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Tips from the Past: Feeding Dried Shrimp to Finches and Softbills

Prepared bird diets  have greatly eased the task of providing balanced nutrition to feathered pets of all types.  I can well recall times when the diets of birds other than seed-eaters were, of necessity, prepared from scratch…please see my article Alternative Bird Foods, Yesterday and Today  for details and some useful products.  However, along with the innovations that have come about in the field of avian nutrition, it seems a few of the finer points have been lost.

Aquatic Foods for Terrestrial Birds?

Today I’d like to focus on what may perhaps seem an odd food for most pet birds – freeze dried shrimp and shrimp-like creatures such as Daphnia and Gammarus.  Widely used as tropical fish foods today, in years past zoo and private bird keepers relied upon these as important protein sources for finches and softbills such as bulbuls, shama thrushes, Pekin robins and white eyes.

Although most of these birds likely never encounter aquatic invertebrates in the wild, decades of experience has revealed that these creatures none-the-less contain well-accepted and useful nutrients.  Shrimp also help maintain the red coloration of many birds…among zookeepers it is well known that flamingos and scarlet ibis deprived of whole shrimp (or a substitute) soon fade to washed-out, pink “shadows” of their former selves.

Some Useful Freeze Dried Invertebrates

At That Fish Place/That Pet Place, we carry an extensive line of freeze dried shrimp and similar invertebrates, many of which will be well-accepted by a variety of birds.  Please give Daphnia, bloodworms, baby shrimp and mini krill a try.  You can either mix these foods into your pets’ usual diets, or offer them directly.

Further Reading

Wild and commercially-bred insects are also of great use to aviculturists. For information on collecting wild insects with the Bug Napper Insect Trap  and the use of canned insects in bird collections, please see my article Feeding Insects to Pet Birds .


Image referenced from Animal Pictures Archive and originally posted by K. W. Bridges.

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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