Ever watch an episode of the reality TV show, “Survivor?” If so, you might have noticed that the contestants are provided with very little food. If they’re lucky, it’s a sack or two of rice to feed a tribe of 10. No wonder a lot of the footage follows the contestants’ foraging-for-food quests. They’re on the prowl for protein sources, which vary from the icky (grubs, slugs, bugs and even rats), as well as items that are a bit tastier and offer vitamins and minerals, such as exotic fruits and fish.
What the show demonstrates is how even us pampered, thoroughly domesticated humans still have wild instincts that inspire us to forage for food. If a lawyer or aspiring actress on a reality TV show is driven to seek out a variety of food sources, imagine a parrot’s desire for the same; perhaps even more so since most pet parrots are only a couple generations removed from the wild.
One thing is certain: Most companion birds cannot thrive on a diet consisting of one food item. In the past, that was typically referred to as a seed-only diet. Seed can be a good addition to a bird’s diet, but imagine how your health would be affected if you only ate nuts for every meal. On the flip side, imagine if you had to choose one staple food item to have every day that offered the best overall nutrition. If that was the challenge, some of us might opt for a protein power smoothie, with a shot of wheat grass for good measure.
The closest thing birds have to the power smoothie and its packed nutrition is a formulated diet. This is why many avian veterinarians recommend a formulated diet (a diet in a pelleted form) as a base diet for most birds. That’s not to say that a formulated diet is the only thing your bird needs. You still have to offer a variety of other foods, such as fresh vegetables, as well as fresh fruit and healthy table food.
Set The Menu
If you are a healthy eater, chances are that your bird has a good selection of foods to choose from. And if you are like some bird owners, your bird eats better than you. If you and your bird both need a diet makeover, you’re in luck; most of the tips and tricks recommended to make our diets healthier are the same tricks and tips to make our birds’ diets healthier (i.e. more green leafy vegetables, restricting sauces/oil/butter, cutting out heavily processed food and sweets, adding more lean protein, three servings of fruit and veggies a day, etc.). You can practically share every healthy addition to the menu.
Something that would probably not sit well in your mouth is seed, but that doesn’t mean your bird can’t have any. Seed can be offered as a supplement to most parrot’s diets. Some aviculturists recommend offering seed, in addition to pellets, each day to some of the smaller parrots, such as cockatiels and budgies. After all, these birds are native to areas where grass seeds make up a large portion of the diet. Seed can also be sprouted to bring out essential nutrients that make it even healthier than vegetables.
Keep in mind, that the best diet varies depending on the bird species, just like with people. The best way to ensure your bird is getting the nutrition it needs to thrive is to ask your avian veterinarian.
Foods To Feed
Along with your pellets, feed these healthy foods. Freshness counts, so if it’s not fresh enough for you, it’s not fresh enough for your flock.
• Green leafy vegetables, such as red-leaf lettuce, chard, mustard greens, arugula, spinach
• Colorful veggies, such as carrots, red or green bell peppers
Nuts, Legumes (beans) & Grains:
• garbanzo beans
• kidney beans
• cooked brown rice
• whole-wheat pasta
• cooked sweet potato
• broiled skinless chicken
• cooked squash
• scrambled eggs
• quinoa (cooked or sprouted)
Yummy, Fun & Healthy:
• birdie bread
• cooked bean or pasta medley
• sprouted seed, grain, nuts or legumes
• fruit /vegetable kabob
• dehydrated fruit and vegetables
Always A No-No: