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BIRD DIET & NUTRITION

Thanks for wanting to find out more about diet and nutrition.

It is our absolute responsibility as bird-keepers to ensure we’re feeding an appropriate diet that will allow our species to flourish. This is one based on sound science, and not driven by cost. Many bird species have suffered at the hand of inferior diets, and impacted the quality of those blood lines in Australia. If you’re planning on keeping birds, do the research and ask questions. It’s the best method to ensure your birds are healthy and happy.

Nutrition is one of the most fundamental parts of keeping birds. As Aviculture has evolved, so has our knowledge about feeding requirements. However this isn’t just about what nutrients can be supplied with various foods. It’s also about the psychological benefits that various feeding techniques can provide. This includes foraging behaviour, something that’s innate to birds in the wild. There are some fantastic examples of this, such as using natural cat litter to hide pellets or nuts. Another example is the ‘baffle cage’ and hiding different foods and making your birds work for their treats. This is replicated in the wild where a bird forages for food, and is reinforced through reward by finding the food; thus creating an enriching experience for them.

Now onto a divisive topic - Pellets versus Seed. Realistically, the answer is simple. But to explain some of the science here's a short video from ZuPreem:

Although seeds are commonly eaten by birds in the wild, they can actually prove harmful to domesticated birds. That’s because pet birds are unable to fly and burn enough fat. By comparison, ZuPreem bird food primarily features Smart Pellets, which are:

- Fortified with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids which seeds lack

- Lower in fat than most seeds to support cardiovascular and liver health

- Made with real whole grains from North America’s Heartland

- Engaging due to their various shapes and colors

- Highly recommended by leading avian veterinarians and specialists

Effectively, for parrots, utilising a pelleted diet is the greatest option available for maintaining a healthy diet. The evolution of pellets has meant that there are now a number of brands available, all sitting at different price points. Cost is often a deterrence to some people to feed pellets, but it shouldn't be!

When you weigh up reductions in waste and improvements in health; cost becomes irrelevant. However, even with pellets, it is best to offer a range of foods. Fresh produce (some fruits and mostly vegetables), native vegetation (eucalyptus, grevillea, seeding grasses, bottlebrush etc.), nuts, and some seeds are a great addition to a balanced diet.

Whilst seed is a cost-effective alternative, parrots that are maintained on a pelleted diet have a much greater health outlook than those on seed.

For Nectarivores, there is a wide range of diets available. The importance is the ingredients, and trying to find a product that is lower in refined products. By refined products we’re talking about flour and sugar. Many cheaper alternatives use flour as a filler, and the sugars are heavily refined. In the wild Nectarivores are travelling excessive distances, and able to burn off all of the caloric energy that derives from a diet with a lot of sugar.

Foods such as honey or sweet drinks are not an appropriate source of nutrition for a Nectarivore. In the wild they feed on a wide variety of foods, which is also very species specific. A Trichoglossus species can handle a diet that is slightly inferior, but some of the Exotic Lories need a lot more to keep in peak condition. There are some fantastic formulated diets like Nekton and Vetafarm Forest Fusion that have performed well when compared to their competitors.

Now comes the questions around how to offer Nectarivore diets - wet or dry? This often arrives at preference and/or convenience. However a wet diet tends to work exceptionally well, and products like Nekton are designed to be served as a wet diet. There’s less waste, but you must be mindful of bacteria growth in the feeding apparatus.

It is always best to research your bird thoroughly, especially if you're unsure about the best diet. Speak to quality breeders, companion bird owners, and Avian Veterinarians about your new bird; find out what is the best diet available.

Now, what should you be avoiding! The majority of 'human food' is really not what you should feed your feathered friend. This is often a complication for companion parrot owners, and it is an important one. The high levels of unhealthy fats, preservatives, refined sugars etc. can be very dangerous to birds.

There is also plenty of native and exotic flora to avoid. Click the link here for a quick guide on the species that are great to provide, and the ones which aren't.

Plants For Birds

On the fruits and vegetable side, there are some to avoid. Alliums, Avocados, Mushrooms, and parts of the Nightshade plants. Nightshades include Tomato, Chilli, Capsicum (Peppers), and Potato. Whilst feeding the Tomato, Chilli, and Capsicum fruit to your birds is fantastic in the diet (especially Chilli and Capsicum); the stems and leaves from these plants are toxic. In regards to Potatoes, there is no nutritional benefits to feeding it to your birds. It is also toxic raw. Sweet Potato is a much more nutritious option.

Hygiene is also vital. Don't leave old food sitting in dishes, and make sure that birds receive quality fresh drinking water. For Nectarivore keepers, especially those who feed a dry mix, it is important to monitor water cleanliness as this group of birds love to mix their feed with the water. This can harvest bacteria, so extra efforts have to be taken to keep those dishes clean. This is the same for those feathered friends who love to bathe!

For bird keepers living in warmer climates, it is often better to feed food that can spoil easily in the afternoon and change/remove the next morning.

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