Northern Parrots Blog Thurs, 17 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT en hourly 1 Submit Your Parrot Questions For Television Vet Matt Brash Weds, 16 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT Northern Parrots
Do you have a question about Parrots you’ve always wanted answering? Perhaps you want to know what they should or shouldn’t be eating or their behaviour has changed and you want to know why.

We’re teaming up with Bucktons and their vet Matt Brash, who will answer all your Parrot questions. No question is too big or too small, so ask away!

Matt is an experienced avian vet. He is the star of Zoo Vet At Large and worked with all kinds of exotic animals in his long and varied career.


Simply post your questions for Matt as a comment below or email them to us under the subject line Parrot questions and we’ll pass them along to Matt. Here are some of the questions we’ve had so far…

Can Kakariki’s eat spinach?

Spinach in its own right is not poisonous to Parrots, however it does contain a lot of iron, and so should only be fed in moderation. Too much iron can lead to problems in the liver, and also can block the absorption of other essential minerals.

Can Kakariki’s eat pear tree branches?

Yes. Parrots really enjoy chewing, and any fruit tree branch, once it has been properly cleaned to remove any potential infectious disease, can act as a great source of something for them to play with and chew. This helps wear their beak down as well as acting as mental enrichment.

My bird is a male about 8 months old and has always been very friendly till a week ago. All he wants to do now is attack you, he used to fly to you and eat your food with you. He attacked me last week and nearly took my eye out, is this a normal part of becoming an adult?

Possibly. Parrots are very social animals, and enjoy eating with other birds. With a single pet bird, they are often imprinted, and so see you, their owner as another bird.  As they become sexually mature, an imprinted bird can become difficult and try to be 'top dog'.

It is important that by using careful training, and positive reinforcement you train your bird to behave well, and socially, otherwise problems like the one you have described will only get worse.  So reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. When your bird does something well, offer him a treat, stroke him, and talk to him kindly. When he does something bad like bites you, ignore him, or put him back in his cage. There are some very good pet behaviourists you can help you train your bird, and it may be a good idea to speak to one of them for help.

Can I feed Parrots coconut?

Coconut is not poisonous to birds, so small amounts can be fed. However, like feeding all things to birds, they might not want to eat it, and you should only offer small amounts little and often. Avoid dried coconut, as this might swell in their stomach.

I've got two Kakariki’s and they are brilliant and very funny but can you tell me can they eat lettuce (any sort) and any other fruits they can eat and what nuts can they eat?

Feeding fresh food to birds is a very important part of their diet. It provides both emotional and mental stimulation, as well as acting as a very good source of vitamins and minerals. Any lettuce that we eat, is safe for a bird to eat, and the same follows for fruit and nuts.

My ten-year-old Kakariki has just started shredding his sandpaper and putting it in his water. Could there be a reason for this?

Your bird might be bored, and so has learnt this as something that it enjoys doing. If you try providing other things for your bird to shred, like cardboard boxes or fresh vegetables this can fulfil that need.

How do I sex my two birds as would love to breed them?

Some birds, like the Eclectus, are sexually dimorphic, which means that you tell the males and females apart by their plumage. Other birds are harder to tell apart, for example the Cockatoo family, where the males and females can only be told apart from the colour of their iris, and even this can be difficult sometimes, or Budgies where the cere colour is different in males and females.

However, in many Parrots, it is not possible to tell the males and females apart, just by looking at them. It is easy to do this genetically, and with just a small blood sample or plucked feather, sent off to a specialist company, they can tell you what sex your bird is. I would suggest that you pop in to your local bird vet, and they will help you.

Can I feed Kakariki’s boiled rice?

Yes, but in moderation.

You can find lots of delicious Bucktons food here.

Meet My Parrot - Oscar the Blue-fronted Amazon Tues, 15 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT Northern Parrots
In the next part of our Meet My Parrot series we meet Oscar the Blue-fronted Amazon and his owner Brandon Faustino. Over to Brandon…

Tell us about Oscar
Oscar is a Blue fronted Amazon who was 8 months on Friday February 24th.  

He came home in December and has settled in quite quickly and built up a large vocabulary with his favourite word being "Hello."

I've uploaded a few videos of him on his YouTube channel (Oscar The Amazon and Friends) and he is also on Instagram as Oscar_Amazon, He loves to go outside wearing his flight suit or sometimes his harness.

