Proper nutrition is the cornerstone to a healthy bird. In general we recommend a pelleted diet without seeds as the primary source of nutrition for most companion avian species. The following guidelines are for most Parrot and Song Bird species that are commonly kept as house pets.
- Pellets – pelleted diets are better than a total seed diet. However there is a wide range of companies producing pelleted diets for birds and they vary in terms of protein, energy, fat content, the presence of artificial colors and preservatives, etc. Most companies do produce a variety of sizes to accommodate different size birds.
- NO-NO’s – Absolutely NO caffeine, alcohol, chocolate or Avocado. These substances are toxic and can kill your bird.
- In Moderation –Sugar, salt, fat, and dairy. Birds can become obese, especially given the more sedentary lifestyle our feathered companions enjoy when compared to their wild counterparts. Birds can develop heart disease, so think “heart healthy” i.e. low fat and low salt. Birds do not have the enzyme that allows the digestion of lactose, so technically speaking birds cannot digest dairy products. That having been said, a lot of birds like dairy and they can have a little as long as it doesn't affect their stool.
- Vegetables – Feeding a VARIETY of vegetables will provide a greater spectrum of vitamins and minerals than just sticking with one or two types. The bitter greens; red leaf /green leaf lettuce, chicory, escarole, mustard/dandelion/collard/kale greens, are the most balanced in terms of the greatest range of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables that are orange in color have a high Beta Carotene content which is necessary for feather development and normal skin cell turn over. Think about “feeding the rainbow” since different colors can reflect different nutrient/vitamin/mineral content.
- Fruit – Fruit is mostly sugar and water and doesn't’t meet the vitamin and mineral needs of birds. They can be used as treats, rewards, and enticement.
- Seeds – Seeds are high in oils and fats, and lacking in the vitamin/mineral content birds need. Think of them as “birdie junk food” and give out sparingly for reward and enticement.
- “Human food” - Most people are surprised to learn that they can share their meal with their bird, in moderation. As long as the above guidelines are taken into consideration, everything else is fair game. Try whole grain breads, fortified (non-sugar) breakfast cereals, pastas, meats, eggs, and beans with your bird. Remember that anything cooked needs to be cooled before feeding (test it as you would a baby’s bottle). You may be surprised to find out what your bird likes.
As with any changes, it may take your bird a while to accept new foods and you may have to “teach” him that what you’re offering is food. Your bird may be suspicious of certain food items as first, be patient and persistent, try offering an item in a variety of ways and if he’s bonded to you – you eating it first may entice him to try it!