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Using Flowers as Food for Parrots, Finches and other Birds

Plain-throated SunbirdSending flowers is a time-honored way of showing affection and concern, but did you know that your parrots and other feathered pets might appreciate a bouquet as well?  I’m not suggesting actually having flowers delivered to your parrot (although I know several who have done that!), but rather that you consider edible flowers as a source of bird food and behavioral enrichment.

The Role of Flowers in Bird Diets

Flowers, buds and nectar figure heavily in the natural diets of many parrots, finches and softbills.  In fact, lories and lorikeets are actually “floral specialists” (please see drawing of lorikeet tongue, adapted for nectar feeding).  However, with the exception of nectar-mixes, flowers have largely been ignored by most pet keepers.

Flowers are also a major food item of several less commonly-kept softbills, including hummingbirds, sunbirds and the aptly-named flower-peckers. Ornithologists speculate that the brilliant colors of some species may have evolved to provide camouflage during feeding sessions in flowering trees.

Behavioral Stimulation

In addition to their nutritional value, flowers can provide important behavioral stimulation for parrots and other birds.  Most parrots delight in tearing them to bits, and bud-covered fruit tree branches (apple, pear, plum etc.) will provide hours of entertainment for both pet and pet-owner.  Finches, White-Eyes, Pekin Robins and other small birds will also poke about in flowers for insect treats, real or “imagined”, and may consume petals and nectar as well.

Purchasing Flowers

Lorikeet tongueFortunately, it’s quite simple to incorporate flowers into your birds’ diets.  Many bird-safe flowers are relished by people, and are available in food stores.  In NYC markets, I’ve come across squash, zucchini, rose and daylily flowers (note: not all daylilies are safe for people or birds, so do not pick your own), as well as a number that I did not recognize.  Korean, Chinese and Indian neighborhoods have proven especially rich flower-hunting grounds.

Do not buy edible flowers from garden supply outlets or florists, as these will not have been slated for human consumption and would likely have been exposed to toxic chemicals.

Dried flowers specifically marketed as bird food are also a useful option.  Goldenfeast’s Hibiscus and Chamomile

may be offered to a variety of parrots, finches and softbills.

Growing and Collecting Flowers for Your Birds

If the option is available to you, growing your own edible flowers is a great alternative to shopping.

Harvesting wild flowers is also possible, but you must be confident in your ability to identify the various species and have access to a pesticide-free collecting site.  A field guide will be useful in this regard.

Common, Easy-to-Grow Edible Flowers

The following common flowers are readily accepted by many birds and can easily be grown or, in some cases, purchased at food markets.  Do not buy flowers intended as food anywhere other than at a food market; please see above.


Daisy                                                   Marigold

LorikeetsDandelion                                           Rose

Carnation                                            Sunflower

Violet                                                  Zucchini Blossoms

Tulip                                                    Squash Blossoms

Elderberry                                           Hibiscus

Impatiens                                            Apple,Plum and Pear Blossoms




Further Reading

Further information on edible and poisonous flowers; written with people in mind but applicable to birds.

Gardening for Pet Birds

Eat Your Roses: a guide to 50+ edible flowers



Lorikeets image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tatiana Gerus

Plain-Throated Sunbird image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Ltshears



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. Read More »

Freeze Dried Mealworms – a Healthy, Convenient Food for Wild and Pet Birds

As I write this from NYC it is not yet officially winter, but I’m looking out over waist-high snow drifts.  So I’m inspired to consider a special treat for the visitors to my bird feeders, and one which finches, softbills and other pets relish as well – mealworms.

The Importance of Insects

A bag of Freeze Dried Mealworms is a very useful item for both pet keepers and wild bird enthusiasts to have on hand.  Providing both calcium and much-needed protein, insects continue to figure in the diets of many birds even during the coldest months.  Although not visible to us, insects are always about – some species hibernate, while others pass the winter as eggs or pupae.  These are avidly sought by many typical feeder visitors, but especially Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Blue Jays and Juncos.  Insects become especially important in late winter, when female birds need to increase their calcium stores in preparation for egg-laying.
Read More »

Convincing Your Parrot to Accept Pellets – Lafeber Nutri-Berries

It’s now well-established that pellets designed for cockatiels, budgerigars, Amazons, cockatoos, macaws and other parrots represent one of the most effective means of providing these birds with a balanced diet.  It is equally well-established that many of our feathered friends adamantly refuse to eat pellets, and easily thwart our best efforts to disguise or hide them within other foods!

A Useful Feeding Technique (or Trick!)

Enter Lafeber Nutri-Berries.  Nutri-Berries are a unique combination of pellets, molasses, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other ingredients, combined in a nugget that is very well-accepted by a wide variety of parrots.  Most importantly, their consistency is such that even the most fastidious pet will be unable to pick out favorite items.

Nutri-Berries offer, therefore, the best option available to those seeking to introduce pellets to a bird’s diet in a manner that pleasing to both parrot and parrot owner alike.  In fact, they are being increasingly recommended by veterinarians and serious aviculturists.

Their nutritional content is such that, when supplemented by fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts and such other foods as may be needed by various parrot species, Nutri-Berries can be used as a dietary staple.

Species-Specific Nutri-Berries

Nutri-Berries  are available in a wide variety of flavors and in sizes suitable for average-sized parrots, cockatiels, and macaws and cockatoos. Budgerigars, who are often among the worst offenders when it comes to being picky eaters, readily accept cockatiel-sized Nutri-Berries.

Further Reading

There are a great many other feeding options available to those who keep parrots and other birds.  For a look at what zoos and private aviculturists have tried over the years, please see my article Alternative Bird Foods.


Feeding Insects to Pet Birds: Zoo Med’s Anole Food


Zoo Med Anole FoodInsects are readily taken by most captive softbills (finches, canaries and other “non-parrot” species), and are often essential in bringing birds into breeding condition and for the rearing of chicks.  Those of us who keep birds such as smaller finches, Peking robins, shama thrushes and leafbirds are often hard put to find suitably-sized insects.

Small crickets can be purchased at many pet stores, and a few tiny individuals are usually to be found in containers of wax worms and butter worms. A breeding colony of earthworms and mealworms is another option, but such may not be practical for the casual or “accidental” breeder.

In other articles, I have urged softbill keepers to investigate the use of Canned Insects, the Zoo Med Bug Napper and other products originally designed for reptile enthusiasts (please see below).  I would like to now add Zoo Med Anole Food to my list of suggestions.  The dried, laboratory-raised flies that this product contains are ideally sized for even the tiniest of finches and their chicks.  Your birds’ acceptance of this new food might be hastened by misting the flies with a bit of water, or by mixing a few small live mealworms among them.

You can read another of my articles on this topic by clicking on the following link:

Feeding Insects to Pet Birds – useful products designed for reptiles

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