What Do Parrots Eat? Recommended Diet & Guidelines

For the times when you are stuck with the question, “Can my parrot eat it?” this guide will help you be sure of what and what not to give to your parrots. 

What do parrots eat? A parrot’s diet must be as colorful and vibrant as the bird itself. A diverse diet including 50-70% pellets and a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, proteins, seeds, nuts, and grains is critical for optimal health. Meat should only be fed in small amounts occasionally.

Type of Food

Favorite Choices

Pellets Brands will vary
Green Leafy Vegetables Spinach, kale, swiss chard
Vegetables Broccoli, sweet potatoes, fennel
Fruits Oranges, bananas, mangoes
Seeds and Nuts Sunflower seeds, sprouted seeds
Legumes Green peas and garbanzo
Meat Small amounts of beef, chicken, pork, or fish

The following will help you understand the core requirements of a parrot’s nutritional needs and how you can best ensure that your pet bird gets proper nutrition at all times. 

Parrot Nutrition

Every living being requires adequate nutrition to make sure that they sustain good health and do not fall prey to the menaces of malnutrition.

Unfortunately, malnutrition has become a significant contributor to the rising incidences of illnesses in parrots.

Important Nutrients for a Parrot

Proper nutritional intake is essential for every pet bird, including parrots.

The dietary requirements of a parrot in the wild and a domesticated one are different.

In the wild, almost every animal has to ensure a proper diet without any help while protecting themselves from any danger.

However, for your pet parrot, you are responsible for meeting its nutritional needs.

The following five nutrients comprise the majority of the nutritional requirements that a parrot must have.

Vitamin A

Birds require vitamin A for a myriad of purposes that include:

  • Tissue repair and growth.
  • Ensuring proper eye functioning.
  • Improve and maintain good hearing.
  • Ensure better and healthy bones.

To give your parrots vitamin A, feed them cherries with their seeds removed.

Other than this, fruits like papaya, mango, melon, pomegranates, and apricots also have vitamin A, and they are safe for your parrot. 

Calcium

Calcium is essential for every animal, including humans, as it helps maintain healthy bones. However, in birds like parrots, calcium is also required to ensure good beak structure.

Along with this, it is critical for the connective tissues and structuring of the feathers.

Hence, proper calcium intake for a parrot should not be debated. It is vital to the bird’s good health. 

Here again, cherries (without seeds) are a good source of calcium. Other than this, you can also give almonds, pomegranate, and cinnamon to give calcium to the bird pet. 

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is essential to break down the food parrots eat, and without its presence, they won’t be able to absorb the food.

Another area where vitamin B proves to be resourceful is coping up with stress. Parrots do undergo some form of stress in certain situations and during breeding season.

Stress during these times is not suitable for their overall health. 

One of the best sources of vitamin B is pellets, but there are other ways to supplement with this nutrient.

A few natural options include plant-based foods like seeds and grains. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has multiple roles to play in a bird’s nutritional requirements. It helps absorb some essential minerals like calcium.

Without enough vitamin D, the parrots cannot absorb calcium, leading to several health problems, including lower egg production. 

One of the primary sources of vitamin D is naturally the sun. The spleen gland secretes oil which reacts with sunlight to produce vitamin D.

Pet parrots do not get an equal amount of sunlight as the wild ones do. Hence, it is up to you to give them vitamin D via dietary sources. 

You can give vitamin D via a powder. Other ways include feeding them seeds that have been ripened by the sun. 

Protein

Proteins represent the building blocks of good health, not just in birds but in humans as well.

So, ensuring that your parrots get the appropriate amount of proteins will undoubtedly lead to better health.

On the other hand, lower amounts of protein can lead to issues with the bird’s ability to fly and stay strong enough to play with you and the kids in the house. 

Parrots are happy, active birds, and they like to play too. Not doing so can lead to depression, which again is not good for their health.

Ensuring that your parrot gets the right amount of protein is easier said than done. 

Seeds provide the most amount of protein to a parrot, but they also are high in fats.

Hence, you need to ensure a balanced diet, ensuring that no nutrients and minerals are given in excess or insufficiently. 

If you are a cockatiel owner, be sure to check out our article, “What Can Cockatiels Eat?” for a list of safe foods and what to avoid.

