Birds - Dr Matthew Gosbell, Greencross Vets Springvale.
The dietary needs of birds are a little more complex than just buying a seed mix from the pet store or supermarket. Greencross Vets gives some advice on how to cater to your feathery friends’ requirements.
In the wild, birds would eat a huge range of foods with seasonal changes in their diets to suit their needs. The main mistake bird-keepers make is not feeding them a balanced diet. Because there are thousands of species of pet birds, there is not a ‘one diet fits all’.
Traditionally most small pet birds have been fed seed diets, most of which do not match their natural diet. These diets have been shown to be high in fat and low in essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The quality of seeds can be varied, and birds often pick and choose which seeds they prefer, increasing the risk of nutritional disease.
Commercially prepared pelleted foods minimise this risk, giving consistent quality ingredients developed from research into what birds eat in the wild and what they need for optimal health. While these pellets or seeds may be suitable to form part of the diet, the addition of suitable vegetables and supplements will better fulfil a bird’s nutritional needs.
For small species of birds, such as finches, canaries and small parrots like budgies, a base diet of seeds and pellets should be no more than 60% of their food. The remainder should be a mix of vegetables; especially leafy greens, some coloured vegetables and legumes and a small amount of hand-picked grasses and sprouted seeds.
For larger parrots such as cockatoo species, a pellet based diet of about 60% of their total diet is ideal, with the addition of vegetables, legumes and small amounts of grasses, seeds and sprouts, to best meet their nutritional needs.
Birds often fail to recognise new foods as something they can eat so need to be introduced gradually, and at a place where the bird expects food to be. If your birds absolutely refuse to eat new foods, at least ensure that a daily vitamin supplement is given, and try offering a hand-rearing food along with the seed.Some interesting facts about bird nutrition:
- Species such as lorikeets are nectar feeders.
- Finches have high metabolic rates and many species do eat various types of grass seeds.
- Most parrot species are largely vegetarian.