Have you ever presented a high value training treat only for your Parrot to turn their head away in disgust?
You aren’t alone!
There are many reasons as to why a Parrot may decide to reject a previously favoured food and many of them aren’t our fault. It also doesn’t mean that our Parrot is unwell or is just being difficult. Because Parrots are so smart and have a varied diet, they often have tastes that change due to a variety of factors, some of which you may not even be aware of.
Our Parrot’s vision is much better than our own. They can see in the UV spectrum and may notice things that you just can’t. Have you ever pointed a UV pen at a banana for example? The ripe and unripe versions look vastly different with the former glowing brightly and the latter looking a little duller.
These variations in the foods you can present can often make the difference between a Parrot deciding to eat something, or just outright rejecting it. Many trainers, biologists and owners are coming to believe that sight is often the primary sense used by a Parrot when determining if a food item is worth eating or not.
Our Parrot’s tastes for foods can also change seasonally. What may be popular during one time of the year may be less so in another. For example, it’s been observed that some Parrots will enjoy higher fat foods in the lead up to breeding season, (depending on their natural history) and more carbohydrate rich foods during other times of the year. This also ties in with the foods themselves. Fruits and vegetables grown out of season, may look the same to us. However, to our Parrots they may look and taste completely different.
Hormones often play a part in what our birds will find appealing or not. If a Parrot is hormonal, you may find their tastes and preferences shift towards foods that would support the production of an egg. In these times, it’s especially important to be mindful of how you are feeding our Parrots. If you aren’t a breeder or intending for them to reproduce, managing how our flock is eating can help mitigate the impact of hormones, and prevent potential undesirable behaviour or stress on our bird’s bodies.
Sometimes purchasing the items from a different source can have an impact too. Some high value seed rewards such as hemp seeds can vary widely in quality and size. From one supplier they may be larger and more appealing; from another they may be smaller and less interesting. We have seen this happen with our own flock multiple times.
We have bought, what looks to us exactly the same type of high value reward, only to get a look of disgust from our Parrots. How could we provide such an obvious fraudulent item as a treat! It’s possible that these things just look different to our Parrot’s eyes or aren’t as enticing if they are slightly smaller or differently shaped.
So what do you do about it? We still need to train our Parrots, we still want them to forage and we still want to provide them things they enjoy eating.
The first solution is always providing lots of diversity in the diet and switching up what to provide on a regular basis. Veggies, sprouted/soaked items, seed, grains, fruit, dried/freeze dried items all come in a wide variety and can be swapped out and varied constantly.
We regularly try to give our flock of 8 Parrots different twists and variations on our traditional go-to recipes. This also includes how we present the foods. Varying sizes of individual ingredients, mixing colours and textures can all make things fresh and appealing.
We also provide occasional extras such as fresh herbs, spices, flowers or just a kabob skewer with chunks of veggies on it for them to destroy. Through this we cover our bases nutritionally, but also can observe what our flock are enjoying eating and getting the most out of.
The second solution is doing regular treat hierarchy tests. Now this sounds very technical, but in actuality is just a very verbose way of expressing something ultra simple.
These tests involve lining up favoured treats in front of your Parrot (or popping them in their bowl if they are nervous of you) and finding out what they go for first, second and third. This allows you to reserve those treats for foraging and training activities.
If these tests are done regularly, you can help maintain a picture of what your Parrot is enjoying at that time of the year. Maybe sunflower seeds are out in the spring and millet is the discerning Parrots pick? Maybe blueberry is last season’s news in winter but the biggest hit in summer.
Doing treat hierarchy tests often helps us stay on top of your Parrot’s preferences and ensures you always have the most reinforcing, tasty and appealing foods on hand for them to enjoy and help us make their foraging and training work that extra bit reward.