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Will Work For Food! Parrot Foraging Ideas

Your pet parrot needs to learn how to play on her own, and a great way to teach her how to play is by giving her foraging opportunities.

Susan Chamberlain

Cockatoo foraging with paper bag full of treats
Wrap toys and treats in a coffee filter for an instant foraging toy, like this sulphur-crested cocaktoo is playing with.

We’re not always at home, and even when we are, we occasionally have a few things to do that don’t include our pet birds. Our birds need something to do when they’re not the center of attention or when home alone. Boredom is a human concept, but it applies to pet birds, too. Without some "work” — i.e. play — to keep them occupied, birds may rely too heavily on their human companions for activity or become lethargic perch potatoes.

Ensure your parrot knows how to play by teaching your bird how to forage.

Will Work for Food!
Our parents always told us to stop playing with our food, but where pet birds are concerned, it can be a good thing. Give an Amazon parrot a walnut and you provide hours of activity. It’s just the right size for the bird to hold in her foot, and the texture invites chewing and manipulation. Pine cones studded with seed and nuts are available in pet shops, and most parrots will spend hours or days gleaning the treats from the cone and then systematically shred the cone itself. One cone lasts about a week for each of my Senegal parrots.

Foraging systems and toys are self-rewarding in that the birds work to obtain a treat or desired object and are rewarded when they finally obtain it. Start by hiding your bird’s favorite treat inside a small paper bag or crumpled piece of paper, and gradually work up to more complicated and time-consuming scavenging opportunities. Destructible cardboard foraging boxes with various chambers inside provide hours of interest, while clear plastic wheels and boxes require even more dexterity and persistence.

Some toys have food incorporated into the design. A favorite of all my birds, from the macaw down to the Senegals, is a small block of wood embedded with a pine nut in the shell. They all eagerly grab the wooden blocks and set to work to obtain the treat inside.

Watch Pepik, a Congo African grey, foraging away with his homemade pinata.

Want more foraging ideas for your bird?

Feed Nuts & Dried Vegetables/Fruits To Your Bird
Bring Out Your Bird's Inner Ground Forager


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Posted: November 14, 2013, 12:15 p.m. PDT

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Will Work For Food! Parrot Foraging Ideas

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Reader Comments
luv the video am running to try to right now!! ty!
stephanie, no smithfield, RI
Posted: 11/14/2013 5:17:48 PM
A young friend has been making foraging toys for her rescued Citron Cockatoo for about six months now. So far the results are limited. But, I think she enjoys making the toys. I have a new rescued Umbrella Cockatoo and I make him forage in his water bowl for the grapes that he so loves. I enjoy watching this and he enjoys the grapes. This is a bit more successful.
Charles, Orlando, FL
Posted: 11/14/2013 4:45:14 PM
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