Why did you choose a Blue-fronted Amazon?
I've always liked Amazons but never thought I'd own one as I didn't know much about them. I saw a few different types for sale and I did some research and decided I wanted a Blue-fronted Amazon.

What is Oscar’s favourite food?
He loves pumpkin seeds and he rarely gets any seed so he's always excited for them and he also loves his veg and fruit.

Does Oscar have any favourite toys?
Oscar loves to play with the bell on his boing and baby links.

Does he have any games he likes to play?
We sometimes play peekaboo and talk to each other and I roll him on his back and play.

Does Oscar speak?
Oscar can say a lot.

Do you have advice for new Parrot owners?
My advice to new owners would be to do a lot of research on the species and Parrots in general and if it's possible go and meet a few different species and try to adopt.

If you would like to feature in a future Meet My Parrot, please email us at with your answers to these questions

For goodies for Blue-fronted Amazons such as Oscar please click here

Parrots Can Change Your Life Tues, 08 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT Barbara

Are the animals in your life your family? I know mine are. Of course I do have a human family and wonderful friends. But my animals are my constants.

I can count on their joy when I return home (and many times when I just walk into the room.)

If I feel like singing I know one of my Parrots will absolutely join the chorus. If I decide to whistle, I am guaranteed two more Parrots will participate.

If I am scurrying about the house my flighted Parrots will follow. If I am curled up in bed to watch some TV, my long time blue fronted Amazon Parrot companion of twenty three years will insist on preening my eyelashes and eyebrows, an indescribably relaxing feeling.


And of course I can always count on my dog to snuggle up next to me when I am feeling under the weather. I can’t imagine life without their company.

There is plenty of information that cautions people about the responsibilities of having a Parrot in the home and the potential behaviour problems. And I certainly agree.

Acquiring a Parrot, or any animal, is something one does after researching the pros and cons and evaluating one’s own situation. I am all for responsible pet ownership.

So yes, do your homework, find a responsible breeder, adopt from a reputable Parrot rescue, learn about common Parrot behaviour problems, practice positive reinforcement, determine the financial responsibility, and keep educating yourself so that your Parrot will have the best life you can offer.

But after that is done and you have decided to take the plunge, be sure to take time to do this….enjoy your Parrot!

A Parrot can change your life. I know a Parrot changed mine. That eyebrow preening Parrot has taught me so much. I joke that my relationship with that bird is the longest of my life. But it is true. 

Tarah, my blue fronted Amazon Parrot, came to me as an adult and I know nothing about her history prior to her joining me. She was sold for $100 to a friend who worked in a pet store.

When my friend could no longer care for her she came to me….with a biting and screaming problem. Even so I was enchanted when my new Parrot roommate said “hello” when I was eating a piece of bread. Little did I know this small green Parrot would lead me to a career in animal training. 

Tarah taught me that a kind and gentle approach to animal training and handling teaches an animal to trust you. Like many Parrots, Tarah will bite if forced to do something against her will. Tarah taught to me to give up on force a long, long time ago. 

Tarah came to college with me, where I studied zoology. After graduation I went to work at a zoo. In part because of my few years as a Parrot owner I secured a job at the bird show.

After getting my feet wet with bird training I was hungry for more. I devoured books on training and soon found myself applying my new found knowledge on some of my Parrot’s behaviour problems, like that screaming for attention issue!

I watched our relationship blossom as I began to understand more about how to influence Parrot behaviour with positive reinforcement……and Tarah learned to whistle instead of scream for attention.

Even though I worked all day with animals, I looked forward to coming home and spending time with my Parrot. And I thought it a good sign that my Parrot seemed happy to see me too.


I can’t remember the first time I was close enough that Tarah decided to preen my eyebrows, but we both obviously liked it.

My Parrot learned not to poop on me so she could have more time working on my eyebrows. Every time she pooped on me, I would put her back on her cage. She quickly learned to “hold it” so she could stay with me longer.

It was in these close moments I also learned to relish the smell of an Amazon Parrot. To me Amazon Parrot smell is like mom’s apple pie. It means love.

My Parrot taught me some important lessons on how to connect with an animal. But she also inspired me to learn more. I already enjoyed seeing animals in the wild, but soon I really wanted to see Parrots in the wild.

I have since had several opportunities to see Parrots in their natural habitats and highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in Parrots.

