Liz Wilson explains about Parrot food and what you can feed your Parrot.
Welcome to What CAN I Feed My Parrot – PART 2. To read the first part of this article please click here to read it. Or click here for what your Parrot shouldn’t be eating. For those of you rejoining me let me just recap on where we left off…
Colour-Coding the Diet
Years ago, aviculturist Phoebe Linden came up with an excellent way to teach her clients about a good diet of fresh foods. Simply put, she colour-coded her fresh diet. As she explained it, the predominant colour should be dark green: such lovely things as kale, collard greens, spinach, dandelion, and broccoli.
The next be dark orange: high Vitamin A things like (as previously mentioned) sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squashes like acorn and butternut, and fruits like mango, peaches and cantaloupe. The least predominant colour of the diet should be white – with relatively low nutritional items like apple and pear.
Other Diet Tricks and Additions
Several people have come up with brilliant additions to the diets of companion Parrots and I have included three of my favourites. My thanks to Ms. Clark, Wiley and Sund for sharing so generously!
Certified veterinary technician and Parrot behaviour consultant Pam Clark (www.pamelaclarkonline.com) makes what she calls a “Layered Salad” to feed her flock of 10 Parrots.
Ms. Clark describes her salad thusly – and my thanks to Ms. Clark for her sharing her recipe:
This diet has several advantages, not the least of which is that I can feed fresh foods to multiple birds on a daily basis, while only chopping fruits and vegetables once a week. For those of you with only one or two birds, this idea can be modified easily.
For one Parrot, you might make three containers that each hold 5 cups.
For 10 Parrots, you might make four gallon-sized containers.
For 30 Parrots, you might make seven two-gallon containers.
It may take some playing around with this before you find the right combination of numbers and sizes of containers to create just enough layered salad to last for 7 days. The containers need to be at least 4 to 5 inches deep, in order to accommodate the five layers you will create.
Keeping these layered containers fresh for an entire week will depend upon cleanliness. Containers should be well washed, then sanitized between uses with a 10% bleach solution, before being rinsed and dried thoroughly.
All ingredients, with the exception of the frozen mixed vegetables, must also be well washed, then dried. Fruits and vegetables can be washed using Oxyfresh Cleaning Gel or any vegetable wash sold for that purpose. After rinsing, these can be towel-dried. Greens should be dried in a salad spinner. The cutting board you use for chopping your fruits and vegetables should never be used for preparing meats. It is best to reserve one cutting board just for this purpose.
The preparation and feeding of this salad takes place in two phases:
Phase One: Creating the Layered Salad
After washing and drying your greens, vegetables and fruits, chop and place them in layers into your containers as indicated below:
Layer 1 (bottom layer)
Chopped greens, which are varied each week. One week, I’ll use collard greens and parsley and mustard greens, and the next I might use Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens. (If you have only one Parrot, or a few Parrots, just choose one type of greens but vary this weekly.)
Chopped (1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes) green vegetables, including any of the following: Brussels sprouts, zucchini and other summer squash, red or green peppers, fresh hot peppers, chayote squash, jicama, green beans, fresh peas, cucumber, celery, anise root, etc.
Chopped broccoli and shredded carrots
a mixture of chopped apples, oranges and whole grapes
Frozen mixed vegetables.
The containers are then placed in the refrigerator (don’t freeze). *This mix stays fresh in these tubs for up to seven days for four reasons…
First, layered salads stay fresher longer.
Second, the orange juice from the chopped oranges filters down and slightly acidifies the mix.
Third, the frozen mixed vegetables placed on top super-cool the mix immediately.
Forth, the ingredients have been well-washed and dried to exclude excess moisture.
Phase Two: Completion of the Salad for Feeding
Empty one container out into a large mixing bowl, and prepare to add the ingredients that would not have remained fresh for a week in the layered mix:
Beans and grains (these provide a protein source when added together). You can cook your own beans or use canned beans, rinsing these well before use.
To cook dried beans, choose an assortment of beans that are all approximately the same size. Soak these overnight in water to cover. Drain and rinse them thoroughly the next morning. Then, cover them again with fresh water, bring to a full boil and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Allow to cool, then drain and freeze.
If creating this mix for one to three Parrots, freeze beans in snack-sized baggies.
If creating this mix for three to seven Parrots, use pint-sized baggies.
If creating this mix for over seven to 12 Parrots, use quart-sized baggies.
*One advantage of cooking your own beans is that you can include spices in the cooking water, such as turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper, or chili powder. These provide both flavor and health benefits.
