Carotenoids are compounds that, in most birds, impart red, yellow and orange colors to the feathers. They are obtained from the diet, and are most abundant in brightly-colored fruits and vegetables. In theory, a bird with bright plumage is “advertising” the fact that it has been eating well, and is in prime health. Until recently, however, this theory was largely unproven.
Health Benefits Conferred by Carotenoids
Findings released this month (Feb. 2009) by Arizona State University researchers indicate that carotenoids do indeed provide a great many health benefits to birds, and therefore the “advertisement value” of the plumage is quite significant. These nutrients seem to enhance both vision (specifically color perception) and sperm quality.
The researchers theorize that a diet high in carotenoids leads to better color vision which in turn allows the bird to find foods of higher quality (brightly colored fruits, for example) and a more fit (again, brighter-hued) mate.
Carotenoids function as antioxidants in people, but it has not been determined if the same applies to birds.
Choosing Carotenoid-Rich Products for Your Pets
Here at ThatFishPlace/ThatPetPlace, we carry a wide variety of bird foods that are packed with carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables. There are a number of products available for most types of birds – for starters, please check out Wild and Spicy Avian Entrees, Fiesta Food for Canaries and Finches and Sunny Orchards Nutriberries.
I also recommend as additions to your pets’ diets those foods consisting entirely of carotenoid-rich items, such as Veggi-Crisp Delights and Diced Blueberries, Raspberries and Papaya.
Of course, a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, with amounts and types tailored to the species of birds that you keep, should also be offered to your pets.
Goldenfeast Dried Sweet Potatoes are a great source of carotenoids and other valuable nutrients. Please see my product review and notes concerning the many zoo animals which I have found to relish this healthy food: Goldenfeast Sweet Potatoes Bird Treat