It makes me proud that many people who share their home with a Parrot are often concerned with Parrot conservation. These are the folks so touched by Parrots they will donate money, time and goods to make sure wild Parrots can thrive. That is not something that can be said about too many other types of pet owners. Parrot lovers are a special kind indeed.

At this point in my life I have met and worked with thousands of Parrots. I often wonder if any of it would have happened had it not been for that one eyebrow preening Parrot in my life.

I was once asked what my “happy place” is. Guess what my answer was. Tarah still preens my eyebrows nightly and I still look forward to it. I hope you too have a “happy place” that involves a Parrot. 

This article was originally published on Barbara’s blog in February 2010.

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright 2010

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training ( provides animal training DVDs, books, webinars and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in over twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara works with the companion animal community and also consults on animal training in zoos.

Preparing For Your Holiday When You Have A Parrot Tues, 01 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT Bucktons
Are you looking forward to your holiday in the sun this summer…who isn’t? As well as packing that all important sunscreen, swimsuit and toothbrush, take some time to consider how your Parrot will cope being left behind.

Parrots are intelligent and emotional creatures who miss their owners when they’re not around and if their routine is disrupted, this can cause further stress.

Make sure you prepare them properly for the holiday by increasing the amount of time you spend out of the house, gradually over a few weeks.

Encourage them to cope with less attention than usual and to get used to spending time by themselves.

Just like you would with a small child, try buying a few new toys that you can put in their cage to keep them occupied and remember to stick to their usual diet whilst you’re away.

Find lots of fun toys and tasty food here.

Below are plenty of options to consider. Each will depend on the health and personality of your Parrot. Only you will know which option is most suitable for your pet and your situation.
Boarding at a vet
The Pros
·      You know they will be getting dedicated care and attention
·        If they have any health concerns they are in the right place to be treated
·       A good option for those who don’t have family members or friends that can look                 after the Parrot

The Cons
·    It’s an expensive option
·    Your Parrot could become distressed as they will have to cope with travelling and              being away from their usual surrounding

Taking your Parrot on holiday (UK based destinations)
The Pros
·     Many holiday locations are now pet-friendly, just make sure you check in advance             that they have no problems with Parrots
·     Your Parrot will still have you around for company
·     You can keep routines as stable as possible

The Cons
·    This is not a good option if you plan on being away from the location for long                       periods of time
·    Your Parrot may not be comfortable with travelling or being in a strange location
·    The accommodation may not be safe for your Parrot

Getting a sitter
The Pros
·    You can use a trusted family friend or neighbour who your Parrot already has a                  relationship with
·    In the weeks beforehand you can train this person up to know your Parrot’s routine
·    Your Parrot will not have to leave their usual surroundings

The Cons
·    Not everyone has someone they can trust in this way
·    Depending on the person and their circumstances, your Parrot could be spending             long periods of time by themselves
·    You will need to spend some time with the sitter beforehand explaining your Parrot’s          routine and leave a list of things to do.

Let us know where you take your Parrot when you're on holiday in the comments below. 

Meet My Parrot - Jesspy The Blue-fronted Amazon Fri, 28 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT Northern Parrots

We’d like to introduce Jesspy who is an 8 month old Blue-fronted Amazon. Jesspy lives with her mum, Corinne Finlay. Over to Corinne who answered our questions.

Why choose a Blue-fronted Amazon? 
I’ve always loved birds, and as a child I had a small green Parakeet. During a holiday trip last July to Porto Santo, I met a beautiful Blue-fronted Amazon, who I adored. After some research we purchased Jesspy last September from a reputable breeder. Blue-fronted Amazons are excellent talkers and make great companion Parrots. Jesspy is full of character and loves attention especially a head and chin rub.

What is Jesspy's favourite food?
Jesspy enjoys a varied diet and really likes her fruit, however she adores mashed potato and as well as covering her face in it, she makes a delightful mmmmmm sound while eating it!

Does she have any favourite toys? 
Jesspy is a very active Parrot, and has an array of Parrot toys. She has recently had a new stacking toy, where she can remove the shaped counters and if she persists put one or two of them back on the pegs. But her favourite toy is a set of thin leather straps with twigs, beads or food tied to the ends, she gets engrossed in untying the goodies which I vary from day to day.

Does Jesspy have any games she likes to play? 
She loves whistling along to a variety of music, and will happily sit on my shoulder watching the animals in wildlife programmes. Jesspy also enjoys a warm spray shower where she flaps her wings and bobs her head up and down. But she really enjoys sitting on the front room door handle playing peekaboo.

