By Lisa A. Bono, Owner of The Platinum Parrot and a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant (CPBC)
A very important part of my job as a storeowner is to educate people on products that are on the market, the ones I recommended and the reasons there are some I do not carry. The nutrition of pet bird foods is a big part of what I consider. When I started caring for parrots in the 1970’s, we were told to feed seed. My first parakeet, Tweety, ate millet, plain seeds and was offered gravel. She never saw a veterinarian. Thinking back, I am not sure they even had avian veterinarians. Oh how times have changed!
With advances in avian medicine, we have learned the importance of a good diet. Diet is a direct link to a parrot’s health and can also be linked to behavior. Most nutritional deficiencies in pet birds are secondary to feeding seed-only diets. Seed only diets are deficient in over 30 vital nutrients. These days, veterinarians will tell you that the most common nutritional deficiencies pet parrots are prone to are Vitamin-A, Vitamin-D and Calcium deficiencies. All three of these nutrients play a crucial role in parrots overall well being and work together to keep them healthy. Here is how;
Parrots require vitamin A to boost their immune systems and keep them strong. Vitamin A aids in preventing infections by maintaining the lining of the respiratory and urinary tract and is essential for bone health and good eyesight. Parrots that are lacking in vitamin A will not have the protective mucous lining needed in their respiratory tract and are more susceptible to fungal (such as Aspergillosis) as well as bacterial infections. Lack of vitamin A has the ability to impact other vital organs within the body, such as the kidneys and bowel.
Vitamin-A rich foods include dark leafy greens like broccoli, kale, dandelions, and the orange vegetables and fruits, such as carrots, yams, sweet potatoes (raw or steamed), apricots, mangoes and winter squash. Fresh and dried chili peppers are also noted to have significant amounts of vitamin A.
The most important health problems associated with vitamin-D deficiency in parrots are immune suppression, which can lead to increased susceptibility of disease (see Vitamin A), as well as abnormalities in calcium absorption and reproductive tract disease. Vitamin D is responsible for allowing the body to absorb calcium from the diet. Ultraviolet light (UV B) is required to convert vitamin D to its active form to make this happen. Lack of vitamin D can lead to reproductive issues secondary to low calcium, such as egg binding, soft-shell eggs, soft bones, bent keels, splayed legs and abnormal beak development.
Vitamin D conversion via natural sunlight or full-spectrum lighting occurs in the skin and uropygial (preen) gland. In addition to the vitamin D converted within the skin, parrots absorb the vitamin D in the oil produced by the preen gland, thus aiding in the absorption of calcium. Not all parrots have a preen gland. The psittacine species that do not have an uropygial gland are the Hyacinth Macaw, (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), the Lear’s Macaw, (Anodorhynchus leari,) and the Spix’s Macaw, (Cyanopsitta spixii.) None of the parrots in the Amazon genus (Amazona) have a uropygial gland
Calcium deficiency is commonly seen in African Grey parrots. Hypocalcemia is the term used to describe low-calcium levels in the blood. Despite getting appropriate levels of calcium in the diet, many African Grey parrots tend to have lower levels of calcium in the blood compared to other parrot species.
The best sources of calcium are dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, and dandelion greens, in addition to broccoli, carrots, endive, figs and okra. Kale is an excellent source of absorbable calcium, while spinach, chard and beet greens should be given sparingly since they are known to block the absorption of calcium. Other sources of calcium are baked eggshells, walnuts, hazelnuts, filberts and almonds.
How Is Diet Linked to Behavior?
A parrot that is not feeling well, lacking in vitamins or minerals and proper nutrition may act out in other ways to tell us something is wrong. Imagine being low in Vitamin D. This can lead to being lethargic, achy and overall miserable. I know because I have been there! Humans have the ability to tell others when they are not well. A parrot may scream more, pluck feathers or resort to biting to be left alone. Should one notice a sudden change in behavior, it is important to speak with your veterinarian.
My goal as a storeowner and certified parrot behavior consultant is to provide you with the education and nutritional options to keep your companion parrot in good health. This is where Goldenfeast bird food comes into play. With so many delectable, human grade ingredients offering a nutritious diet has never been easier.
The Power of Pellets
Before pellets were readily available, it was common practice to supplement a diet with a powder or liquid vitamin. For parrots that mainly consume a diet of vitamin-and-mineral fortified pellets, supplementation is unnecessary and can be dangerous. Pellets are made up of grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. This combining of the ingredients during the manufacturing process makes it impossible for your bird to pick and choose what it eats. Because of this, it is less common for “picky” birds to have nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. Goldn’obles is the perfect example of a great pelleted diet. It contains over 50 wholesome ingredients with no artificial colors or flavors and no synthetic vitamins. It is peanut, corn and GMO free and made with organic ingredients which I find important when choosing a diet for your companion parrot. Check out the whole listing of ingredients here.
In trying to balance out the many nutrients that your pet bird needs in their diet, it’s always a good idea to look toward diversity as the most important key to success. Goldenfeast foods do a great job of having the diversity and nutrition your parrot needs for a healthy life.
The Platinum Parrot Specialty Supply Store
The Platinum Parrot was founded on the idea of bringing education, enrichment and nutrition to the residents of the New Jersey shore. Since it’s inception, it has grown into so much more. We serve people from around the world as well as our sleepy little town. What makes The Platinum Parrot special is that we do not sell any birds, nor do we groom or board them. The Platinum Parrot operates under a strict “No Beaks” policy. The store carries specialty items for humans and their beloved companion parrots. This includes custom toys, various lines of cages and the most nutritious foods available. We take pride in the fact that we support small “mom and pop” manufacturers and value products made in the USA. We do not carry every item produced for parrots, just the ones to help an owner keep their parrot healthy and safe. On top of that, we can boast that The Platinum Parrot is the only parrot supply store in the United States that is owned and operated by a certified parrot behavior consultant. If you would like to learn more, please visit us here.
About the Author
Lisa A. Bono, CPBC is a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant specializing in the grey parrot with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, an Allied Professional member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, a member of the AFA, the Exotics & Avian handler for the County Animal Response Team, volunteer for the Alex Foundation, owner of The Platinum Parrot, GreyParrotConsulting.com, and on the BOD and VP of Parrots At Play. Articles Lisa has written on the grey parrot, behavior and nutrition have appeared in BirdTalk, Birdchannel.com, BirdsUSA, MyLifeBook and her current column- “Shades of Grey” appear in “In Your Flock” magazine. Her articles have been translated into Spanish and German. Lisa also travels to present lectures on the African Grey parrot and behavior.
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