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Are There Superfoods For Birds?

Avian veterinarians weigh in.

We can't feed birds what they'd normally eat in the wild, but a high-quality pelleted food and vegetables, fruits and nuts make a great diet for your bird.

Superfoods seem to be taking over every food television and magazine outlet these days. WebMD, Dr. Oz along with many other celebrity doctors and nutritionists all have their own Top 10, 20 and even 50 super foods that you need to be eating right now. With so much buzz about the ultimate food source, I questioned multiple veterinarians on the topic in regards to our pet birds.

Gwen B. Flinchum, DVM, DABVP-Avian, from All Bird Clinic of the Palm Beaches located in Lake Worth, Florida said that scientists have studied what our pet birds’ nutrition necessities are and have formulated diets to meet those needs specifically.

"Studies have shown that birds do best when they are fed at least 80 percent formulated (pelleted) diet,” she added. The remaining 20 percent should consist of items like fruits, veggies and nonpeanut nuts.

She went on to say that, "Birds thrive best on foods that were made specifically for birds. Birds don't do well on people food.”

Flinchum also mentions that many vegetables contain little nutrients useful for birds. "Vegetables contain some vitamins but otherwise are not going to supply all of the necessary nutrients that formulated diets have, such as essential fatty acids, essential proteins, amino acids and trace elements,” she said. "The green veggies and the orange veggies such as carrots, romaine lettuce, cantaloupe, broccoli — these contain Vitamin A and Beta carotene, which are good for birds.”

On the other side of Florida, Veterinarian Mike Mossler, DVM, of Bayshore Animal Hospital in Bradenton, Florida said that although some vegetables do not have many nutrients, they can still serve a purpose. He said that for obese birds, "there is benefit in feeding lettuce and other green leafy vegetables.”

He added, "Birds enjoy consuming this type of food and it helps in controlling weight. This is particularly true for parakeets, cockatiels, finches, canaries, etc.”

Mossler recommended encouraging avian pets to consume foods that are high in vitamin A along with a formulated pelleted diet (e.g., Harrison’s, Zupreem, Lafeber’s).

If you can, grow your own food for your bird.
"Formulated (pelleted) diets are the superfoods for birds,” Flinchum said. She warned bird owners the danger of feeding seeds exclusively. "Despite what pet stores will tell you, seeds are full of fat and have no nutrients. This leads to malnutrition and liver disease, and the primary cause of illness and death in birds is being on a seed diet. Likewise, table food is not good as this can lead to fatty liver, feather picking and excessive hormonal behavior.

Mossler says that if you want to give your bird’s vegetables and fruits, those with high levels of vitamin A are a good choice. "A vitamin-A deficiency is the leading vitamin deficiency that is seen in birds,” he added. His top five high in vitamin-A treats include: sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, melon and peppers.

"These bird food companies have made it simple for us,” Flinchum said. "Feed birds a primarily formulated diet and their nutritional needs will be met.”

Loved this article? Then check out these: 

What Do Parrots Eat?
Foods To Avoid Feeding Birds

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Posted: January 21, 2015, 4:00 p.m. PDT

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Are There Superfoods For Birds?

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Reader Comments
While we humans are encouraged to eat less processed food, veterinarians are encouraging pelleted food for birds. I find this very discouraging and sad for the birds. I believe that if you commit to caring and loving a pet bird (I have a parrotlet), then you must commit to giving it a well rounded diet based on vegetables, fruits and protein. My little girl eats just about anything I give her, including homemade foods, which contain healthy ingredients. Unfortunately for me (because I spent a small fortune on it), she absolutely will not eat pellets. So, I cook quinoa, farro, brown rice and other grains for her, as well as giving her a regular diet of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bits of banana and apple, kiwi, citrus, tomatoes and cucumbers. She's not a big fan of salad greens, but loves escarole, both raw and cooked, and basil (the herb). If I roast a chicken, she will devour a bit of white meat (w/o skin), and if I open a can of low sodium tuna or salmon (which I rinse), she will eat that as well. She is a lively, rambunctious and loving pet with bright eyes and gorgeous color.
Louise, Long Island, NY
Posted: 3/8/2015 8:59:57 AM
Maybe sunflower seeds. should we give our birds cooked squashave or potatAe. Just let them cool down or raw
stretch, clarks summit, PA
Posted: 1/27/2015 6:54:16 PM
We have 2 cockatiels that love veggies to a point. W e have not tried squash and sweet potatoes which we will do. We also from the pet store but bulk food and mix it ourselves and they don't waste the hard stuff they get rId and don't eat.that is working good and they get some real good things that are not fatty too
strefch, clarks summit, PA
Posted: 1/27/2015 6:51:04 PM
There also seems to be an assumption by the veterinarians in this article that fruits and vegetables are the only ways to supplement a parrot's diet. Parrot owners, who do not rely primarily on pellets to feed their birds also provide essential fatty acids through foods such as walnuts, coconut oil, red palm oil, and eggs. There are so many species of parrots which run from primarily seed-eaters, to frugivorous, nectivorous,to insectivorous and omnivorous. Many consume a great deal of insect matter, and even meat, in the wild. There is no possible way one pellet, usually formulated through testing on ubiquitous, seed-eating parrot species, can meet the needs of all. A scarlet macaw living deep in the rain forest is not going to have the same requirements as a budgie. My harlequin macaw becomes obese and developed high cholesterol on any brand of pellet. She is extraordinarily healthy living solely on fresh foods with no processed pellets. While this is only one bird, which scientifically speaking does give it much validity, it is still interesting and means something. And I have met many others with similar stories. Thankfully, our veterinarian is open-minded and agrees that pellets might not be beneficial for all parrots, and has told us to keep doing what we do. I shudder to think what would happen if one of the vets in this article were our vet.
Amanda, Chicago, IL
Posted: 1/25/2015 6:02:02 AM
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