Does she speak? 
Jesspy is starting to mimic sounds and whistles, so far she can say 'hello', 'bubble' and 'clever girl'. She can also laugh, woolf whistle, nod for yes and high 5. She has learnt to step up and go potty on command. She will happily sit on her day perch trying out new sounds and whistles.

Any advice for new Parrot owners? 
I have found with Jesspy that routine is crucial to help maintain discipline. I would also advise new owners to handle their Parrot daily, get them used to you touching their feet, feathers and wings. As part of Jesspy's play I encourage her to lay on her back in my hand, I'm able to check her all over to ensure she remains healthy. One final word of caution if you’re going to nod off in their presence be prepared to lose your buttons!

If you and your Parrot would like to feature in a future Meet My Parrot, please email us your answers to these questions (or choose your own) to Don’t forget to include some photographs!

For everything you need for Blue-fronted Amazons such as Jesspy please click here

Seeds Vs Pellets Tues, 25 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT Dot

A question to which hobby owners would all answer yes: ‘Do you want to give your bird the best diet?  Does that query have a definitive answer?  Not in the present state of knowledge.

Wild Bird Diet
Can that provide useful information? This would be the best place to consider an ideal diet. Perhaps? Let’s see.

Tony da Silva, ex-curator of Loro Parque, writes
In the wild, some foods may be available for much of the year but will be eaten only at a certain stage of development or at a specific time of the year, such as when the young are about to fledge, or only if other food resources become scarce.
 Da Silva’s field work in South America with various Parrot species found over 60 items consumed. There are reasons though that make it hardly feasible to imitate a wild diet
·         The sheer number of types of fruit, flowers, seeds bark, insects consumed
·         The lack of such items in temperature climates
·         The variability of what the birds are eating at different stages of their life cycle
·         Wild birds increased fat and protein requirements for flight
·         Our incomplete knowledge for many species

A Bit of Pellet History
Now pellets. When did their manufacture begin how have they developed?  In the l980s, processed pelleted and extruded diets were first developed.  These diets - advertised as superior to the formerly seed-based ones -  from a certain point of view were correct. Many, many, far too many bird keepers fed exclusively on seeds and this deprived the birds of essential nutrients. And to make matters worse, many of them added foods the birds adored which were extremely bad for the birds’ health.

I’m not claiming that one potato crisp or a piece of cookie will cause your bird to drop off their perch but daily consumption of high fat, fried, processed human food either salted or sweetened will inevitably shorten their life and increase the likelihood of fatty livers, clogged up arteries, gout and other illnesses. I’ve experienced all these conditions with rescue birds but never with birds that came from a reputable breeder or that I hand reared.
Scientific research papers on Parrot nutrition aren’t as numerous as with other species. In the bird world, it is poultry research that gets the best funding for obvious reasons. And early formulations of pellets were based on poultry research. No one has yet researched the long-term use of pellets on Parrots’ longevity. It’s mindboggling to imagine how such a study could be carried out
An influential article came out 15 years ago in the Veterinary Record in which the authors L. Hess, G. Maudlin and K Rosenthal examined 135 pet birds and estimated the nutrient content of their diets.  The owners were surveyed by questionnaire to determine their birds' weekly consumption. The birds were divided into six food groups on the basis of the amounts of seeds, pellets and human food they consumed.  
Two independent laboratories analysed the nutrient content of everything each bird ate. The dietary content of individual nutrients was then compared with the estimated maintenance requirements for pet birds. Birds consuming less than approximately 50 % of their diets as formulated products had inadequate intakes of vitamins A and D3 and calcium. Diets high in human food were low in protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. Diets high in seed were excessive in fat and deficient in vitamins A and D3 and calcium.

Veterinarians who were consistently seeing malnourished and dull, lethargic and overweight birds eating nothing but seed encouraged owners to replace seeds with pelleted diets. And this trend has continued. Many reports demonstrate the improvement in overweight or unwell birds who have been switched to a pellets diet.
And better still the ingredients of pelleted diets began to diversify – one size doesn’t fit all in bird terms. The variety of pellets now on the market is truly astonishing and you can find specific formulations for various species. My own experience with Kaytee hand feeding formula with Benni Blue and Gold who was pulled at 6 weeks from the nest has been exemplary.   He throve. Find lots of tasty Kaytee food here.
How much easier that was than a few years previously when I hand fed a clutch of five orphaned Regent Parakeets with my own hand- mixed formula. Four of the five survived and fledged.

