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Avian Nutritional Considerations: Amazon Parrots and Macaws

Please see Part I of this article for information concerning hill mynas and African gray parrots. Today we’ll continue our overview of nutritional considerations particular to specific groups of birds.

Amazon Parrots (Genus Amazona)


Amazons gain weight easily, and seem prone to obesity. This is in part due to their fondness for sunflower seeds and peanuts, and also to the difficulties involved in trying to convince them to accept a healthier diet…they are just to smart and stubborn for their own good!

Switching Amazon parrots to a pellet-based diet is the ideal solution, but is often quite a challenge. One very useful product in helping them to make the adjustment is Lafeber Nutriberries. Containing both pelleted and natural foods, nutriberries retain their consistency well, making it difficult for parrots to pick out favored ingredients.

Amazon parrots love to manipulate food items with their feet. You can take advantage of this by offering them thick stalks of kale, carrot chunks and other such vegetables. This may help to satisfy their appetites and will keep them occupied and stimulated as well.

Hypocalcaemia, Hypovitaminosis A and Sinusitis

In common with African gray parrots, Amazons are often troubled by these three ailments. Please see Part I of this article for a discussion of their causes and treatments.


Dietary Fat

There is some evidence that certain macaws, especially those that feed heavily upon palm nuts in the wild, may do best on a high-fat diet. However, please bear in mind that the nutritional requirements of the world’s 17 macaw species vary greatly, and they cannot be treated as a single entity in this regard. Always be sure to carefully research the individual species in which you are interested (please see Further Reading, below).

Psittacine Proventricular Dilation Disease

Known also as “macaw wasting disease”, this affliction is as yet incurable. Believed to be viral in nature, it is seen more frequently in macaws than other parrots, but is by no means limited to them.

In birds stricken by the disease, a region of the stomach known as the proventriculus dilates and ceases to contract normally. Food, unable to move through the digestive system, is usually regurgitated. Whole seeds may also appear in the droppings, and weight loss will be evident. Some birds also exhibit abnormal head movements, lameness and other problems associated with the nervous system.

Carefully choosing your birds, and quarantining all new arrivals for 3-6 months, is the best protection against macaw wasting disease.

Hypervitaminosis D and Stunting

With hand-raised macaws commanding such high prices, it is inevitable that many people try their hand at what is actually an extremely difficult undertaking. An excess of Vitamin D and a failure to develop normally, both typically seen in baby macaws, are linked to inappropriate nestling formulas.

Kaytee Macaw Handrearing Formula is specifically formulated for macaws, but the advice of an experienced aviculturist should also be sought if you are new to hand-rearing birds.

Useful Products

Please see our wide selections of species-specific foods, nutritional supplements , vitamins and minerals and books for assistance in formulating healthful diets for your birds.

Further Reading

Please check out my articles on the Natural History and Care of Macaws  and Amazon Parrots  to learn more about these spectacular birds.



  1. avatar

    Hey Frank, remember me from the Bronx Zoo? I have an African Grey and Margie from the Bird Dept. has a Red-Lored Amazon, we both love your columns!

  2. avatar

    Hello Angelo, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Great to hear from you, thanks so much for the kind words!

    Glad to hear you are in touch with Margie…please send my regards, and let her know that I use Forshaw’s Parrots of the World, which she gave me so many years (decades!) ago, several times each week.

    One of the first articles I posted on this blog, Hand Rearing Palm Cockatoos, is about birds that you, I and Margie worked with in the early 80’s!

    I’ll get back in touch with you shortly,

    Thanks again for being in touch,

    Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar
    Corinne Zurlnick

    We have a Macaw parrot at the nursing home…we have been feeding him a red grape every day…he has had sympotms of siezures, we stopped the grapes in the pass week and half…he is more alert, more active and no signs of seizures…have you heard of this?

  4. avatar

    Hello Corinne, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest. Grapes are fine as a treat, and the seeds are not toxic. Seizure-type symptoms can indicate a wide range of problems, some of which are difficult to diagnose. The fact that this stopped when the grapes were discontinued is likely coincidental (always a change of pesticide poisoning via produce, but unlikely, not something I’ve run across); I suggest a vet exam. Please let me know if you need assistance in locating a local avian veterinarian.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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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