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Dunking Food (a.k.a. “Birdie soup making”)

This behavioral term describes a bird that dunks food in water.


The action of a parrot when it moistens its food in water prior to eating it. It can also define the mess that many parrots make by introducing copious amounts of water-soluble food into the water bowl, thereby seriously contaminating its water source. (Can also be caused by the bird pooping in its water dish.)


Trust me, you don’t want to visualize this stuff, because sometimes it can look like some sort of biological stew that is evolving a strange and alarming new life form.


Change the water in the bowl every time you see a bird dunking its food or pooping in it, no matter how frequently it happens. Food in the water bowl provides an ideal environment for the benign bacteria that normally inhabit most water sources, allowing for exponential overgrowth that can become a health risk. If the inside of the water bowl feels slimy to your finger, this is evidence of serious bacterial overgrowth and proof that the water is not being changed often enough. This is especially problematic with owners who are gone all day at work. Due to the potential of this bacterial overgrowth becoming a health hazard for a bird, many avian veterinarians recommend the use of water bottles instead. Parrots can easily be taught to use a water bottle, which prohibits any contamination of the water source via food or accidental droppings. Owners need to hang the bottle above the water bowl and not remove the bowl until they are certain the bird has successfully learned to drink from the bottle. Owners should also check the water bottle’s nozzle to make sure the bird hasn’t stuffed something in it, thus preventing the water from dispersing. Incidentally, a water bottle does not prevent a parrot from moistening its food. My macaw gets pellets in her mouth, then goes to the water bottle and gets some water. So the food is moistened immediately before she swallows it. Therefore, the food is nicely softened but there is no danger of bacterial contamination.

Disclaimer:’s Bird Behavior Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

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Dunking Food (a.k.a. “Birdie soup making”)

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Reader Comments
My GCC used to do this and it was so smelly! Plus then he would bathe in the dirty water which made him smell awful. All it took was for me to swap the water bowl and the food bowl to opposite sides of the cage and he hasn't done it since. And he smells much better! I was concerned at first that this would cause him to stress but it has not seem to bother him at all.
Sharon, Gurnee, IL
Posted: 2/22/2015 5:21:35 AM
my green cheek used to do that, he would dunk and eat, now i have had him on a water bottle for a few years and he still gets the pellet wet but no problems cuz of the water bottle.
Katy, Joliet, IL
Posted: 12/2/2011 11:19:23 AM
Haha my conure sometimes does that.
Jake, Cincinnati, OH
Posted: 6/12/2011 7:46:32 AM
Hi I have a Red sided eclutus parrot her name is Violet.I have two questions for you.How long will she continue laying eggs?and the other question is why has she stopped talking ,this happened right after she started to lay her eggs,how can I get her to talk again,instead of the horrible screaming all the time?One last comment is that when my husband starts to play the drums she goes into what we call the Eagle dance.WE figure she likes the music.
Thank you for your time
sincerely Sheri
Sheri, Port Hadlock, WA
Posted: 6/8/2011 1:29:08 PM
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