If you decide to go down the pellet route, read the ingredients carefully and see how well they match up to knowledge you have of your species in the wild. Buy your complete food here.
Some of us object to pellets for their uniformity.  Pellets look the same and taste the same every day.  I love grape nuts cereal but would not like to see them served up twice a day.
In nature, psittacines are seedeaters.  

EB Cravens one of the most experienced aviculturists around gave this list ‘... guava seeds, passionfruit seeds, fig seeds, apple seeds, Casuarina seeds, eucalyptus seeds, papaya seeds, palm seeds, thistle, flower and grass seeds, corn rice and grain crop seeds, oak seeds, Podocarpus and Pyrocantha seeds, pine seeds, beech seeds, squash, cucumber and melon seeds, rape, bean, pea, lentil, buckwheat seeds, and hundreds more.

Seeds are naturally-stored packages of live energy and they are prime reasons why so many Parrots and Parakeets have strong, durable hooked bills. Keepers of Budgerigars, Lovebirds, Conures, Rosellas, Amazons, Cockatoos, Macaws and more are doing their birds a huge disservice by agreeing with the brainwash theory that seeds are bad for Parrots.

Read more from EB Cravens here

Although Parrots eat seeds in the wild it is now clear that an all seed diet is deficient. Relying on seeds as the sole diet of most bird species will result in malnutrition. Some bird species will display signs of malnutrition earlier than others, depending on what that species requirements are. Signs of malnutrition in birds include:

  • Malformed feathers
  • Excessive growth of the beak and nails
  • Flaky skin
  • Black discoloration in green or yellow feathers
  • Excess keratin (horn) on the beak, giving it a scaly appearance
  • Chronic infections
  • Paralysis (lutino Cockatiels)
  • Brown thickened flaking cere (Budgerigars)
  • Egg binding, soft-shelled eggs, straddle legged babies
  • Feather destructive behaviour
  • Obesity
  • Fatty liver disease
Malnutrition is not limited to birds on an all-seed diet. Other diets, including formulated diets, can also contribute to malnutrition.

 Gloria Scholbe in an informative article advises us to consider these thoughts:
·         No single food or food formula exists that will meet the nutritional requirements of all species of birds
·         Seeds are a natural and important source of nutrients that should be included as a part of most bird diets.
·         Excluding all seeds from our birds' diets simply because they lack some nutrients, the same as all other food, is a poor dietary decision.
·         An all seed diet causes malnutrition in birds.

The problem for us (but not for the birds) is that most of them prefer seeds them to green foods. So, what’s happened is that birds refuse their veggies day after day, so carers stop chopping and offering. Then, when the Parrot is taken to the vet for a nutrition- related illness, the vet will prescribe pellets.

Whichever decision you take whether to make pellets or seeds, one important consideration is that usually ‘you get what you pay for.’ Cheap alternatives of either sort can be harmful. Synthetic colours in pellets, dust in seeds, rancidity in both if stored incorrectly.

What Parrot carers say

I’ve canvassed a variety of Parrot owners, of different types, professional shown and trainers, successful breeders, hobbyists and free flyers. Most of them have birds, pets, breeding birds or free flyers I have actually seen and admired their plumage and behaviour.  I asked Sam Marriage of Marriages for his view. Here are some of the answers I got.

Sam is the 6th generation of his family to be involved in animal food stuffs. He says:
We do make a lot of animal feed pellets so believe a pellet it is not a bad way to feed an animal.

However mentally the way a rabbit or a chicken for example feeds is very different than a Parrot.

Parrots are very intelligent birds, naturally in the wild they are foraging for food, using their feet, beak and tongue to crack open shells and interact with their food it needs to be mentally simulating.
I’m just not convinced that a mass produced single texture, single sized pellet, high in carbohydrates and milled to a powder, heat treated to over 100 degrees is ideally the most nutritious or will offer any form of long term interest for the birds. There is a big movement at the moment in animal feeds for ‘cold press pellets’ this is a big topic for the non-meat-eating animal feed sector.
What is important is ‘seed quality’, and the blend quality. Ensuring the mix isn’t high in the wrong things that can so easily become an issue, such as obesity.