Grains can be cooked on the stovetop or in a rice cooker (preferred method). Grains to include: quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, oat groats, wheat berries, hulled barley, and rye berries. When cooking the grains, you can also add herbs or spices, such as cinnamon, ginger or turmeric. The grains can be cooked individually or in combination with each other and then frozen in similar fashion to the beans, in the same quantities indicated above.
Once you’ve added your cooked beans and grains, you may add other items. Ideas are as follows:
- Other fruit in season (blueberries, peaches, plums, kiwi fruits, cranberries, melon, etc) .
- Any other pelleted food (preferably Organic and free of artificial colors) – this can be a successful way to introduce pellets to a Parrot who won’t eat them.
- Uncooked whole grain pasta (do not use pasta made from white flour)
- Flax or sesame seeds
- Firm tofu, diced into squares
- Cooked, diced beets
- Dried goji berries (available from the Northern Parrots and full of antioxidants) .
- Corn on the cob slices, quartered
- A small amount of a high-quality, clean seed mix – this should make up no more than 5% of the total mix when finished.
*Keep in mind appropriate proportions when creating this mix. I suggest the following percentages for the final mix: cooked beans 15-20%, cooked or sprouted grains 15-20%, raw pasta no more than 2%, fruit no more than 15%, greens 5%, vegetables at least 40%, seed mix 2-5%.
Certified veterinary technician Barbara Wiley makes a terrific “Birdie Muffin” recipe:
- 1 package corn muffin mix
- 1 4-oz. jar each – Baby food carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, spinach
- 2 eggs, including shells
- 2-3 T. olive oil
- 1+ c. ground vegetables (i.e. sweet potato, carrots, kale, broccoli, etc. See list below)
- 1+ c. ground Harrison’s Bird Diet™ or Tropicans™ (Hagen) or other good quality pellets .
Other healthy additions and/or choices include: ½ -1 banana; wheat grass; dandelion, mustard or turnip greens; butternut or acorn squash
Grind vegetables, eggshells and pellets in food processor. Several batches may be necessary. Stir together all ingredients and let batter sit for 10-15 min. If batter seems too dry, add water or non-fat plain yoghurt. Oil mini-sized or regular muffin tins, depending on your preference. Fill and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Muffins can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
And Parrot author Patricia Sund makes a lovely thing she calls “Chop” which is well described in the following video: https://Parrotnation.com/2010/08/08/chop-shot-by-shot/
And again, none of these people are suggesting their various recipes should be substituted for a formulated diet base. Indeed, to repeat what was stated earlier, according to some of the top avian veterinarians in the world, a decent diet for the generic Parrot should be approximately:
60% formulated diet
25% high nutrition vegetables (especially those high in Vitamin A)
15% composed of nuts*, seeds**, high nutrition fruits*** and an occasional small treats for training
The English-English Language Barrier
After rummaging around in Google, Wikipedia and various make-your-own-baby-food websites for a while, I have collected the following definitions of various foodstuffs I found mentioned in various sources of food for Parrots. They are all apparently fine to be fed to Parrots and they are listed alphabetically under all the names I could find. Most of the following descriptions are quoted directly from the sources that are listed at the end of each entry.
Acorns: According to aviculturist EB Cravens, acorns are a safe food for psittacines. There are many instances of wild and feral Parrots eating acorns, i.e. thick-billed Parrots, Quakers, and Amazons. (https://www.Parrots.org/index.php/forumsandexperts/answers/author/ebcravens/P24/)
Beet – see Beetroot
Beetroot – The beetroot, also known as the table beet, garden beet, red beet or informally simply as beet, is one of the many cultivated varieties of beets (Beta vulgaris) and arguably the most commonly encountered variety in North America, Central America and Britain. Parrots often eat them with gusto but be prepared for a momentarily frightening colour change in their droppings! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beetroot)
Cape gooseberries – See physalis
Carambola – see Star fruit
Courgette – see Zucchini
Garden beet – see Beetroot
Legume – see Pulses
Marrow – Cultivated in England, this green, oval summer squash can grow to the size of a watermelon. It’s closely related to the courgette / zucchini and can be cooked in any manner suitable for that vegetable. https://www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary/entry/?id=5075#ixzz1d2zTSTvI,
Physalis (Most – but not all – physalis species produce edible fruits, with a basic flavour recalling a tomato/pineapple-like blend. Some species like cape gooseberries and tomatillos have numerous named cultivars, which offer a range of flavours from tart to sweet to savoury. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physalis)
Pulses: A pulse is an annual leguminous crop yielding from one to twelve seeds of variable size, shape, and colour within a pod. Pulses are used for food and animal feed. The term “pulse”, as used by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), is reserved for crops harvested solely for the dry seed. This excludes green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetable crops. Also excluded are crops that are mainly grown for oil extraction(oilseeds like soybeans and peanuts), and crops which are used exclusively for sowing (clovers, alfalfa).
