Parrot nutritional requirements vary by species. In general, parrots must have access to fresh, clean drinking water (changed daily), pellet diet, fresh fruit/vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Eclectus and Lories have unique dietary requirements. Please consult with a specialist for these species.
The Basic Nutrients
Water. The body is composed of approximately 80% water! Every cell is dependent upon water for it’s very existence. It is necessary for energy production, transportation of nutrients, and to help regulate body temperature. It is well known that a body can survive longer without food than without water. Under extreme conditions, it is possible to lose 50% of muscle mass and almost 100% of fat stores, but a 15% fluid loss could lead to death. A constant source of CLEAN water is essential for your bird’s well being. Be sure to keep water containers clean and to change the water at least daily. More frequent changes are needed if the bird drops it’s food in the water, since food will contaminate the water quickly. Also, place food and water cups in areas where droppings will not fall into them. For example keep them out from under perches.
Proteins are essential for the health and maintenance of all body issues. They play a key role in normal growth, reproduction and resistance to infection. Proteins are made up of small sub units called amino acids. Every species has it’s own requirements for certain amino acids. These essential amino acids cannot be manufactured by the body and must be provided by the diet. Common sources of proteins include bean, nuts, eggs, meat and dairy products.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel. They are found in plants and include starches and simple sugars. Carbohydrates that are not immediately needed by the body are stored in the liver and muscles. Fiber, often found in carbohydrates, helps maintain normal intestinal function and prevent constipation. Common sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, and cereal grains.
Fats are the most concentrated energy source. They provide more than twice as much energy per unit than either protein or carbohydrates. Fats insulate and store energy for the body and are also required for the normal absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Common sources of Fats include nuts, seeds, and many dairy products. Minerals play a crucial role in the maintenance and strength of bone, normal cell function, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. They are also important in maintaining the proper balance of body fluids. Minerals are required in only minute amounts, but the balance between different minerals is crucial. If this balance is disrupted, it can lead to serious problems. Therefore, supplementation, if needed at all is is best done with a complete, balanced mineral supplement.
Grit. While not a food grit is something people think all birds need. They do not. If it is overeaten, grit impaction can occur in the digestive system. Chickens and turkeys eat whole seeds and require small bits of sand to grind off the coating of the seed in order to digest it. Parrots, on the other hand, crack their seeds before they eat them. This eliminates the need for “grinding stones” in the gizzard. Finches and canaries do require extremely small amounts of grit in order to digest their food. Two pieces per week is probably adequate for these birds.
A danger exists in overfeeding grit to birds. From boredom or sickness, birds sometimes eat too much grit and they can develop an impaction in the digestive tract. For the same reason, you should not use sand-covered cage liner or sand-covered perch wrappers even if it is not called “grit”. Birds can eat this sand as well. Gary A. Gallerstein, The Complete Pet Bird Owner’s Handbook.
EDIBLE FLOWERS FOR PARROTS – SAFETY FIRST!
As much as parrots enjoy the variety and the visual stimulation of flowers in their diet, it is as essential that we learn the difference between toxic and non-toxic varieties, as it is to use only untreated flowers.
Do not use flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers.
Unless otherwise stated, these flowers have almost certainly been treated with pesticides which were not intended for food crops. Flowers picked from the side of the road never should be eaten by human or parrot. Highly poisonous herbicides are used to eliminate weeds and plants bordering roadways so roadside flowers can be deadly fare.
Most Popular Edible Flowers
These are the most commonly consumed flowers of the eighty edible varieties:
Borage blossoms (Borago officinalis) – Tiny blue flowers have slight cucumber flavor.
Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis) – Also known as “pot marigolds”, multi-colored blooms with a peppery taste. Sometimes called “poor man’s saffron”.
Carnation flowers (Dianthus caryophyllus) – Red, pink, and white blossoms with clove taste.
Chamomile flowers (Chamaemilum nobile) – Daisy-like flowers with a slight hint of apple flavour. Especially good for parrots when calming influence is needes.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – the lavender-pink pom pom flower is actually composed of many small florets. Flowers have a mild onion flavour.
Daisies (Bellis perennis) – Yellow and white flowers with light mint or clover flavour.
Dandelion flowers – Small yellow blossoms have honey flavour when picked young. Older flowers are bitter. Also offer dandelion leaves which are an excellent source of nutrition.
Day lilies (Hemerocallis) – many coloured blossoms with sweet taste and crunchy lettuce texture. Flower buds and blossoms can be consumed at all stages of growth. NOTE: Many lilies (Lillium species) contain alkaloids and ARE NOT SAFE FOR PARROTS OR PEOPLE.
