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Avian Nutrition: Pellet-Based Diets for Budgies, Macaws, Cockatoos, Cockatiels and other Parrots, Finches and Canaries


Although people have been raising and breeding granivorous birds on seeds for decades, it is now well-established that pellets offer a more reliable method of assuring that a balanced diet is consumed.

Pellet-based diets are more important for some types of birds than for others.  Finches, for example, tend to eat most of the ingredients contained in leading finch seed mixesParrots, on the other hand, can be quite picky, going through their food cups with a fine-toothed comb, as it were, and selecting only their favorites.

Using Seeds and Switching to Pellets

For all birds on a seed-based diet, the key to maintaining good health lies in assuring that a wide variety of seeds are consumed in appropriate amounts, and in providing supplemental foods (vegetables, fruits, sprouts, etc.) on a regular basis.  Pellets take the guesswork out of feeding birds, and have been embraced by most zoos and commercial aviaries.

The switch from a seed-based to pellet-based diet should be made gradually…even if your bird readily accepts pellets, it is not a good idea to shock its digestive system with a sudden change.  Rather, introduce the pellets over a period of 2-3 weeks.  Some birds, especially older parrots, may resist mightily, and may take several months before settling in to their new diet.

Tricks to Ease the Transition

One of the easiest ways of introducing pellets to your bird is to make use of Lafeber Avicakes  and NutriberriesBoth products contain nutritious pellets set within a tasty mix of molasses, seeds and other universal favorites.  Mixing pellets with fruits, vegetables, Eggfood  and other treats will also encourage acceptance.

“Pulsed feeding”, or the offering of many small meals daily, has long been used by poultry breeders to encourage birds to take in additional calories (it seems that the presentation of a food dish sparks a feeding impulse, even in a bird that might be rather “full”).  Removing and re-introducing your pet’s dish, loaded at times mainly with pellets, is worth a try.

The Role of Seeds in a Pellet-Based Diet

Seeds do have their place in parrot and finch diets, of course.  In addition to their nutritional value, birds benefit greatly from physically manipulating and opening seeds and nuts.

Once your birds have accepted pellets, continue to provide a moderate amount of seeds of many varieties – hiding or lodging them in difficult-to-reach areas is a great way to keep your birds entertained and active.  Bird Foraging Toys  are an excellent means of providing both seeds and exercise opportunities to your pets.

Please check out the pellet-based diets that we offer for finches, canaries, budgies, cockatiels, macaws, cockatoos and other parrotsFor a look at how I provided dietary variety to the Bronx Zoo’s huge bird collection many years ago, please see my article Alternative Bird Foods – Yesterday and Today.


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