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Fresh Foods (no more than 25% of the total diet)

Not only is it important to provide a variety to insure all the dietary requirements are being met, but your intelligent little friends (especially the hook bills and psittacines) also need variety to help prevent boredom.  In the wild they would spend a large portion of their day searching for and obtaining their food items.  It is a good idea to provide them with “fun foods” to play with such as corn on the cob, dark leafy greens, broccoli, oranges, and peppers (just to name a few).  Generally (with only a few exceptions- such as avocado, onion, butter/margarine, and chocolate), if a food is healthy for you, it is ok to feed to your avian friend.  If it is unhealthy for you, it should not be offered (French fries or any fried foods, candy and deserts, etc).  The most important fresh foods from a nutritional standpoint are the dark leafy greens (mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, endive, etc) and other brightly colored veggies (peppers, squash, zucchini, carrots, etc).

Fruits and Vegetables

These are a source of carbohydrates and many essential vitamins and minerals. The most nutritious vegetable options include:  most dark leafy greens, beans, carrots, dandelions, broccoli, sweet potato, etc.  Fruits can be offered as well, but the fruits that are available in this country are generally not considered essential for birds.  As such, they should be offered in limited quantities as a treat.  The juicier fruits, when fed in large quantities often cause more voluminous soft (stools with excess water/urine).  This is not a medical concern.  Make sure all these items are washed thoroughly prior to use.  Using a powdered preservative such as “fresh fruit” sprinkled on the fruit will allow you to store several days worth in the refrigerator without spoilage, and are considered safe to use in pet birds.  

Breads and Cereals

These are sources of certain amino acids, carbohydrates, and B vitamins.  Good choices include whole grain bread, unsweetened breakfast cereals, granola, tortillas, and pasta.  These can be used as a small part of the diet, generally as treat items.


These items can spoil quickly, so they shouldn’t be left in the cage for too long (especially on warm days).  Examples of protein rich foods include cooked lean meats, tofu, low fat cottage cheese, other firm light-colored cheese, yogurt and cooked eggs.  If your bird is experiencing a problem with obesity, eggs and cheese should be avoided.

Seed Mixes

Try to severely limit oil seeds such as sunflower, safflower, and peanut.  It is best to use these as a hand-fed treat food.  For example, a medium sized parrot (i.e.- an Amazon) might only get 10-15 of these seeds a day (or none if he is overweight or has health issues).  Grain seeds such as millet, canary seed, corn, grouts, wheat, brown rice, and oats can also be used as a healthier replacement for seeds as a treat, but it is recommended to not leave these in the cage.  Instead, use these treat items for training and out-of-cage foraging activities.  Seeds provide carbohydrates and some B vitamins.  Another healthier alternative to typical seeds found in pet stores are sprouted seeds.  These sprouted seeds are generally lower in fat and more nutritious than their unsprouted counterparts.  Sprouting kits are available through the website: www.chinaprairie.com

Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation

If you are feeding a variety of foods, it is generally not necessary to use much (or any) vitamin supplementation.  When indicated, you can lightly “salt” the soft food once a day.  If you are using a commercially prepared diet as more than 50% of the bird’s diet, then do not add any vitamins (unless specifically commended by your veterinarian).

In the event that you should need a vitamin supplement, and a liquid vitamin is chosen, be sure to change the water once a day and closely monitor water consumption (some birds will not drink the vitamin fortified water).  Keep in mind that avian vitamins are not subject to any government regulation/standardization, so it is important to use a brand that is reputable in order to ensure a quality product.  

Calcium is a very important mineral, especially for African Grays and egg-laying cockatiels and other parrots.  For this reason, further supplementation may be needed beyond the pelleted diet.  Calcium can be provided in the form of a cuttlebone (soft side toward the bird), white oyster shells, egg shells, crushed Tums, or mineral blocks.  Other, more potent products are available through your veterinarian, should your pet require extra supplementation.

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