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18 Responses to “Foods for Different Avian Species”

  1. Layna Scheunemann

    Why are grapes, bananas, citrus fruit, and flour based foods not recommended for birds?

    Reply
    • spotdvm

      Layna,

      Grapes and bananas are very high in sugar. Farmed citrus fruits are also high in sugar and ingredients that may increase the risk of iron storage disease for susceptible species. Flour based foods are generally high glycemic (meaning they rapidly turn to sugar in the blood shortly after ingestion). For the same reasons (high sugar content), I don’t recommend feeding fruit juice to pet (or really even people).

      Sincerely,

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  2. Michael Weinstein

    Do the dietary restrictions (nuts, meats, seed, ) that apply to African Grey apply also to pineapple green cheek conures?

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      Michael,

      We do know that different species of parrots have varied dietary requirements in the wild and likely in captivity. I don’t generally recommend any meat or seed, and rarely nuts, for most pet birds. For the typical sedentary pet bird, these foods tend to come with more long term negative consequences than benefits. Until we better understand the inter-relationship between diet and health better in pet birds, I don’t recommend feeding meats, nuts and seed to most pet birds (which includes green cheek conures).

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  3. AA

    Hi
    Sir/ madam
    I want some solution for ring neck I have 4-6 years old birds this season I have too much dead shell please advice me what shall I do thanks,

    Please e mail me
    I will be very great full to you thanks,

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      These types of problems are best served by working with a bird veterinarian. Unfortunately, these problems can be complex and are not always appropriately be addressed via the internet. A hands on evaluation of the situation is best here.

      Sincerely,

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  4. Jennifer

    Hi Dr.Echols,

    Your info “Foods for Different Avian Spieces” were very interesting and helpful for everyday feeding, and came under question on why feeding larger birds (such as africangrey ) “cooked” grains are better. Does 100% pellet diet not likely wanted in all species? Are there any books I could study for further nutritional facts?

    Sincerely,
    Jen

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      Jennifer,

      Nutritionally speaking I cannot easily say that cooked grains are better or worse for birds (and there are likely nutritional differences). However, my experience suggests that larger parrots prefer cooked grains while smaller birds (budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds, etc) like dry grains.

      We have no published long term studies in birds that can tell us the ‘ideal’ diet. So long term pet bird nutrition is a work in progress- we learn more every year! This is one of the reasons I am not comfortable with feeding a single food item for an animal’s lifetime. Doing so assumes we know all the nutritional needs of that animal and when it comes to pet parrots I don’t believe we have that information at this time. Additionally, feeding a single item diet can be monotonous and may not be in the best interest behaviorally for our companions.

      There are lots of books on poultry nutrition. And, there are numerous scientific studies that look at very specific nutritional aspects of a bird’s diet. However, there is currently no pet parrot nutrition book that ‘has it all’. You will find lots of opinions and recommendations on bird nutrition. However, there is not a lot of hard core scientific fact when it comes to pet bird nutrition that is easily found. My best advice is to work with veterinarians familiar with bird nutrition. You can also join us on ‘Nutrition for Pets‘ on Facebook for discussions on pet nutrition!

      I hope this answers your questions!

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  5. Fran

    I have a young parrotlet and the breeders I’ve spoken to all seem to say that this species needs seeds due to high activity/energy. Just wondering if you agree that this species warrants a different diet than other parrot species. I still give him fresh fruits and veggies and a small amount of pellets, but he does eat a fortified seed mix daily.

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      Fran,

      For parrotlets, I recommend the following:
      25-50% pellets with the remainder being human grade whole grains (spelt, oat groats, quinoa, flax seed, chia seed, hemp hearts, barley, steel cut oats), chopped richly colored veggies (no spinach) and chopped berries, cactus fruit and figs.

      I do not recommend ‘bird seed’. As you can see, I do recommend seeds and grains as a substantial portion of the diet. Pet bird seed is generally not checked for fungal toxins and other factors that would deem the food as ‘human grade’. Also, most bird seed mixes tend to have higher fat items that birds preferentially eat. This results in a dietary imbalance (most commonly seen as excess weight or obesity in clinical practice). Stick with the human grade grains and make your own mix.

      Also, I recommend against feeding dried fruits, sweet fruits (grapes, bananas, oranges), flour based foods (pasta, chips, tortillas, etc) and animal based foods (cheese, meat, yogurt, etc).