However, in common use these distinctions are not clearly made, and many of the varieties so classified and given below are also used as vegetables, with their beans in pods while young cooked in whole cuisines and sold for the purpose; for example black eyed beans, lima beans and Toor or pigeon peas are thus eaten as fresh green beans cooked as part of a meal.
Pulses are important food crops due to their high protein and essential amino acid content. Just like words such as bean and lentil, the word pulse may also refer to just the seed, rather than the entire plant. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse_%28legume%29)
Check out the Pulse and Rice Soaking Mix here.
Radish – Radishes are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They are a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and Calcium. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radish)
Red beet – see Beetroot
Runner beans – The green pods are edible whole before they become fibrous and the seeds can be used fresh or as dried beans. The starchy roots are still eaten by Central American Indians. In the UK, the flowers are often ignored, or treated as an attractive bonus to cultivating the plant for the beans, whereas in the US the scarlet runner is widely grown for its attractive flowers by people who would never think of eating it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaseolus_coccineus. Runner beans are a very nutritious vegetable, a natural source of Vitamin C, Fibre, Folate and Iron.
Satsuma (Citrus unshiu) is a seedless and easy-peeling citrus mutant of Japanese origin introduced to the West. In Japan, it is known as mikan or formally unshu mikan. In China, it is known as Wenzhou migan. In both languages, the name means “Honey Citrus of Wenzhou” named after a city in China. It is also often known as “Seedless mandarin.”
The common English name “satsuma” is derived from the former Satsuma Province in Japan, from which these fruits were first exported to the West. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satsuma_(fruit)
Star fruit – Carambola, also known as starfruit, is the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The fruit is
a popular food throughout Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and parts of East Asia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carambola) Also: Star Fruit are a good choice during the winter months, when they’re readily available. And they’re a good source of Vitamin C and also full of antioxidants and flavonoids. Nice to eat fresh, but also delicious cooked or juiced. (https://thaifood.about.com/od/introtothaicooking/ss/starfruithowto.htm)
Swede – Swede is actually a member of the cabbage family and is a cross between a turnip and kale. It is a rich source of vitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin C and minerals. Depending on where you are in the world, you will know this tasty root vegetable as a swede, a Swedish turnip, a rutabaga or as brassica rapa. https://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/25/seasonal-food-swede
Sweet Potato – Seems we Americans got this all wrong. According to Wikipedia, the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that is a large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous root that is an important root vegetable. The young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens.
The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato. Although the softer, orange variety is often called a yam in parts of North America, the sweet potato is botanically very distinct from the other vegetable called a yam, which is native to Africa and Asia and is unrelated.
To prevent confusion, the United States Department of Agriculture requires sweet potatoes labeled as “yams” to be labeled also as “sweet potatoes”. In New Zealand English, the Mâori term kûmara is commonly used. Besides simple starches, sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, beta carotene (a vitamin A equivalent nutrient), vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Pink, yellow and green varieties are also high in carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_potato) see also Yam.
Table beet – see beet
Tomatillos – see physalis
Yam – Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea. These are herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. There are many cultivars of yam. Although the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) has traditionally been referred to as a yam in parts of the United States and Canada, it is not part of the Dioscoreaceae family.
The yam is a versatile vegetable which is high in vitamins C and B6, potassium, manganese and dietary fiber while being low in saturated fat and sodium. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yam_(vegetable) NOTE: Unlike the sweet potato, the yam apparently contains no beta carotene so it isn’t a potential source of Vitamin A.
Zucchini – The zucchini (or courgette) is a summer squash which often grows to nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. It is a hybrid of the cucumber. Along with certain other squashes, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini can be dark or light green. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini is a deep yellow or orange color. The zucchini fruit is contains useful amounts of folate (24mcg/100 g), potassium (280 mg/100 g) and vitamin A (384 IU [115 mcg]/100 g.
*Nuts: Please note that despite its name, a PEANUT is not a nut, it is a legume. True NUTS grow in trees.
** Regarding seed, fresh is better than dried.
***information regarding fruit: with the exception of watermelon, dark-fleshed fruits have more nutrition in terms of beta carotene (peach, cantaloupe, mango) than lighter-fleshed fruits (i.e. apple, pear)
To read the first part of this article please click here to read it. Or click here for what your Parrot shouldn’t be eating.
For loads more great tasting Parrot food for your feathered friend please click here.