the letter.
Diet, in general
The "seed-only" diet has been the mainstay for many caged birds for over 100 years. Unfortunately,
such a diet is deficient in important vitamins, especially vitamins A and D3, and moderatley high in fat.
A seed-only diet that is not supplemented with healthy foods can shorten a bird's life span, cause health
problems and or death due to severe vitamin deficiencies or fatty liver syndrome.
Great advances have been made in the field of avian nutrition. Pelleted foods, "Birdie Cornbread" and
enhanced seed-based foods can increase a bird's level of nutrition. These foods should be the "main food"
for birds and seed-only mixes should be given only as a treat after the main food has been eaten.
Most of the nutritional information in the Alaska Bird Club's Basic Avian Care Booklet is oriented towards
hook-billed birds (small to large parrots.) Soft-billed birds and nectar-eating birds have a different set of
nutritional requirements. Please ask your avian vet for guidance on proper nutrition for these types of birds.
Getting your bird to eat healtier foods
Don't try to starve your bird into eating new foods. A small bird will die in 48 hours if it doesn't eat.
When trying to introduce new foods, weigh your bird daily on a gram scale to watch for any drastic weight loss.
When weighing your bird always weigh it around the same time every day, before the first meal of the day if possible.
Weighing your bird after it has eaten will make the weights vary from day to day.
"Veggie-kabobs" are a fun way to introduce healthy foods to your bird. It's a Toy! It's Food! It's two fun things
in one! You can make vegetable kabobs by putting yummy fruits and vegetables on a bamboo, wooden or stainless steel
skewer and then hang them in the cage. Birds may see the kabob" as a toy, play with the food and just maybe get some
in their mouth and enjoy it! Be creative and never ever stop offering new foods. It may take weeks, months or longer,
but one day, "food that is dead to me" will suddenly become a favorite consumable.
In general, the darker the green and orange colors of the food, the better they are for the birds. On the Internet,
there are many lists of safe and un-safe foods. Educate yourself first.
Never feed chocolate, rhubarb, avocado, eggplant, alcohol or caffeine! In addition, avoid allowing the "pit"
(such as peach, apricot, or cherry) or hard fruit seeds (such as apple or orange) to be consumed by your bird.
The information below is an overview only. More-detailed information is available in published books, articles and
other web sites. Don't rely on this resource only! We are all responsible for the pets we choose and for knowing what
is best for our particular species. This list was compiled by various bird club members from a variety of sources. If
you are unsure about what your species of bird needs in order to thrive, do your homework, check other resources, talk
to your avian vet! Many behavioral problems and illnesses are less likely to occur with proper nutrition.
- Clean all fruits and vegetables; SCRUB THEM!
- Variety is best!
- Pellets offer a better chance at complete nutrition, but not all by themselves.
- Sprouted seeds are great, but tricky to do safely. Watch ouot for mold!
- A pelleted or seed diet must be supplemented with fruits and vegetables.
- High vitamin A vegetables are one of the most important foods you can get your parrot to eat.
- Seeds are a psychological food item for birds and all birds should be able to "shuck a nut" every now and then.
- Clean water, changed every day, possibly more than once per day.
They do not eat seed! They need fruits, nectars and bugs!
Need more calcium than other birds; watch vitamin D.
No artificially-colored pellets.
Can tolerate fat and protein; they need nuts in the shell!
Prone to obesity, be careful with high-fat foods!
Introduce fruits and berries early in their lives.
Budgies, Tiels and Lovebirds:
They eat seed in the wild, but it is sprouted seed which is very different than most commercial seed mixes.
Provide the best quality seed mix possible as part of their diet.
Parrots in General:
- NO GRIT! Parrots do not need grit in their diet because they crack the hulls off the seeds they eat. Cuttlebone is OK.
- African Greys, Poicephalus (Jardines especially) and Electus have higher Vitamin A dietary requirements. Dark green and dark orange vegetables should be in their diet.
- Feed more vegetables than fruit.
- Avoid human food high in sodium, fat or sugar! These birds are small compared to us. A tiny piece of potato chip for a cockatiel is like eating a whole bag for you!
- Please do your homework and check your birds requirements carefully. Not all birds eat the same things!