Elderberry flowers (Sambucus canadensis) – Sweet tasting flowers. For colds and chills, Gypsies mix elderberry flowers, yarrow and peppermint and steep in boiling water for 1-3 minutes, and drink tea frequently.
Gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.) – Flowers of many colours grow on a spike with flowers above each other, all facing the same way. Has lettuce texture and flavour.
Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – Tropical blossoms in a variety of colours have slightly acidic taste. One of the favorite flowers of most parrot species.
Honeysuckle flowers (Japanese Lonicera japonica) – Small white to yellow trumpet-shaped blossoms are sweet and delicious. Parrots relish these flowers and the Loridae family of birds especially loves the honeysuckle nectar. Only the Japanese honeysuckle is edible and only the blooms should be used as the berries are extremely poisonous. Offer only the flowers so that no berries on the vines will accidentally be eaten.
Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) – Multi-colour small blooms with mild taste.
Johnny-Jump-Up flowers (Viola tricolour) – Yellow, violet, and lavender flowers with wintergreen flavor. Leaves are also edible and contain vitamin C.
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – Lavender blossoms have heavy floral fragrance and lemon flavour.
Marigolds flowers (Tagetes signata pumila) – Bright yellow and orange flowers with citrus flavour.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) – Purple flowers are edible as well as leaves and seeds which are known for benefits to liver.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) – Red, yellow, and orange flowers have a tangy, peppery flavor and are the most popular of all edible flowers. Leaves can be eaten too.
Pansies (Viola X Wittrockiana) – Purple, white, yellow bi-colour blooms have a sweet, tart flavour.
Passionflowers (Passifloraceae – passion flower family) – Passiflora caerulea and Passiflora edulis are two of the hundreds of varieties. Some vines produce large greenish white and purple blossoms and then orange or purple edible fruit, depending upon the variety of the plant.
Roses (Rosa spp) – Some of the tastiest rose varieties are Rosa xdamascena, Rosa gallica, and Rosa rugosa, Flower carpet rose, Double Delight, Mirandy, and Tiffany variety. Roses have a slight fruity flavour.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) – Lavender-blue flower spikes grow only on the culinary variety. The variegated species of sage do not flower. Flowers have distinctive sage flavour.
Other herb flowers – The tiny flowering blooms of the following spices are edible: anise, basil, bee balm, chives, coriander (cilantro), dill, fennel, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
Sunflowers (Helianthus) – Many varieties but most have yellow leaves around a “black eye” center. Mature flowers contain the seed that all parrots find so irresistible!
Tree flowers – Parrots can be offered the flowering blooms of the following trees: Apple, bottlebrush, citrus (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat), eucalyptus, melaleuca, and plum.
Tulips (Tulipa spp.) – Multi-color flowers with crisp, cucumber taste.
Vegetable flowers – Butter blossom squash flowers have slight squash taste. Zucchini flowers, podded pea flowers (ornamental peas are poisonous), okra, pumpkin, and runner bean flowers are edible.
Violets (Viola odorata) – Deep violet and white color with sweet wintergreen taste.
There are many more flowers that are poisonous than are edible.The use of botanical names is important due to the fact that common names vary in different regions of the country. Two plants may be known by the same common name while one is toxic and the other is edible. The following is only a partial list of the most common toxic flowers and their botanical names:
- Anemone or windflower (Anemone spp.)
- Autumn crocus (Colchicum spp.)
- Azalea and rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)
- Buttercup (Ranunculus spp.)
- Clematis (Clematis spp.)
- Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)
- Delphinium or Larkspur (Delphinium spp.)
- Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
- Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
- Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)
- Iris (Iris spp.)
- Lantana (Lantana camara)
- Lobelia or Cardinal flower (Lobelia spp.)
- Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
- Morning glory (Ipomoea spp.)
- Oleander (Nerium oleander)
- Periwinkle myrtle and vinca (Vinca spp.)
- Wisteria (Wisteria spp.)
Source: Swicegood, Carolyn. The Kitchen Physician XI (Edible Flowers for Parrots)
Other related sites:
- Apples (all varieties, no seeds). Apples contain malic and tartaric acids, which keep the liver and digestion healthy. Granny Smith apples are the preferred variety amongst many.
- Apricots (no pits or area near pit). Dried, unsweetened apricots have the higher Vitamin A content of all fruits. Excellent source of potassium, niacin, riboflavin and iron.
- Bananas. Good source of B6, potassium, riboflavin). You should remove peel before giving to your bird, but I have to admit, I serve my bananas in slices to my Hahns. Without the peel they will not eat them. I believe they don’t like the feel of the mushy banana. They eat the inside and drop the peel to the floor for the cleaners!
