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Is Your Bird Eating Junk?

There is a common misconception that pet birds just eat seeds. We fill our bird-feeders with seeds, at pet stores we see birds chowing down on bowls of seeds and the bird aisles are stocked with bags of seeds covered with images of happy parrots. While parrots do eat seeds in the wild, they also consume fruits, nuts, flowers, stems and leaves. Amazingly, some species of macaws may forage over 15 miles a day in search of a variety of foods! While we cannot replicate this diet in captivity, there are much better alternatives to seed-based diets for our feathered companions.

Seeds contain a large amount of energy in the form of fat. Although a good source for energy, they lack important nutrients a parrot needs to stay healthy. A predominantly seed-based diet for pet parrots inevitably leads to an overweight, nutrient deficient bird. Of course the birds love seeds, but it would be like you or I eating french fries for all of our meals. A fat bird is prone to developing liver and joint disease, while nutrient deficiencies can cause a range of diseases including egg binding, respiratory disease and eye problems. Even if your bird shows no symptoms of illness, it can be difficult to detect early signs of disease. In addition, feathers often make it challenging for owners to determine if their bird is too fat or too thin. A veterinarian experienced with birds will know how to assess the body condition or your pet and look for the subtle signs of nutrient deficiencies.

While birds should be offered appropriate fresh vegetables and fruits, these supplemental foods alone cannot make a seed-based diet whole. The best thing for your feathered pet is to feed a high quality avian pellet and use appropriate fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds as treats and for environmental enrichment in the form of foraging. As the number of pet birds in the U.S. grows, commercial pellet diets are increasing in number in pet stores. Choosing the right pellet can be confusing. I recommend looking for a pellet without artificial food coloring or other items mixed in (like seeds and nuts). Many birds readily take to a pellet diet, but a few may be more stubborn. If you are interested in changing your bird’s diet, but are having a difficult time, it is best to consult a veterinarian experienced with pet birds to help you and your companion with the switch to a healthier food.

Presented Compliments of Beach Veterinary Clinic, Cortez, Florida, 941-792-2838


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