As we come to a better understanding of the nutritional needs of birds, the recommended diet for pet parrots includes a variety of nutritious freshly prepared foods in addition to a formulated diets (pellets) and a small percentage of seeds. Remember that most freshly prepared foods will spoil readily, and should be removed from the cage after a couple of hours. If your bird is not readily accepting new foods, try offering them early in the morning or in the evening, times when birds naturally forage for food in the wild. More tips on introducing new foods are found in "Introducing New Foods to Picky Eaters."
Fresh vegetables are a great addition to your bird's diet. Not all vegetables are equally nutritious though; vegetables like celery and lettuce are high in fiber and water but are otherwise not all that nutritious. Dark yellow and leafy green vegetables are usually excellent choices. You can offer vegetables in a variety of forms to entice the bird to try them - fresh whole or chopped, or cooked and fed slightly warm. Try hanging vegetables from the side of the cage in a clip, or offering them in chunks that larger birds can pick up with their feet to gnaw on. You many need to be creative to get them to try things, and the aim is to get your bird to eat as many different kinds of vegetables as possible. Try a variety of vegetables such as:
- Carrots (root and tops)
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens such as collards, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, beet greens and dandelion greens
- Green beans
- Sweet red, yellow and green peppers
- Broccoli (head and leaves)
- Sugar snap or snow peas
- Romaine or green/red leaf lettuce (small amounts)
- Corn (kernels, or on the cob for larger birds)
Remember: no avocado!
Again, you want to feed a wide variety, not just a favorite few. Many birds love fruit and will overdo it so limit fruits to a fairly small portion of the overall diet. As with vegetable, many of the more deeply colored fruits contain more nutrition, and it is good to try feeding a variety of more tropical type fruits parrots might be exposed to in their native habitats. However, make sure they do not eat pits or apple seeds as these can be toxic. Try fruits such as:
- Cantaloupe (without the rind), other melons
Birds can also be fed a variety of nutritious grains, such as cooked brown rice, quinoa, oats, wheat, barley, and pasta. Whole wheat bread and unsweetened whole wheat cereals can also be offered. Cooked legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent addition to their diets. Birds can also be offered small amounts of lean well-cooked meat and poultry and cooked eggs.
Sprouted seeds are an excellent source of nutrition for pet birds and an excellent way to supplement with greens. Freshly sprouted seeds are a nutritional gold mine, as the seed mobilizes its nutritional content into a highly digestible and bioavailable form as it starts to grow. Sprouted seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as enzymes and antioxidants, and some consider them to be natures most perfect food. In any case, they are an excellent way to provide a nutritional boost and most birds love them. Information on sprouting seeds can be found in "Sprouting for Healthier Birds."
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements It is usually a good idea to offer a cuttlebone (for extra calcium) but otherwise extra vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed if you are feeding a well balanced diet based on formulated foods supplemented with a variety of nutrition home prepared foods. Additional supplements should only be given on the advice of your veterinarian.
Next: What Not to Feed
Lories and Lorikeets