- Berries. (strawberries (have to be washed extremely well with a veggie wash), blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries) Strawberry leaves help to remove metallic poisons from the blood. Raspberry leaves help soothe the entire system. Blackberries are a source of ascorbic acid and strawberries a source of vitamin C and potassium.
- Cactus fruit
- Cherries. No pits. Can be helpful in healing gout.
- Coquitos (mini coconuts)
- Dates. Source of potassium and niacin
- Figs. Source of potassium and iron
- Grapes. (red, green, black) Grapes help the kidneys by decreasing the acidity of uric acid.
- Grapefruit. Source of Vitamin C
- Kiwis. Source of potassium and ascorbic acid.
- Mangos. source of vitamin A, niacin, vitamin C and potassium.
- Melons. (rinds are toxic, watermelon, honeydew, crenshaw, cantaloupe, (good source for vitamins A, C and potassium.
- Watermelon. While high in water content, contains vitamins A, C, Potassium, Thiamin and Phosphorus. Honeydew is low in vitamin content.
- Nectarines. No pits or area near pit. This is a source of Vitamin A and Niacin.
- Oranges. This is a good source of Vitamin C. Frozen, undiluted concentrate can be used for cooking and contains the highest amount of Potassium and Vitamin C. Contains flavonoids, carotenoids and terpenes, which are natural cancel inhibitors. If squeezed over soft food, said to keep them fresh longer.
- Papaya. Contains papain, which aids digestions and helps the stomach and pancreas and is high in Vitamin C.
- Passion Fruit
- Peaches (no pits or area near pits). Unsweetened, dried varieties have more Vitamin A, Riboflavin and Potassium.
- Pears (no seeds). Good source of Potassium.
- Pepino Melons
- Plantains. Good source of Vitamin A, C and Potassium.
- Plums (no pits).
- Pomegranates. Great for the kidneys.
- Raisins. Good source of Potassium, Thiamin, Niacin and Phosphorus.
- Star Fruit
Please ensure all fruits are thoroughly washed in a good fruit wash.
- Almonds. High in Calcium and B6, which helps fight infections, also a good source of Phosphorus and Potassium. Highest amount of Calcium in all nuts and the second largest amount of Potassium and Phosphorus.
- Brazil Nuts. Highest source of phosphorus of all nuts and also high in Potassium,not as high in fat as macadamia nuts.
- Cashews. Low in fat.
- Filberts (or hazelnuts). Second highest amount in Calcium and contain some vitamin A.
- Macadamia nuts. Highest in fat and calorie content of all nuts. Also low in protein.
- Pecans. Low in protein but high in calories. Has some vitamin A value with little Calcium.
- Pine nuts. Contain the lowest amount of calcium of all nuts, also is low in protein and in Phosphorus
- Pistachio nuts. Highest amount of Potassium and vitamin A of all nuts, third highest in Phosphorus value. Also contain Calcium, Thiamin and Phosphorus.
- Walnuts. Some vitamin A value and is the fourth highest in potassium.
Nuts in the shell can be a great foraging treat!
Almond butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, peanut butter and macadamia butter (homemade is best because you can cut down on the sugar and oil used.)
Do not feed peanuts in the shell! This is a health risk to your bird/s.
Please ensure all vegetables are thoroughly washed in a good vegetable wash. Vitamin content is much higher in raw vegetables, but more digestible if cooked.
- Alfalfa sprouts (leaves). Alfalfa is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium and carotene which acts as an appetite stimulant. It is carotene that converts into Vitamin A when metabolized by the digestive system.
- Baby corn
- Bamboo shoots. High in sodium, but little nutritional value.
- Beans. (pinto, kidney, nary, garbanzo, mug, butter, haricot, adzuki)
- Beans. (pole, wax, green, etc.)
- Carotene which acts as an appetite stimulant. It is carotene that converts into Vitamin A when metabolized by the digestive system.
- Beet greens. High in vitamin A, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin. Vitamin A is the most important as is essential for skin and feather condition, eyesight and helping the body fight infection.
- Bok choy
- Broccoli. Good source of vitamin A, riboflavin, ascorbic acid. strong disease fighter. Abundant in anti-oxidants, high in cancer fighting activities, rich in cholesterol-reducing fibers and it helps regulate blood sugar.
- Brussels sprouts. Feed in moderation as can cause thyroid problem if overfed. Good source of potassium, thiamin, ascorbic acid.
- Cabbage. Red in lower in vitamin content
- Carrots. Help to promote tissue healing and excellent source of beta carotene, (infection-fighting, immune boosting anti-oxidant and artery protector) good source of potassium.
