Parrots are flock animals and in the wild, young birds learn what is good to eat by following the flock. In captivity, hand-raised birds identify with humans as their "flock". This is why your birds will want to eat what you are eating, whether it is healthy or not. It is your responsibility, as a bird owner, to teach your birds how to eat healthily. The majority of health problems in pet birds originate from dietary excesses (fats) and deficiencies (vitamins and minerals).
Indian Ringneck and Alexandrine parrots originate from the forests of Asia - they are accustomed to a richer diet than Australian desert parrots. They are canopy feeders and their diets include more fats and fruits.
Pellets (formulated diets)
pelleted diets are nutritionally balanced. Many brands are commercial available (both Australian made and foreign). Birds need to be converted to pelleted diets, under supervision. To be effective, pellets need to comprise 80% of their total diet. Birds on pelleted diets still need fruit, vegetables, green grass seed and green leafy browse for behavioural enrichment.
Asiatic parrots can have sunflower seed in their mix - never excessive. We recommend Breeders Choice small parrot mix which contains an acceptable level of sunflower. These parrots can also be offered nuts (preferably not peanuts) e.g. Hazel, almond & walnuts. Seed and nuts should be kept in sealed containers and refrigerated/frozen to maintain freshness.
Parrots on seed based diets need vitamin supplementation (pelleted diets should contain the necessary vitamins). We use Vetafarm Soluvet. This can be added to the water or sprinkled on the fruit and vegetables as per label.
Mineral supplement in the form of shell grit, oyster shell, cuttle fish is beneficial.
Nutritional and Behavioural Enrichment
A wide variety of seasonal fruits should be provided - apple, orange, banana, grapes, melons, strawberries, kiwi fruit, pawpaw, mango, lychee, stone fruit etc.
Sweet corn, silver beet spinach, beans, peas, lettuce, celery, sprouted seeds (bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts).
The following deep green and orange vegetables need to be lightly steamed to break down the cellulose and make them more digestible:- sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, broccoli, brussel sprouts. These can be offered warm first time around to encourage the birds to try it.
Milk thistle, green grass seeds, chick weed, dock, dandelion can be offered
Provide green leafy branches from Australian native trees for your birds to chew. This provides behavioural enrichment and occupational therapy for your pet. Wattle, bottle brush, melaleuca, grevillia, ti-tree, gum, lilly pilly, banksias, acacia provide necessary opportunities for the birds' instinctive chewing and foraging behaviour.
Avocado and chocolate
Never feed fatty, salty, processed human foods. Never feed dairy products - butter, cheese, milk, etc. Never feed tea, coffee, alcohol. Birds don't have the metabolism to cope with these foods. Always be guided by what they would eat in the wild.
© Peter Wilson July 2010
Information supplied by (c) Currumbin Valley Vet Services August 2010