EB Cravens again: Seeds are interesting to crack. A real peeve with processed pellet diets is they are supremely boring. How would you like to eat dry corn flakes every meal, every day, your whole life? Parrot diets can be a lot of things, but they should never be boring. Unexciting food bowls will mean your birds are only eating to assuage their hungers—a dangerous concept if you have a bird who is not feeling well, or one who does not know much about raising healthy babies in the nest.

I appreciate EB Cravens observations: There is no single perfect way to feed captive Parrots. Please do not think that the convenience of throwing a cat-food like product into the same dish every day is doing your bird any real favours. A quality vitamin-mineral powder sprinkled in tiny “pepper- like” amounts on moist food and then well eaten by your pet is every bit as valuable as the daily vitamin pills taken by humans to complete their full range of nutritional needs. All exotic bird diets are still in their fundamental and formative stages. Until we go out into the wilderness and analyse every seasonal item eaten by every individual species, we will still be making guesses.

Mike Hurley
Mike Hurley is a Suffolk breeder of a variety of Parrots with free range rheas strutting around the aviaries and paddock. Mike says: The Parrot diet which I feed is based on mixed pulses/mung beans, however the ratios of pulses and other foods varies.

I personally use four criteria for feeding

1.       Breed specific nutritional needs;
Parrots like African Greys and Macaws require a higher level of fat rich foods including seeds and nuts than for instance Eclectus and Pionus Parrots who have a much greater need for pulses, fruit and vegetables and very little seed.

2 Variety and availability of food sources
The greater variety the better! Many foods have seasons, this encourages our Parrots to eat a natural variety of foods with the added benefit of giving the required nutritional requirements. Many of these foods can be found in gardens and in the countryside. I specifically grow low labour-intensive plants/trees for the Parrots. E.g. Elder, Figs, Nasturtium, Hibiscus, Courgettes, Walnuts and Mulberry, the list can be endless

3 Individual Parrot preferences
This should never be underestimated. Foods can and in my opinion, should be used as part of an overall enrichment strategy.
In my experience, the vast majority of Parrots can be coerced into eating most foods e.g. pulses and for me this is a food I require them to eat. However, this only accounts for part of the diet. Individual birds, like us, have favourite items of food and as long as the foods are healthy why not indulge them?

4 Environment
It is also important to note that the way in which we feed has to take into account the artificial environment in which we maintain our birds which clearly limits their energy expenditure, both in terms of flight/exercise and maintaining body heat in a temperate climate for this reason I increase high fat foods such as sunflower kernels and Hemp in the winter.

Bill Naylor
Bill is an aviculturist of many years standing, who has had years of experience in zoos and bird parks and with his own birds.
On diet Bill says ....... 'I believe in supplying a variety of foods which will provide stimulus and enrichment for captive birds. For Parrots, I provide a complete pelleted diet, species specific. Supplemented with fruit and vegetables. occasionally I feed boiled egg whole with the shell intact. And I admit some cooked un processed human food. I never feed un-shelled seeds or nuts, I believe the risk is too great, as moulds can be present in the casing of stored seeds or nuts. As one avian vet explained it's playing Russian roulette with a Parrot's health.
Mike Simmons one of the UK’s best animal trainers. Go and see his bird show at Centre Parks this summer. Still a young man, he has 20 years of experience with Parrots, raptors and other species. Of his Parrots’ diets, he says: The seven Parrots are fed on Harrison's and a vegetable and fruit mix. The two Macaws have more nuts and consume 80% nuts and pellets.
The Patagonian Conures get 40% pellets, 40% seed and the fruit and vegetable mix. The Amazons have 50% pellets and 50% fresh. Mike prefers pellets for the convenience and because takes the guesswork out of providing enough vitamins and minerals.
Ben Bennet our local vet.
Any bird keeper living in the Colchester area is lucky to have Ben Bennett as their vet. I have seen Ben take an untamed aviary bird onto his hand.
He says: The easy answer to this question is pellets rather than seed but this does over simplify the problem.  A lot of Parrots I see are on a seed mix and it needs a motivated owner and a pliable Parrot to change over to pellets, often it is better to change the seed mix and ensure there is enough fresh food rather than attempt something that may be very difficult. 
Not all seed mixes are the same and there are some very good mixes, but I still sometimes see the poor African Grey with a bowl of sunflower seeds.  I also feel that we have made the move to foods for species rather than the generic Parrot food.  I have clients who make the most wonderful fresh mixes of sprouted pulses and other fresh food but this takes time, dedication and an attention to detail that not everyone has. 
I have had breeders who feel that their birds will not breed when fed pellets and others who do well with them.  I do feel boredom can be a problem with birds on pellet diets but so can it be on seed diets.  I think the diet needs to be tuned to the needs and ability of the bird and owner.