Recommended Parrot Diet: Type of Food for Parrots

Knowing the primary nutrients a parrot requires, it becomes easier to make a list of the most appropriate foods for the bird.

The purpose of the segregation of the food types is to give a full spectrum of a healthy diet for the parrot. 

Green Leafy Vegetables

Parrots will never say no to eating green leafy vegetables, especially the ones that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

These fatty acids facilitate an excellent condition of the parrot’s skin and feathers. 

Some of the green vegetables that top the list include:

  • Spinach.
  • Kale.
  • Dandelion.
  • Lettuce.
  • Watercress.
  • Mustard greens.
  • Swiss chard.

Out of these, romaine lettuce and watercress are superfoods for a parrot, and they are essential components of a parrot’s diet.

Romaine lettuce has everything, including proteins, calories, carbs, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folic acid. 

Other Vegetables

Parrots like eating all kinds of vegetables. However, the burden of ensuring that they get the right amount of every vegetable is your responsibility.

Since all sorts of vegetables provide different nutrients, here again, you need to create a balance between what your parrot eats. 

Some of the popular vegetables most parrots enjoy include:

  • Broccoli.
  • Sweet corn.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Courgettes.
  • Pumpkin.
  • Fennel.
  • Okra. 
  • Peas.
  • Cucumber.
  • Radish.

All these vegetables must be given moderately, especially tomatoes because they are acidic.

When in doubt, always make sure to ask an expert about what is suitable for your parrot.  

While feeding your parrot vegetables, the composition and the structure matters.

Please do not give them whole vegetables to pluck and eat. Instead, cut them into small pieces, especially vegetables like carrots, broccoli, radish, etc. 

In this, one question will undoubtedly come to everyone’s mind; do they also eat chilies? All types of parrots love to eat chilies.

However, the parrots can also get addicted to them. So, it’s better to feed them with chilies sparingly. 

Fruits

Parrots can eat all types of fruits too. Furthermore, every type of parrot loves eating fruits, including cockatiels, African greys, macaws, and lovebirds.

Some of the widely used fruits to feed parrots include:

  • Oranges.
  • Bananas.
  • Apples.
  • Grapes.
  • Cantaloupes.
  • Mango.
  • Passion fruit.
  • Peaches.
  • Pomegranate.

Some of these fruits we have already listed above with the nutrient they provide.

For others, rest assured that fruits are rich in several minerals and nutrients and will provide several benefits to your parrot.

Additionally, fruits also provide fibers essential for your feathered partners to sustain a healthy life. 

Since your parrot loves fruit and will never say no to it, you must ensure that any fruit is given in a proper proportion.

Fruits have high amounts of sugar, and feeding them to your parrots in excess can harm them. 

Try to buy organic fruits; otherwise, make sure to wash them before giving them to your parrot. 

Seeds and Nuts

Seeds and nuts are a natural choice when it comes to feeding parrots, especially sunflower seeds.

As a result, they have become a staple diet for parrots across the globe. 

Indeed, in the wild parrots do consume many seeds and nuts in their natural habitat.

Hence, even the parrots that are bred in captivity like eating seeds and nuts as they have a genetic undertaking to them of sorts. 

Seed and nuts are rich in protein and other minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium. However, giving too many seeds and nuts is not recommended as they have fats. 

An excessive amount of nuts and seeds in a parrot’s diet can lead to problems.

The problem arises when you do not know how much is enough and what amount of nuts or seeds pass as overfeeding. 

To solve this, it is recommended not to feed them with a blended diet inclusive of base food, which contains carbs, proteins, and fats in the recommended amount.

When researching a parrot’s nutritional needs, I conducted a phone interview with a parrot expert. She explained (paraphrased):

To a parrot, seeds are like candy. Over feeding seeds is the most common issue seen with new parrot owners and should be avoided. Pellets along with a wide variety of fruits and veggies is a much better choice.

Sprouted seeds are another form of seeds that you can give to your parrots without any hesitation. These seeds are a sort of nutritional gold mine.

Also, sprouted seeds are easy to digest and have a high percentage of bioavailability. 

Besides packing a powerhouse of nutrients, sprouted seeds also contain several enzymes and antioxidants.

In other words, sprouted seeds are considered nature’s best foods, and giving them to your parrots will give them the best of health. 

Pelleted and Formulated Diets

Malnutrition does not mean that your birds are not eating enough food, but whatever the birds are eating is not enough to provide them with the required nutrition.

