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DIETARY REQUIREMENTS OF COMMONLY KEPT
       PSITTACINES & CONVERTING SEED JUNKIES
(VETARC)

 

Australian Parakeets eg.Budgerigar, Cockatiel - Small seeds, eg. hemp, canary , millet, some larger seeds for larger species.Fruit, especially apples, pears, orange, grapes. Groats, wheat, lettuce, carrot, chickweed. Sprouted pulses.

Kakariki - Sunflower seed, larger parrot mix (sunflower, safflower, pumpkin seeds etc). Look out for selective feeding.

Lovebirds - Large seeds, small nuts, berries, apple and carrot. Green foods are popular. Soft fruits.

Ring necked parrots eg. Moustached parakeets, Slaty-headed parakeets, Alexandrines - Large seeds, small nuts, berries, apple, carrot. Green foods are popular. Soft fruits.

Cockatoos - Large seeds (roseate cockatoos are prone to obesity so with these it is often better to use small seeds). Fruit, greens, soaked pulses.  Provide wood to 'strip'.

Conures eg. Sun conures, Green cheeked & maroon bellied conures - Mixed seeds; enjoy fruit; like to bathe in large water bowls.

Macaws eg. Scarlet, Blue and Gold - Large seeds, nuts in moderation, small pine nuts for 'interest'. Enjoy soft fruit.

Amazons eg. Blue fronted - Large seeds, nuts in moderation, small pine nuts for 'interest'. Mixed pulses,fruit & vegetables. Enjoy soft fruit.

Pionus eg. Blue headed, Dusky - As amazons, but with more fruit

Eclectus - As amazons, but with much more fruit.

African Greys - As amazons taking particular care to keep the diet balanced, avoiding fads. In particular avoid exclusively sunflower seed diets. They need a good calcium source, cuttlebone as routine but supplements are very important.

Brush tongued parrots - These have a long extensible tongue which is covered in papillae to collect pollen. They often crush flowers and lick nectar. Provide nectar, pollen, soft food, seeds, berries. Commercial lory diets.

Non-nutritional 'food' items are very important. Cockatoos like to strip wood - any fruit branches are suitable provided that they have not been sprayed with garden chemicals. It is sensible to give them a good scrub with an antibacterial cleanser such as Ark-Klens (Vetark) to avoid introduction of infection from wild birds. Hide dog chews can be drilled and hung from chains etc. There are now excellent quality complete foods, however there is a strong drift away from this idea, suggesting that they are better used as seed substitutes, thus allowing the use of fresh foods and vitamin mineral supplements which certainly seem to improve breeding results. Certainly this encourages more normal behaviour patterns.

Converting 'Seed Junkies'

"Seed Junkies' are birds which have become fixated on a particular food item, normally sunflower seed. It is important to realise that often these are seen as 'sick birds'. At this stage they should be allowed to eat whatever they like (within reason). The diet should be considered after treating any secondary problems,such as vitamin A deficiency manifesting with aspergillosis, or
run-down birds developing psittacosis. The basic routine used is:

Estimate the amount of seed actually eaten in a day and present half of it; monitor the bird's condition whilst trying the following: 'weed' the mixture, changing the balance of seeds away from sunflower seed.

Use a top quality mix. The hulled seed/fruit blends available are ideal. Importantly, they are fresh and palatable and can be top dressed with vitamins using a little peanut oil or orange juice.

Use non-threatening forms of food. Shredded carrot is less suspicious to a bird than a whole one! Try introducing new items in amongst the seed. Sprout seeds and pulses - they taste much better. Introduce a soft-food, baby cereal, fruit pulp, or proprietary egg-food type mixes. Again, this will give a vehicle for vitamins.

Consider interval feeding. Instead of leaving food in the cage all day try introducing meal times; 30 - 60 minutes access three times a day.

Move the cage; place new food items such as corn on the cob close to favourite toys.

'Monkey see, Monkey do' Birds will often take and investigate titbits which they see the owner eating. Being able to see other birds eating a better diet may also help.

Change the photoperiod. The natural photoperiod for many birds is 12 hours light, 12 hours dark. In captivity this is extended in the home by early risers and late night television. Covering the cage from 9pm till 9am can change a birds behaviour and sometimes help with establishing new feeding patterns.

Consider hospitalisation, or boarding out. A new regime may be more acceptable under new management where everything else is new. Remember - owners have starved birds to death trying to change their diet!

The above information has been taken from the VETARC website (link on the Avian Health & Disease Prevention website) ...

Sibylle Faye

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