Debbie Delmer in Wales has one Blue and Gold Macaw, the 10-year-old redoubtable Alfie, so well trained that he is used to bring escaped birds down out of trees. In her new home in Wales Alfie has been used as a rescue bird bringing escaped birds down out of trees.

Of his diet, she says:  Alfie has Kaytee pellet food. He loves them and eats them all. I give small amounts of mixed seed occasionally as a treat but if he has them all the time he just throws most of it. Alfie eats lots of fresh food too but nothing processed. 
Clare Budgen has some birds like Amazons in her aviary and also 2 free flying pet Macaws. She says: ‘Apart from fresh fruit, veg and nuts, I feed soaked seed, sometimes a Parrot seed mix and Parrot pellets.  They don’t really like pellets and I feel as though I’m wasting my money.  My aviary kept Amazons will eat Harrison's pellets if pushed.  My Macaws prefer fruitier pellets but mainly throw them on the floor!
Jayne Boulton together with her husband Pete cares for 12 rescues and bought Parrots. She says: As far as pellets or seeds are concerned we feed a seed based diet.  I have tried pellets, Harrison's and Hagen, but nothing was consumed, just flung around the room. 
When I got my first Parrot the breeder put me onto Johnson and Jeff Low Sunflower for African Greys (which you can buy here).  I know they have peanuts in but the company assures the customer that they are heat treated and human grade.  They have, at least stopped putting the peanuts in shells into the mix.  I like the fruit and other things they put in the mix too. 
We used to buy the No 1 for Clifford (our Green wing Macaw) or the fruit- based one, but I now feed him the same as the Greys.   I have tried Tidymix and AS30 but none of mine would eat it.  Every day they get a variety of fruits and veggies with a little treat like egg or toast, with banana on.  
And finally, any consensus?
Pellets seems to be more popular with some professionals and vets. That they should be fed at 90% as some manufacturers advise is not considered good husbandry. The proportion that I found for pellets was 5% to 60%.  Ditto for seeds.
That vegetables are better than most fruits which have too much sugar is accepted practice. That human foods should be strictly limited and with many items not given at all is also considered good practice. No one as yet told Artha my African Grey who knows how to open the biscuit time and extract a chocolate biscuit which has to give up immediately. She gets a tiny, tiny piece back.

Find a huge variety of Parrot seed and pellets here

Celebrate Macaw Day With Us Thurs, 13 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT Northern Parrots
Military, Blue and Yellow, Green-Winged, Scarlet, Hyacinth...there are so many species of Macaw and we’re going to be celebrating them all on our Northern Parrots Macaw Day on July 20th.

This month it’s the turn of one of the larger Parrot species, the Macaw, to take centre stage. 

 Facts about Macaws
Rosemary Low has written interesting fact sheets on many of the more popular Macaw species, Scarlet Macaws, Blue and Gold Macaws, Green Winged Macaws and Military Macaws. Did you know for example that nuts are an essential part of a Green-Winged Macaws diet or that the Hahn’s and Red Fronted Macaws are the only Macaws who, when young, have a plumage noticeably different from adults?


Rosemary Low discusses all this and more, including the personality, appearance, diet and conservation status of these Macaws, in her fact sheets. 

A number of Macaw species are endangered and we’ve highlighted some of the conservation projects that are working to increase their numbers, like this charity in Bolivia that is supporting Blue-Throated Macaws. 

Dot Schwarz has been caring and training her first Macaw Benni for a year now and has been charting his progress on our blog pages. Benni the Blue and Gold Macaw has been learning free flying, much to Dot’s trepidation. 
Everything you need for your Macaw
We have a huge choice of products for Small and Large Macaws.

There is scrumptious food to fill up your Macaw’s feeding dish with, including complete food so they receive all the nutrition they require in a balanced diet, and yummy treats, that could be a snack between meals or a positive reinforcement during training.

