Q: I have a lovely adopted 24-year-old double yellow-headed Amazon parrot named Crackers. He’s very sweet and will eat almost anything but most veggies. I’m worried because he prefers fruit to vegetables. His basic diet is a formulated food, and he favors the green pellets over the other colors. I give him fruit in the morning and vegetables such as corn, peas, peppers, spinach, broccoli and carrots in the afternoon. How can I be sure he is getting all the nutrients he needs?
A: I have a 30-year-old double yellow head named Cracker, and I’ve had the same problems with her through the years. It seems you’re already feeding your bird a nutritious diet. Although exact nutritional requirements for all bird species are not known, formulated diets (pellets) provide much of what your bird needs when used according to directions. However, there are many ways to entice your picky Amazon parrot to try additional healthful foods.
Polly See, Polly Do
If you have more than one bird, a finicky eater will often mimic a bird that eats a broad-based diet. Place your picky bird next to the bird that eats everything.
Will Work For Food
Birds "work” for their food in the wild. (I.e., "foraging." String chunks of firm produce onto a skewer-style rod feeder (use an ice pick to make holes in chunks of corn, peppers, apples, etc.), hang it from cage bars and watch your pet investigate this new way of dining. Small birds (budgies (parakeets), parrotlets, lovebirds, etc.) that neglect fresh offerings from a dish may gnaw enthusiastically on firm produce clipped to cage bars.
Heat It Up
If your picky bird refuses raw vegetables, try cooked versions. Bogart, my red-lored Amazon parrot, refuses raw carrots but loves cooked ones. Most birds eat to live; Bogart lives to eat. I rarely have a problem coaxing him to eat anything! None of my birds like raw cauliflower, but they do enjoy it steamed. Conversely, they turn up their beaks at steamed broccoli, but relish it in its raw state!
Cut vegetables into different shapes. Bert, my African grey parrot, refuses carrots cut into chunks but enjoys nibbling away on carrot sticks. My bird sitter says I spoil my birds by cutting their grapes in half.
Leave The Skin
Resist the urge to peel everything. In an example of the avian work ethic, my Amazon parrots like to peel their produce themselves. Peas in the pod, apples with the skin left on, orange chunks with the rind, banana rounds with skin, cooked potatoes with skin and similar foods entice my parrots regularly. (Wash all produce thoroughly before offering it to your pets.)
Mix In Some Color
Check out your local supermarket’s frozen food department. My birds enjoy colorful vegetable mixtures that may include lima beans, peas, corn, carrots, red peppers, celery and string beans. Cubed squash, sweet potatoes, bean mixtures and other nutritious foods also are available frozen. Cook and cool a portion for your birds to eat.
Hide And Eat
You can fool some of the picky birds some of the time. I regularly get some additional nutrition into my picky birds by cooking finely chopped broccoli florets and grated carrots into scrambled eggs (an occasional treat — limit your bird’s cholesterol intake!) or muffins.
Use Your Noodles
Does your bird love pasta? I make "Parrot Primavera” for my birds by adding steamed beans, peas, zucchini, broccoli, peppers and other vegetables to angel hair pasta. A sprinkle of hot pepper flakes spices the dish up enough to please their South American palates.
It’s Nice To Share
My birds love to eat when I do. I make a special dish just for them (don’t feed your bird off your plate!) and dole out portions to all as I sit down to eat. When my dinner is not suitable for birds (e.g., salty, has mayonnaise, etc.), I treat them to some pasta with veggies or ready-to-cook bird food.
Ask A Vet
Have an avian veterinarian evaluate your bird if you’re concerned with nutritional deficiencies, advised veterinarian Charles Greco of the Animal Medical Hospital in New York. "Amazons have a tendency to become obese, so the first thing I’d do is weigh the bird to see that its weight is within normal range,” he said. "Next, I’d check the skin to be sure it’s a healthy pink color rather than yellowish. A good physical exam combined with a full blood screen to check liver and calcium levels can help rule out fatty liver disease, which is common in Amazons.”
Want more tips on feeding birds? Try these articles:
Good Table Foods For Birds
The Scoop On Feeding Cereal To Pet Birds