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Softbill Diets

Learn about old softbill diets

By Dick Schroeder

Softbills, like this keel-billed toucan, eat soft foods.

You learned about different softbill diets in the January 2009 issue of BIRD TALK magazine. Let’s take a look at more information about softbill diets.

Softbills aren’t called “softbills” because they have a soft bill; rather they eat a diet generally made up of soft foods. These can be soft fruits, or insects, or even nectar or pollen.

Early aviculturists didn’t have the luxury of the commercial diets that we have today, especially here in the United States. In the United Kingdom and Europe, there have been commercial softbill diets available for decades; not so here. I checked in my Volume 3 of the old 1977 Encyclopaedia of Aviculture, edited by Rutgers and Norris, with a huge contribution from Hank Bates and Bob Busenbark, including the chapter on diets. Their standard softbill diet, made for such diverse species as bulbuls, thrushes, starlings, mynahs, waxwings, barbets, collies (mousebirds), and babblers, like Pekin Robins, Mesias, etc. consisted of:

5 lb turkey-rearing pellets without additives
2 lb soya flour
8 oz Vionate vitamins
1 lb clear honey
1 pt ground nut or corn oil
All dry ingredients were mixed together, then the honey and oil were added and thoroughly blended.

Sounds like a lot of work!

Today we have a number of various sized pellets as well available as powdered products, like Bugs~n~Berries, that are produced by several animal feed companies. Some products are even species specific, like swan food or flamingo food. Some softbill species are prone to iron storage disease (hemochromatosis) and need a diet as low in iron as is feasible, also available from manufacturers, taking much of the worry out of trying to produce a low-iron diet on your own.

**Did you enjoy this information on light? Learn how to bring the light to your bird in the January 2009 issue of BIRD TALK magazine.**

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