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Nutrients In Bird Seed

Discover what bird seed offers parrots in terms of nutrition.

By Rebecca Sweat
Posted: December 27, 2007, 4:30 p.m. PST

Blue-Fronted Amazon parrot
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Inc./Courtesy Maria Brown
Amazon parrots are one of the bird species prone to fatty liver disease.

Nutritionally, seeds primarily consist of carbohydrates and fat, a little fiber and protein, and a very small amount of minerals, usually phosphorous. Most seeds are not nutrient-dense, except for calories.

“Seeds are a high-calorie food — great for energy generation,” said Gregory Burkett, DVM, an avian veterinarian in Durham, North Carolina. Both fat and carbohydrates are important energy sources, he said. With their high metabolic rates, birds need high-energy foods.

Some seeds, however, are higher in fats and carbohydrates than others. At the low end, white proso millet is a relatively low-fat seed with just 3.5 percent fat. Peanuts, Brazil nuts, palm nuts, and canola (rape), flax, safflower and sunflower seeds range from 35 to 50 percent fat and are some of the seeds with the highest fat content. Eating too many high-fat seeds can cause a lot of health problems in the typically sedentary pet bird, Burkett said, including obesity and lipomas (fatty tumors).

Lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease)
Most seeds lack one or more essential amino acids, so they don’t offer “complete” protein. Seeds also lack many essential vitamins and minerals. In particular, seeds are deficient in amino acids, lysine and methionine; vitamins A, D and B12; riboflavin; and calcium. These nutrients are necessary for healthy bone development, formation of muscle and body tissues, and the proper function of body systems.

This is not to say that you should never give seeds to your bird. “Seeds are not bad; they just shouldn’t be the only food you give to your bird,” stated Ted Lafeber, president of Lafeber Company based in Cornell, Illinois. He said seeds in and of themselves aren’t bad any more than a banana is bad. “If you only eat bananas, you will have nutritional deficiencies,” he said, “and the same is true with seeds. Most seeds by themselves won’t give a bird everything it needs nutritionally. Sooner or later, you’re going to have problems if you just feed your bird seeds.”

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Nutrients In Bird Seed

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Reader Comments
you know i never thought about it i have feed seeds to my bird for years but now i trying pellets to
Laura, memphis, TN
Posted: 12/23/2011 7:24:39 AM
We feed our conure a wide variety of foods including seeds. We recently had full blood work done on her and found out we were giving her too many seeds; whereas normal cholesterol level is between 150-200...hers was 863! She has always eaten pellets but now pellets are her main food and seeds are only offered for a couple hours a day as a treat and in very small quantities. It is a labor of love getting her to eat the pellets at times but we want her around for a long time to come.
Debbie, Saint Petersburg, FL
Posted: 2/10/2009 9:55:24 AM
ok, this (and many other websites) helped me realize the danger in feeding my birds an all seed diet. thanx bird channel!
kristen, san angelo, TX
Posted: 7/1/2008 7:44:09 PM
A little fruit and veggies will help :-)

for some reason i'm trying everything but my budgies wont eat fruit, i'll try veggies
Thomas, Morris, NY
Posted: 12/30/2007 9:24:33 PM
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