      I hope this answers your questions.

      Sincerely,

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  6. Peter

    I was wondering what are your thoughts on feeding spray millet to a parrotlet?

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      Peter,

      Fresh spray millet (ideally human grade) can be ok as a part of a balanced diet for parrotlets. I don’t recommend feeding a large proportion of the diet as millet. Here is a link to a form with other diet ideas: https://www.avianstudios.com/forms/attachment/foods-for-different-avian-species-5/. You can also grow various grains and feed them as ‘grasses with seed heads’. This is a great way for small birds to forage and get fresh foods.

      Sincerely,

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  7. Carol

    Hi, Dr. Echols!

    In Your feeding guide for small birds such as Cockatiels, Grass Parakeets, Budgerigars, Parrotlets, Lovebirds, Pyrrhura Conures, you recommend whole grains. I don’t see a mention of Beans and Legumes, as in your feeding guide you mention this for larger birds. Is there a reason for not recommending legumes to the smaller species?
    If a pellet you are feeding contains Omega 3 would one still require to feed a small amount?
    And during times of molting is there any other specific requirements?

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      Carol,

      Cooked beans are fine to add into small bird diets. The reason I don’t mention them is that they have to be fully cooked (which not everyone will do) and a lot of small birds will not eat them.

      I am a big fan of omega-3’s in the diet- either through supplementation (VetOmega) or adding in extra omega-3 rich foods like flax, chia and hemp.

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  8. Jaime Jones

    I have been researching everywhere for about 10 months on cockatiel nutrition. I have 2 females that I want to have the best out there. I need advice on what pellets (if any) are acceptable. I try to feed them tops and harrisons and they will not eat them. They will eat zupreem but they are all fillers with some added sugar. I give them nutriberries which they love but not sure if they are safe since they are adding soy and corn syrup now. I don’t want hormonal or chronic egg layers for their health. I currently feed them sprouted micro grain from china prairie and dried veggie chop from Texas Naturals. They will not eat fresh veggies. Please help me feed the right thing. Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      Jaime,

      Cockatiels are true granivores meaning they naturally eat seeds and grains. However, I don’t recommend feeding typical bird seed mixes. The following is my standard recommendation for cockatiels:

      50% or less commercial pellets with the remainder being HUMAN grade whole uncooked grains (spelt, oat groats, barley, quinoa, flax seed, chia seed, hemp hearts) and chopped dark colorful greens (no spinach). Cockatiels are not big fruit eaters. However, I can sometimes get them to eat chopped berries and figs. Sprouted grains (as you are doing) are also good. In practice, I find cockatiels the easiest parrot species to convert to pellets and new grains. Simply put the grains/pellets on a paper towel and tap on the towel. The tapping causes the pellets/grains to move around/jump and the cockatiels usually show interest and start eating the moving food!

      There are no long term studies on the effects of feeding different pellet diets on parrot health. One study did show the birds spends twice as much time eating Nutriberries (which are made from human grade grains). However, that is more of a behavioral benefit.

      Hopefully this helps!

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply
  9. Peter

    Hi Scott,

    Since small birds are granivores and mainly grain eaters. How important is veggies in their diet, and what percentage should they be fed, as opposed to other foods?

    Reply
    • BirdDoctor

      Peter,

      This a really good question. Most of our small parrots are true granivores meaning they mostly eat seeds, seed heads and related parts. Many of these birds (lets take budgies as an example) eat seeds/seed parts as they become seasonably available. They also supplement diet with vegetation, occasional fruits and even insects and spiders (depending on the species). The problem with feeding a seed diet to housed and relatively sedentary birds is dietary imbalance resulting in micro and macronutrient deficiency or excess (mostly fat [both saturated and omega-6]), obesity, cardiovascular disease and more. We temper this concern by feeding lower density foods (pellets), lower energy grains/seeds (no sunflower, no safflower, etc), higher omega-3 fatty acid sources and supplementing with richly colored veggies (no spinach) and a small amount of berries, figs, etc.

      There is no magic percentage off each component. I suggest general guidelines: < 50% pellets with the remainder being human grade grains (spelt, oat groats, barley, steel cut oats, flax seed, chia seed, hemp hearts, quinoa, millet, etc) and a smaller part colorful greens and minimal fruit. I hope this helps! M. Scott Echols, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice)

      Reply

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