- Cauliflower. Good source of potassium
- Cayenne. Digestive aid, good source of vitamins A, C, B complex, calcium, phosphorous, iron. Inhibits up to 75% of all bacteria. Known to lower illness related to heart, cholesterol, arthritis and other problems if eaten regularly.
- Celery. little nutritional value, high water content
- Chicory. vitamin A
- Chickweed. High in Vitamin A, strengthens the stomach and bowels
- Chili peppers. high in Vitamin A
- Collard greens. Good source of calcium, vitamins A,C, potassium and riboflavin.
- Cucumbers. (high water content)
- Cranberries. Known for its properties to help bladder and urinary problems. Also contain antibiotic and antiviral properties.
- Dandelion greens. (rich in vitamin A)
- Eggplant. (cooked, mature ripe pods only)
- Endive. Source of vitamin A
- Garlic. Anti-tumor properties, contains 17 anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial substances. A natural antibiotic, it stimulates the immune system and kills parasites. It also helps to eliminate lead, zinc and other toxins.
- Ginger root
- Green beans. (source of Vitamin A and potassium)
- Kale (vitamin A)
- Lettuce. Feed in moderation as has high water content. Romaine, chickory, boston, aruula and other dark or red varieties are better than iceberg and other light colour greens.
- Lima beans. Baby lima beans are a good source of potassium, thiamin, niacin.
light colour greens. (frozen). Good source of Vitamin A, though not as high as in the canned varieties, but lower in sodium.
- Mushrooms. Even though they contain niacin and riboflavin, they have little nutritional value.
- Mustard greens. Vitamin A and calcium
- Onions. Personally, I say NO to fresh onions. Others say they are questionable. Onions, like some other oxalates, can bind up calcium. Again, personally I only use powder in mashes, sparingly and would never consider giving any of my pets, dogs or birds, raw onions.
- Parsley. High in Vitamins A and C, calcium, chlorine, copper, phosporus, potassium and an incomplete protein. Helps to cleanse the kidneys.
- Peas. (green, sugar snap, peas in pod) (green and yellow split). Good source of potassium and an incomplete protein. Helps to cleanse the kidneys. Vitamin A, phosphorus, thiamin and niacin.
- Peppers. (red, green, yellow, jalapeno, chili). Red pepper flakes are high in Vitamins A and C, as well as several minerals. They help increase circulation and promote clotting. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.
- Potatoes. (white, red, new, cooked) baked is best. White and red potatoes are good sources of B6, potassium, phosphorus, iron, thiamin, niacin, ascorbic acid.
- Pumpkin (cooked). Seeds are gland heaters, may kill some intestinal parasites. The high zinc content promotes issue growth. Canned pumpkin contains the highest amount of Vitamin A of all vegetables.
- Radishes. (Little nutritional value)
- Spinach. Feed in moderation as can bind calcium in system. High in Vitamin A and potassium. Frozen cooked spinach has the highest amounts.
- Sprouts (alfalfa, bean, etc.) These contain vitamin C and are nourishing to the glands but are an incomplete protein.
- Squash (butternut, acorn, etc. cooked). good source of Vitamin A, potassium, niacin. Summer squash has lower vitamin value than winter varieties do. Seeds high in selenium.
- Sweet potatoes. Good source of vitamin A, niacin, B6. Boiled is best. Canned mashed sweet potatoes are highest in vitamin value, but not the candied variety.
- Tomatoes. good source of Vitamin A and ascorbic acid. Tomato paste, sauce, and puree all have high Vitamin A values but may also be high in sodium.
- Turnip greens. Turnip greens are high in Vitamin A and calcium.
- Watercress. This is high in Vitamin A, C, E and aids the kidneys.
- Yams (good source of Vitamin A, niacin, B6). Boiled is best.
- Yellow wax beans (lower than green beans in vitamin value)
- Zucchini (see squash).
A vitamin is an organic compound that is considered to be metabolically essential in small amounts in animal tissues. Vitamins are critical to good health.
- Fat Soluble Vitamins. Found in fatty compounds and are carried in the body by fasts. Not soluble in water but are normally found in dissolved fats and are stored in the body.
- Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) is stored in the liver and is needed for good vision. It is essential for resistance to infections, particularly in the sinuses. It belongs to the group of vitamins that are known as carotenoids. It is important for healthy eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Can be found in most fruits, yellow or green vegetables including carrots, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, apricots, cantaloupe, dandelion leaves, red chili peppers, broccoli, peaches, egg yolk and peas.
- Vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium from the intestines. Without enough Vitamin D, the absorption of calcium is slowed, which can cause inadequate bone development. This can lead to rickets or fragile bones. Vitamin D is also called the “sunlight” vitamin as it is produced in the skin by ultraviolet rays from the sun. Vitamin D3 is the only D vitamin that birds can use. Foods that have Vitamin D included egg yolks, some cereals, cheese.
- Vitamin E. Eight forms of vitamin E are found in plants. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which is used by the body to prevent chemicals in the body from damaging cells. This is sometimes referred to as the “sex” vitamin as is necessary for the pituitary, adrenal and sex hormones. Vitamin E works together with other minerals, especially selenium. Can be found in whole grains, some cereals, fresh leafy green vegetables such as spinach. Safflower oil, canned peaches, dried prunes, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, Brussels sprouts and whole grain breads.
- Water soluble Vitamins. Stored in the body but are washed away with water, so they must be replenished continually.
- Vitamin K. Ensures proper blood clotting through the manufacture of prothrombin (the factor in blood that causes clotting). Synthesis occurs in the intestines. Is vital for proper liver function. Most diets have adequate vitamin K. Found in green vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, peas, green beans, turnip greens, spinach and cheese. It is also produced by bacteria in the bowels.
- Thiamin (B1) helps to maintain a healthy nervous system and B vitamins are also important in reproduction. Found in whole grains, peanuts, peas, raisins, oranges, dried beans, lentils, red kidney beans, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, asparagus, potatoes.
- Riboflavin (B2) is involved in the release of energy from proteins, carbohydrates and fats in food. Also important for reproduction. Founds in eggs, milk, yogurt, chicken, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach and whole wheat bread.
- Niacin is involved in many different body processes. It aids in the breakdown of fats and proteins and in red blood cell formation. Also important in reproduction. Found in all foods, but highest amounts are in animal products. In plants it is poorly absorbed. Found in chicken, beef, peanut butter, tuna, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, salmon, eggs and potatoes.
- Biotin (B7) is necessary for many different body functions, including those that manufacture and break down fats, amino acids and carbohydrates. Biotin is stored in the liver. Excellent sources are liver, tuna, oatmeal, soybeans, eggs, peanut butter, brown rice, chicken, bananas.
- Folic Acid functions in the formation of uric acid and is very important in the excretion of wastes through the kidneys. This makes folic acid crucial to the avian diet. Sources are alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, some cereals, chick peas, oranges, peanuts, Brussels sprouts, wheat germ, red beans, bananas, whole wheat bread and wheat bran. Also produced by bacteria in the bowels.
- Cobalamine (B12) is necessary for maximum growth in young birds. Also important in reproduction. Even though bacteria in the gut can produce B12, it is not a dependable source. Vitamin supplements provide adequate supplies of B12. Found in eggs, lean meat, wheat germ, soy beans, peanuts and peas.
- Pantothenic Acid (B3) is involved in the production of fats, cholesterol, bile, vitamin D, red blood cells and some hormones and neurotransmitters. Seed diets are adequate in supplying pantothenic acid. It can be found also in eggs, chicken, soy beans, peanut butter, bananas, potatoes, broccoli, beef liver, grapefruit, corn, cauliflower, eggs, rice, cantaloupe, wheat germ, breads.
- Pyridoxine (B6) functions in the building and breaking down of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is mainly involved with proteins and amino acids. Can be found in both plants and animal products. Very little is stored in the body. Most practical diets require the addition of B6 for growth. Bananas, corn, sunflower seeds, Brussels sprouts, some cereals, squash, chicken, potatoes, grapefruit, spinach, rice peas, walnuts and peanut butter are all good sources.
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) aids the formation and maintenance of a protein that forms the basis in connective tissue, as well as the supporting material in the blood vessel wall. It helps to bind the muscle tissue together. It aids in the healing of wounds, fractures, bruises and forms a protective barrier against infections or disease. Some birds need vitamin C added to their diet, while other birds can manufacture enough in their livers or kidneys. Vitamin C is safe to add to diets, because as a water soluble vitamin, any excess flushes out of the bird’s system rather tan being stored in the body like many other supplements. Can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, pears, a variety of buds, shoots and tropical fruit such as kiwi, papaya, mangoes. It is also found in Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, cabbage, asparagus, green peas, potatoes, lima beans, bananas and carrots.
- Choline. Is important in controlling fat and cholesterol in the body. It helps in preventing fat from accumulating around the liver. It also helps to regulate the liver and kidneys. Important for proper nerve transmission. Found in cabbage, egg yolks, liver, nuts, lentils and cauliflower.