Q: How do I get my bare-eyed cockatoo to try new foods? I have tried just about every way to get him to try new foods, and he just throws it. I am afraid he isn’t getting a balanced diet. All he wants to eat is safflower seeds.
Parrots do not merely eat, they dine. To get a finicky parrot to eat properly, we must understand that:
- Parrots are neophobic.
- Parrots are social eaters.
- Parrots forage for food.
- Parrots see in color.
- Parrots like to play.
- Hungry parrots will hold out for their favorite food.
These characteristics can make feeding parrots more difficult, or we can use them to our benefit. The innate fear of new things often includes food. Eating only a single food item is unnatural, even if it is common in captive birds. If a bird eats only one type of food because the bird is afraid to try new things, then pellets are the healthiest single food for a parrot to eat. Yet, this is similar to treating the symptom and not the disease. When a bird is comfortable in its surrounding, that bird is more likely to try new foods. So, gently expose your bare-eyed cockatoo to as many new things, people and situations as possible. If you raise your bird? level of comfort and self-confidence, then your bird will be more willing to try new foods.
Parrots are social eaters that forage for their food. If we leave them alone to eat, we deny them a vital part of their natural habits. If there are other birds eating around them, or if we enjoy a meal along with them, they are more likely to eat a variety of foods. When a bird watches several people sharing broccoli, carrot sticks or slices of apples and oranges, these foods become more enticing. The social interaction stimulates the appetite and helps diminish the fear of eating an unfamiliar food.
Simply having food in a bowl is boring. However, having to search for it and work for it is rewarding. There are foraging toys on the market that you can buy. Lafeber? has a new product, the Nutri-Forage pack-n-snack. This might make it easier for you to get started on some foraging ideas. You can put food into small paper cups and stuff them into the bars of your bird? cage or flight. You can make paper fans and put food into the folds. Get creative!
Wild parrots eat foods as they become seasonally available. They recognize foods by shape, color, texture and taste. Appeal to all these senses. Turn food into toys. Hang food from stainless-steel skewers, place large leaves of greens over the top of a cage, and weave food between the cage bars. Make the food toys large, colorful and fun. There will be a great deal of waste. This is natural and normal. However, as your bird begins eating a balanced diet, you can reduce the waste by offering smaller portions.
One of the paradoxical behaviors known to every breeder who has weaned a chick is that, hungry birds do not eat. They look pitiful and helpless as they hold out for their favorite food. They will refrain from eating long enough to frighten you into thinking they will starve. However, if you give them a small amount of their favorite food, it will stimulate their appetite and they are more likely to try new foods. Harrison? Birdy Bread is a product that I believe could be good for your bird. It is easy to make and has whole safflower seeds in it. Your bird would have to dig into the bread to get at the seeds. In the process of eating the seeds, your bird would also consume some of the bread; this would be a step toward eating pellets and other healthy foods.