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Millet Seed: Bird Term of the Day

Learn about the origins and history of millet, the seed every parrot and pet bird seems to love.

By Melissa Kauffman

millet spray
Pet bird seed millet is a tiny, round seed that is typically white, yellow (golden) or red in color. This is a photo of foxtail millet, which is usually sold in sprays, such as this one, for pet birds.
Millet seed is often found in small pet bird seed mixes, such as pet bird diets for finches, canaries, doves, budgiescockatiels and lovebirds. Pet bird seed millet is a tiny, round seed that is typically white, yellow (golden) or red in color. It is a very good source of magnesia and phosphorus. Millet is good for birds and people – it is high in silica content, which is important for the nervous system, tendons, skin and nails. It is lower in fat than most other seeds.

So where does millet come from? The Family Poaceae is comprised of cereal and forage grasses, of which some are called millet, and are grown throughout the world. (Cereal grasses are basically grasses that grow seeds that can be eaten when hulled.) Different types of millet are used in pet, wild and game bird seed mixes, such as white, red or dove white proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and Japanese millet (Echinochloa crusgalli var frumentacea). Red proso millet and white proso millet are often used in wild bird seed mixes, although North American birds seem to prefer red proso. Many packaged millet sprays are a variety of foxtail millet. There are many different millet types out there and scientists create new hybrids all the time because cereal grains play such a large role in the diet of people and animals. Historic note: Millet, as opposed to rice, formed an important part of the prehistoric diet in Indian, Chinese Neolithic and Korean Mumun societies.


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