Feeding your bird – It’s more than just seeds!

Seed is, by far, the most commonly fed bird food. It is inexpensive, easy to obtain, and birds love it! But seeds alone are not enough to keep a bird healthy. If your pet bird’s diet consists solely of seeds, chances are good that if he isn’t sick now, he will be in time.

Birds love seeds and are engineered to eat them – just look at that beak! But seeds as the sole portion of your birds diet provides an incomplete diet lacking in nutrients and high in fat. One thing the experts can say for certain about all-seed diets is that they will make most birds sick over time, denying them the nutrients they need for long-term survival and weakening them to the point where other diseases find it easy to take hold. Seeds are the equivalent of a greasy burger. Junk food. And too many pet birds (and people) are addicted to junk food.

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A Pelleted diet is much more highly recommended as the staple diet for pet birds. Pelleted diets are readily available from many reputable manufacturers and can be purchased from any good pet store or from many veterinarians who work with birds. Pelleted food is a blend of grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits and various protein sources. Manufacturers mix the ingredients and then either bake and crumble them or extrude them, ending up with pellets of a proper size for any given species (large pellets for large birds, small pellets for small birds). This process produces a food that has a definite overall advantage — the bird cannot pick out his favorite foods and ignore the rest. Pellets also are convenient for bird owners. These commercially prepared diets are easy to buy and are relatively inexpensive.

Pelleted foods should be the foundation of your bird’s diet, but birds should still be supplemented with additional food options. Birds also need a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables along with pasta, eggs, breads, rice and unsalted nuts in their shells. These foods help round out the commercial diet and also keep him occupied and entertained. Make sure all fresh foods are cleaned but left as natural as possible.

Foods to avoid include: Guacamole or any other food containing avocados, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, and caffeinated beverages. These food items are potentially deadly if given to a bird. Also, excessively fatty foods should be avoided. Most pet birds are prone to obesity.

But since birds love seeds so much, do you really need to deny your bird a treat as appreciated as seeds? The phrase “all things in moderation” definitely applies when it comes to seeds. Given in small amounts, seeds are a wonderful way to help teach your bird tricks or reward him for good behavior. But they should be a treat, not a staple, to ensure proper nutrition for your bird.

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If you have any other questions regarding your bird or proper bird nutrition, please call or email Dr. Birkhead!

Resource: Birds for Dummies by Brian L. Speer DVM, ABVP ECAMS and Gina Spadafori. This is an excellent resource for general bird care and health.