How to feed your parrot a balanced diet

Parrots on a diet of primarily sunflower seed or peanuts will frequently suffer from severe malnutrition. They often have a vitamin A, vitamin E and calcium deficiency and suffer from high cholesterol. Parrots on a seed diet often suffer from chronic sinusitis, feather plucking, fatty liver disease, obesity, fungal infections (Aspergillosis), poor feather and poor beak quality.

Vitamin A is important to maintain a good immune system and healthy organ linings. Parrots with a vitamin A deficiency are therefore more prone to develop respiratory, intestinal or urinary diseases. While bacteria and fungi can easier enter the body and cause infections. Dark leafy greens and yellow or orange vegetables serve a great source of vitamin A.

Parrots in captivity can be very selective eaters and often become addicted to certain foods, especially sunflower seeds. Parrots on a seed diet should not suddenly be withheld from sunflower seeds. The diet transition should be made gradually over a months’ time. The seeds must slowly be decreased, while the complete formulated diet, fresh vegetables and fruits should be increased.

Healthy parrots moult once a year. This moulting process is nutritionally highly demanding on the body. Protein requirements increase, with four to eight percent, for the production of new feathers. Energy requirements increase up to twenty percent. When parrots do not receive adequate nutrition, the normal moulting process slows down or even stops. This then results in a dull, old and damaged plumage. Parrots often start to pluck feathers while the old damaged feathers irritate the parrot.

A parrot’s diet must at least consist of fifty percent of a complete balanced formulated diet, this should preferably be ninety percent. This diet should be formulated for your species of parrot. Budgerigars, Cockatiels and Ring-necked Parakeets are granivores (seed eaters), however fatty seeds such as sunflowers should be avoided. African Grey Parrot and Blue and Gold Macaws are florivores (flower and seed), Orange winged Amazons and Scarlet Macaws are frugivores (fruit eater), Cockatoos are omnivores (seeds, plants and even insects). Examples of complete diets are Natures Nest, Roudybush, Tops parrot food or Avi-plus complete pellets. Ten percent of diet should be supplemented with fresh vegetables and some fruits. Be careful with the use of nuts as treats while they can result in obesity. Avocado should never be fed to parrots, while some strains contain toxins, which can cause death. Apricot pips contain cyanide which is highly toxic and therefore should never be fed.

Clean fresh filtered water should always be available. Parrots require to consume just less than two and a half percent of their body weight on a daily basis. Supplying medicine or nutritional supplements in water is often less effective, while the stability of the water cannot be controlled. It is better to mix the supplements or medication in soft food. If the parrot was hand raised, then it is good to continue with the feeding of parrot porridge on a weekly basis. This is a great bonding tool and it is the best way to give medication or vitamins to a parrot.

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  • BSAVA manual of Psittacine Birds, second edition Harcourt-Brown N, Chitty J, eds. 2005
  • BSAVA Manual of Avian Practice, Chitty J and D Monks, eds., 2018
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