Choose from an impressive choice of toys to keep your Macaw entertained. There are all kinds of style of toys that are sure to stop your Macaw developing birdie boredom!


As evening falls, keep your Macaw comfortable in a cage that’s spacious enough for them to play, eat and sleep happily. We have play top, open top, solid top and travel cages for when you and your bird are on the go.

Keeping your Small or Large Macaw fit and well is straightforward with our supplements. There are supplements to treat all Parrot problems like feather plucking and loss of appetite.


Finally there is a massive array of accessories for Macaws. These are everything your Macaw needs to enjoy life inside and outside their cage.
Macaw Day Offers
To celebrate Macaw Day we are going to be having special offers that will be running for a limited time around Macaw Day only. We’ll advertise them on our social media pages too so you don’t miss out on anything for your Macaw. 

The Mighty Zim Toy, which has lots of colourful, chewable blocks, was £9.99, now £7.49.

Buy two tubs of Palm Nut Fruit Extract Oil, a tasty treat all Parrots love, for £6.50 (usually £4.99 each.)

The 1.36kg Sunny Orchard NutriBerries, that is full of natural nutritious ingredients, were £34.99, now £29.99. 

Finally, the Large Desert Perch, which is comfortable to stand on and exercises your bird's feet, was £14.99, now £9.99. 


We’d love it if all our Macaws and their owners could get involved on our Macaw Day. Send us your pictures or let us know how you’re celebrating and we’ll share the best ones.
My Parrot Is Afraid Of Toys Tues, 11 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT Barbara
Positive reinforcement strategies involve focusing on kind and gentle methods to teach your bird that circumstances that were once frightening now result in desired consequences.

To better demonstrate how to apply the principles let’s work through an example. Imagine trying to introduce a new toy into the cage of a bird that responds with fear behaviours:

As the conscientious companion Parrot owner approaches her bird’s cage with the new toy, she notices her bird quickly moved to the back of the cage away from the approaching toy.


Rather than put the toy in the cage, she decides to take a few steps back until her bird shows behaviour that indicates comfort. She then gently and slowly places the toy on the floor in her bird’s line of sight.

Each day the companion Parrot owner gently moves the toy slightly closer to the cage.

All the while noticing if her bird responds with any behaviour indicative of fear.

If she notices fear responses, she moves the toy away from the cage until the bird shows calm behaviour.

Over time the companion Parrot owner has been able to get the toy so close it is right next to the cage. She then gently hangs the toy on the outside of the cage away from food or water bowls.

(This is because she does not want her bird to driven away from his resources by fear.)This process is known as systematic desensitization. It is the idea of gradually exposing a subject to fear producing stimuli, arranged from least frightening to most frightening in combination with a relaxed state.

After the companion Parrot owner has achieved this success, she then focuses on using positive reinforcement to train her bird to approach the new toy. An easy way to do this is to use a target.

If a bird knows how to follow a target, the owner can present the target to her bird in the cage away from the toy. She then gradually moves the target closer and closer to the new toy.

Each approximation is reinforced with food or another desired positive reinforcer. If her bird is especially fearful, many small approximations may be required. It also may take several training sessions for her bird to move close enough to the new toy to touch it.

Now that her bird is close to the toy, the companion Parrot owner can work on teaching her bird to touch the toy. One strategy to encourage this action is to place treats on the toy.

At this stage in the process her bird might be willing to take the treat off of the toy. This can also be further encouraged with more reinforcement offered from her hands after the bait is eaten.

After her bird retrieves several treats placed on the toy, it is likely her bird may touch the toy without the need for a treat as a lure. At this point a bridge and reinforcer can be offered after the bird makes the effort to touch the toy.

If touching the toy is particularly challenging, a treat can be held in such a way that the bird must accidentally touch the toy to retrieve the treat. If needed, approximations can continue to include touching the toy for longer periods of time or actually manipulating it with the beak.

Paralyzed with fear? Unlikely. Parrots are more prone to seek opportunities to escape or avoid a situation they find frightening. Avoidance is certainly contradictory with the goal of trying to create the best relationship possible with a companion Parrot.

Focus on showing sensitivity to fear responses and using positive reinforcement to turn a fearful feathered friend into a confident companion.

This article was originally published on Barbara’s blog in November 2008. 

For more information on training and behaviour please click here

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training ( provides animal training DVDs, books, webinars and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in over twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara works with the companion animal community and also consults on animal training in zoos.