Pet Talk: Parrot nutrition
Proper nutrition is an important part of living a healthy life for both people and animals. We don’t always get the proper nutrition we need, and poor nutrition can cause potential damage to our bodies. Similarly, an unhealthy diet can lead to health problems in pet parrots as well.
Parrot owners should be especially cautious when formulating a diet plan for their parrot. If given free choice of food, parrots are likely to pick out the unhealthy components of the feed and leave the healthy components uneaten.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about parrot nutrition is the belief that offering free food choice will ensure a healthy diet,” said Dr. Ian Tizard, distinguished professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Parrots are similar to humans and will often pick out the high fat, high salt foods if their diet is not supervised.”
For example, if given a bowl of nuts mixed with candy, as humans, many of us would choose to eat candy. Similarly, if given a diet with mixed components, parrots may pick out their favorite nut or seed, which is often high in salt and fat, and leave their least favorite components, which are often healthier options, untouched. This can lead to obesity and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, said Tizard. However, formulated diets – or feed that contains a blend of grains, seeds, vegetables, and fruits in pellet form – may be a suitable choice for parrot owners.
The ingredients in formulated diets are mixed, blended, and baked together so that parrots cannot pick out a favorite pellet or crumb. This will prevent the parrot from eating only particular components of the formulated diet, which can result in an imbalanced diet and health concerns.
Formulated diets are readily available at pet stores and may meet the nutritional requirements for most birds, but parrot owners should check with their veterinarian before choosing a feed. “Commercial diets are carefully calculated and are a safe option to offer pet birds,” Tizard said.
Additionally, Tizard said occasional fruit or nut snacks are good for parrots as a reward or for food variety, but they are not necessary. Some fruits and vegetables are safe for parrots to eat. Check with your veterinarian on which fruits and vegetables are best suited for your parrot.
Formulated diet can be available at all times, but it is necessary to monitor your parrot’s food intake to decrease the risk of obesity. Your parrot should be fed only what it can eat in one day. If you notice weight gain, cut back on your parrot’s diet and provide toys for mental stimulation and physical activity. It is also important to provide fresh, clean water at all times. Feeding bowls should be regularly cleaned as well.
No matter the type of parrot you are feeding, ask your veterinarian for specific advice regarding your bird’s nutritional needs.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.