Hence, the menace of malnutrition is genuine in parrots, and that is why pellets and formulated diets became so popular. 

Companies began to process and pack pelleted parrot foods consisting of the right amount of nutrients and minerals, making for a complete, nourishing diet.

These foods are fortified foods, including grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, etc. 

The bundled foods ensure that the birds enjoy their diet and get the best nutrition possible without being too picky about what and not to eat.

Pelleted foods may be considered the best option for those pet owners who do not have enough time to prepare complicated meals for their birds every day.

If formulated foods are so good, then why aren’t they used extensively?

There are several reasons behind this:

  • Pelleted foods may get boring after some time for the parrots as they will have to eat the same food every day. At some point, the parrots might not accept them as food and may choose to ignore them. 
  • Birds that have built a habit of eating mixed natural food and fruits will find it difficult to switch to another diet. 
  • Giving pellet foods to the birds needs experimenting. This is because these foods come in all shapes and sizes. You need to try out different diet configurations and find out which is accepted by your parrot. 

Legumes, Sprouts, and Beans

These three types of food are the best source of protein for parrots. You can include beans like:

  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Green beans

Some parrots might get rid of the casing to eat the beans inside, while others can eat the entire bean.

Lentils are also a good source of proteins. However, you must include them in your parrot’s diet in the right proportion. 

Meats

A small amount of cooked meat, such as beef, chicken, pork, or fish is safe to feed to parrots. The meats should not be seasoned, and any fat should be removed first.

It’s important to remember that meat should only be offered occasionally, and should in no way comprise the bulk of a parrot’s diet.

When meat is offered, be sure to cut it into small, bite-size pieces prior to feeding.

How Much & How Often To Feed Your Parrot

The current diet standard for parrots includes a mix of pelleted formulated food and natural foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and nuts.

As a result, 50% to 70% of the plate should consist of pellets, and the rest must include different types of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, beans, etc. 

The amount of food is typically measured in cups.

Irrespective of the type of food you give to your parrot, small ones should be given ¼ of a cup twice during the day, and larger parrots can handle ½ cup twice a day. 

You should not just eyeball it or fill the feeder when you feel like it.

There is no strict rule of feeding a parrot at a fixed time; however, most parrots will appreciate some sort of schedule.

Many parrots will get in the habit of having the first meal in the morning followed by some activity and then eating again in the evening. 

With some parrots, you may have to follow strict eating guidelines, according to your vet’s direction.

Never Give Your Parrot These Foods

Maintaining your parrot’s proper nutrition requires two things:

  • Giving them the best food suitable for a parrot’s health. 
  • Not giving them food that is bad for their health. 

We have covered what foods are suitable for a parrot. Now, we’ll see what to avoid. Never feed your parrot:

  • Tapioca.
  • Chocolate.
  • Fruit pits or fruit-based seeds.
  • Any type of junk food.
  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • Rhubarb.
  • Avocado.
  • Onions.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Garlic. 

Related Questions:

What Do Parrots Eat in the Wild?

A parrot’s diet is not fixed in the wild, and it varies depending on foraging, age, environment, and accessibility.

Depending on these factors, a wild parrot’s diet may include nuts, fruits, vegetations, leafy greens, insects, grasses, and some seeds. 

Are Parrots Carnivores? 

Parrots are omnivores, which means that they eat both plant-based and meat-based food items.

The majority of the diet should include pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, and nuts, but meats, like beef, chicken, fish, and pork may given sparingly.

Do Parrots Need Supplements? 

Some parrots might need supplements depending on their health, previous diet, and overall condition. Supplements should not be given without first consulting with your veterinarian.

An exception to this would offering a cuttlebone for additional calcium  and nutrients .

Conclusion

Parrots are one of the most friendly and jolly natured birds that anyone can keep in their house.

However, as a pet owner, it is your responsibility to take good care of the bird and ensure proper nutrition. 

Tame parrots require a mixed diet inclusive of all sorts of nutrients and minerals.

This comes from various types of foods, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, lentils, nuts, and pelleted or formulated foods.

Besides all these food types, do not forget to give them clean drinking water. 

In times when parrots might be prey to malnutrition, you need to take a comprehensive approach to ensure better health and upkeep of your feathered friend, giving them the gift of a good and sustainable life. 

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