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Gardening for Pet Birds: Growing Your Own Food and Fodder – Part 1

With warmer weather (finally!) here, I’d like to present some thoughts on plants that can be grown and provided to finches, parrots, softbills and other pet birds as both food and “playthings”.  Wild plants provide important nutrients that are often in short supply in commercial foods.  Also, your pets’ enthusiastic attacks on novel foods will leave no doubt as to the value these have in stimulating appetite and behavior.  In some cases, the provision of fresh leaves and branches, or a new flower or fruit, even helps to spark breeding behavior, much as similar factors do in the wild.

Wild Visitors

Your “bird food garden” will provide the added benefit of attracting local birds, perhaps some that you have not seen in the past.  If their attentions become “too enthusiastic”, consider installing one of our bird feeders and keeping it well supplied with wild bird food  – most birds will prefer ready-to-eat foods over those which they must harvest themselves!

Using Home-Grown Foods

Bark, leaves and flowers provide exciting play and beak-trimming opportunities.  Some of these, along with seeds, buds, fruits and berries, are also readily consumed – having your pets work at breaking up a fruit or seed head will be of great value in keeping them occupied and active.

Do not limit your thinking to parrots when considering food and activity opportunities.  Canaries and other finches also take quickly to poking about leaves and sharpening their beaks on rough bark.  Leafy branches are particularly attractive, and will be investigated thoroughly for the presence of small caterpillars, aphids and other insects.  Softbills such as Pekin robins and shama thrushes will do the same, and many enjoy sampling flower nectar as well.


Be sure to avoid the use of pesticides in your garden, and to collect wild plants only from areas that are not sprayed with such toxins.

Consult your local pest-control authority for information concerning West Nile Virus control efforts – the toxins used are said to be mosquito-specific, and to dissipate within 24 hours, but harvesting should probably be avoided during peak treatment periods.

Further Reading

Information on pesticide free gardening is posted at http://groups.ucanr.org/slomg/documents/Pests_&_Diseases3865.htm.


Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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