Cranberry (the plant) is a shrub that is native to the Northern Hemisphere, which produces a berry that turns red when it is fully ripe. Interestingly, the word “cranberry” is derived from “craneberry,” as it was written in colonial times. Early Europeans in America thought the blossom of the cranberry plant resembled a crane. Fun fact: the cranberry is a cousin of the blueberry.
Cranberries are a great source of Vitamin C, and a good source of Vitamin K and manganese.
The George Mateljan Foundation for the World's Healthiest Foods rates cranberries as an excellent source of Vitamin C, and gives them a "good" rating for amount of Vitamin K and manganese.
Dick Schroeder, BIRD TALK’s Magazine’s “Aviculture” columnist, feeds cranberries to the softbills he raises. However, he said, “I don't have a lot of birds that like cranberries, at least not fresh ones; too tart, I guess.” It will be your bird’s preference whether or not it wants to eat this berry, but you can offer it fresh or dried.
“Cranberries are a great nutritional treat,” said Jill Patt, DVM, of Alta Mesa Animal Hospital in Arizona. “They are a good source of antioxidants that helps a bird’s immune system. African greys, and other birds, can get coronary artery disease and an antioxidant on board can help with that.”
Are cranberries better than other berries? “I wouldn’t recommend it over any other berry,” said Patt, “Instead, I would recommend offering mixed berries. Birds enjoy colors, so a mixture is not only healthy but is beneficial mentally.”
Fresh cranberries are available October through December — maybe that’s why you only have cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving! — so if your bird is craving them in the off months, you can try drying them. As with any dried fruit, buy only sulfite-free dried fruits. Birds can have a negative reaction to fruits preserved with sulfites. There are a number of companies that have sulfite-free dried cranberries. Just Tomatoes has naturally-dried cranberries, called Just Cranberries, available. Or you can dry your own! You might find that they are so tasty, you’ll be eating them instead!
Dried cranberries are also a key ingredient in certain bird seed mixes, too.
However, Patt recommends feeding fresh over dried, saying “[dried fruits] lose a lot of vitamins in storage.”
If you do buy dried fruits, make note of the expiration date so you are always feeding your bird the fresh dried fruit.
No On Juice
What about cranberry juice? Patt doesn’t recommend offering cranberry juice to birds, as it is very concentrated. “It creates an imbalance in the diet,” she said, if birds are offered cranberry juice over a regular cranberry.