I read an interesting parrot nutrition article recently and was inspired to expand on a few points that I made in an earlier post on parrot pellets (please see below for both articles).
Pellet Pros and Cons
Great progress has been made in the development of pelleted parrot foods in recent years, and they now play an important role in both zoo and pet parrot care. However, the convenience offered by pellets may lead one into poor bird-keeping habits. Ideally, as mentioned in the articles below, a species-appropriate combination of natural and pelleted foods should be provided.
Providing a complete diet based on seeds, nuts, fruits, nectar, insects and other natural foods is difficult and time consuming (I find it interesting as well, but not everyone agrees!). In addition, it can be difficult – maddeningly so at times – to induce parrots to eat “what they should”. Diets comprised of whole food items allow birds to pick and choose – indeed, nutritional deficiencies caused by this problem spurred the development of pelleted diets. As parrots must eat the whole pellet, choice is removed from the equation.
However, whether we are dealing with people, zebras (yes, there is a zebra pellet, and scores of others) or parrots, certain nutrients are difficult if not impossible to incorporate into processed foods.
The Food-Boredom Link
The article linked below highlights many problems that may be linked to the inappropriate use of pellets, such as formula variations and chick rearing concerns. One of these is a topic that I tend to focus on as well – the importance of food in keeping an animal occupied and interested in its environment. This holds for all creatures, but especially so for parrots and other active, highly-intelligent birds.
Responsible zoos now require that “behavioral enrichment” be a part of parrot husbandry, and pet keepers should as well. Seeds, nuts, whole fruits, tree branches with buds and flowers and other such food items play an invaluable role in this regard. From sunbirds to elephants, most animals spend the majority of their time gathering food. A parrot that fills up in 5 minutes by eating a bowl of pellets is in for an unhappy existence.
What to Do
When formulating a diet for your bird, nothing beats careful research into its natural history. The information is out there, but one must usually go beyond “googling” the species…please write in for details if you need further information. Pellets eliminate this step, but at what cost? Even if your bird thrives, much of value will be lost if you do not go through the research yourself.
Achieving the proper balance between natural foods and pellets will be an ongoing process, and dependent upon the species, individual and a great many factors…please write in for further information.
Species Specific Diets
Species specific pellets, such as Pretty Bird Cockatiel Food, are an important step forward. Several seed-based diets are also now formulated with specific groups of birds in mind. Please review what’s available in pelleted and natural bird foods and be sure to write in if you need assistance.
The check out the articles mentioned above and others on this topic:
Alternative Bird Foods (back when we had to cook horsemeat and other goodies)