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Parrot Nutrition – Pellets Re-visited

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.

Further Reading

The check out the articles mentioned above and others on this topic:

Views on Pelleted Foods

Alternative Bird Foods (back when we had to cook horsemeat and other goodies)

Pellet-based Diets for Parrots

Sprouting Seeds for Pet Birds

Gardening for Pet Birds  



  1. avatar

    It is very challenging to pet birds because they have unpredictable behavior. Unlike other animals, they sometimes do not show signs of sickness. Aside from lovely birds, I also have rabbit so beautifully sheltered in her rabbit hutch. I spend plenty of time for the two animals but its all worth it.

  2. avatar

    Hello Kate, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. There’s an old saying among zoo bird keepers that birds are “either well or dead” – not exactly true, but it illustrates the point you make. Predators choose sick and injured animals over others, so it’s in most species’ “best interests” to appear healthy at all times. Careful observation, and knowing your individual animals very well, is essential.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Diet is so important for the good health and behavior of our parrots. Good information.

  4. avatar


    Thanks for your interest and the kind words,

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy 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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