Parrots come from many different parts of the world and some of the food they would naturally come across may differ slightly between species. You should therefore take into consideration the area your bird is native to when choosing a diet. For example, budgerigars and cockatiels are native to Australia and so their natural diet would consist more of grasses- whereas an Amazon parrot is more likely to encounter tropical fruit in the wild. Here in the UK, we might not be able to replicate their diet entirely, but we should aim to offer a diet that is as close as possible to their natural one.
As general rule for parrots we recommend following the same guidelines of feeding 33% fruit, 33% veg and 33% carbohydrates.
It is not unusual to come across parrots who refuse to try new food and who insist on living solely on sunflower seeds, peanuts or similar. These are high in fat, low in nutrients and unfortunately very detrimental to the parrot if fed exclusively. A diet of sunflower seeds can lead to a number of health problems such as: heart disease, obesity, fatty liver disease and calcium deficiency (leading to seizures and bone diseases). We recommend reserving sunflower seeds and nuts to use only as treats.
We have written some advice for transitioning your parrot onto a healthier diet. This can be found here.
Seeds vs Pelleted Diets
Seeds are fine for many birds, but for birds who feed selectively we recommend moving them onto a pelleted diet. Pelleted diets are essentially ground up and re-formed seeds and are often enhanced with an appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals. By feeding pellets, the bird is unable to selectively feed and therefore will be receiving a more balanced diet (when combined with fruit and vegetables). Another option for birds are ‘Nutri-Berries’. Nutri-berries are whole and semi-whole seeds which are adhered together and coated with vitamins and minerals. This helps reduce selective feeding, as well as provide the added enrichment of having something to break apart. These can be a good option for birds who won’t accept pelleted diets.
Fruit, Vegetables and Plants
These should form a large part of your parrot’s diet and a wide variety should be offered- the more colourful the better!
Safe Fruit, Vegetables and Plants
- Berries – including blueberries, raspberries and cranberries
- Apples and pears
- Bell Peppers
- Squashes and courgettes
- Peas, sweetcorn and pulses
- Sweet potato
Ultraviolet lighting and Calcium
Broad spectrum UV lighting is highly beneficial to birds. Birds are capable of seeing UVA light, and without it are essentially colour-blind, which can impair their mental well-being – leading to behavioural problems. Birds also use UVB by converting Vitamin D into Vitamin D3, which then aids the absorption of calcium. Calcium plays a vital role in nerve and muscle function, so we recommend that you also provide a source of calcium such as cuttlefish bones. There are also a number of powder supplements on the market which can be added to food. We recommend Nutrobal as a good all-round supplement for birds.
The easiest way to provide ultra-violet lighting is to move your bird enclosure outside for a few hours on sunny days (be careful to avoid extreme temperatures, so that your birds do not over-heat or get too cold). UVB rays can’t penetrate glass, so a sunny window will unfortunately not suffice. A bird-specific UV lamp should be provided for indoor birds – do not use a lamp that is designed for reptiles or fish, as these can cause seizures in birds.
All birds should have 24 hour access to clean drinking water. Some birds like to use their water bowls as a bath, so ensure the water is changed regularly.
Foods to Avoid
The below list is of food that is toxic to many species of animal, including parrots. These should be avoided at all times.
- Stones and seeds from fruit such as cherries, peaches and apples (the flesh of the fruit itself is fine)
- Anything from the allium family, such as: onions, garlic, leeks and chives.
- Dried beans (cooked beans are fine)
Parrots are lactose intolerant and dairy products will likely lead to digestive upsets such as diarrhoea and should be avoided.
Treats (in excess!)
Many owners confess to us that they sometimes give their birds a treat such as toast. Generally we advise keeping treats to a minimum, however having something ‘naughty’ that your parrot likes to eat can be very useful in the event of them needing medication. Therefore the occasional (small!) treat is absolutely fine, as long as it is not toxic (such as: chocolate, tea etc).