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Recommended Foods Part Three: ''People Foods'' and Treats by Scott Stork

In the first two articles in this series I discussed mixes and processed foods that should make up a large portion of your bird's diet. In this article I will try and cover every type of food that hasn't already been discussed. These foods may make-up as much as 50% of a bird's diet but are usually closer to 10 - 25%. There are a number of types of foods that will be discussed here and I will attempt to separate them into two major groups; people foods and processed treats.

People Foods is a large and varied category. There are mixes and blends of foods that you can buy and prepare for your birds. There are things like dried fruits and vegetables or nut mixes that we also carry. Many people buy frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables from the grocery store for their birds. All of these things fit into this category.

White Wing's Farm, Beak Appetit', and Dr. Harvey's "What's Cooking" are some easy cookable mixes we carry for your birds. We also highly recommend using the 15 bean soup mixes (excluding the seasoning pouch) as a great cooked food for your birds. All of these foods are made up of beans, grains or pasta and often have dried fruits and other natural additions. They are cooked and then fed at either room temperature or slightly heated. They are a great source of protein, are usually well accepted and because they are fed moist are very healthy for the bird's digestive tract.

Vegetables should make up a large part of your bird's diet. Feeding fresh organic or home raised vegetables is best. All fresh vegetables should be cleaned well before giving them to your bird. The pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals that are bad for us to eat can be deadly for your bird. If you can- not feed fresh vegetables, it is fine to feed canned or frozen (again, organic is best). For birds that will not eat any form of moist vegetables, dried vegetables are certainly better than no vegetables at all. (There are some vegetables that are better fed cooked do to chemicals that can be found in them.)

There should be as much variety in all parts of your bird's diet as possible. When choosing vegetables for your bird try to vary the types used. The vegetables that contain high levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene are the most important. Vitamin C, calcium, and protein are other important nutrients that are found in vegetables that should be fed to your bird. High vitamin A vegetables are typically dark green or orange to red.

Here is a quick list of some of the most recommended vegetables. Vegetables with an * after them are those highest in Vitamin A:

  • Alfalfa *
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Beans (dry)
  • Beet Greens * (cook)
  • Beets
  • Broccoli *
  • Brussel Sprouts (cook)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard * (cook)
  • Chicory *
  • Chili Peppers *
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn (on the cob)
  • Cress *
  • Dandelion Greens *
  • Endive
  • Green Beans
  • Kale *
  • Leaf Lettuce (dark)
  • Mustard Greens *
  • Okra
  • Parsley *
  • Peas (in the pod)
  • Peppers (hot) *
  • Potato (cook)
  • Pumpkin *
  • Soy Beans
  • Spinach * (cook)
  • Squash (acorn) *
  • Squash (butternut) *
  • Squash (hubbard) *
  • Squash (winter) *
  • Sweet Potato *
  • Turnip Greens *
  • Yams *
  • Zucchini

Fruits are less important nutritionally to most birds than are vegetables. Some birds like Caiques, Eclectus and especially lories need a larger amount of fruit in their diet than others do. As with vegetables it is usually best to feed organic fresh fruits. Frozen is typically better than canned and you should avoid fruits that have sugar added to them. Citrus fruits can cause diarrhea in some birds and some fruit seeds or pits contain toxins.

The following is a list of the most recommended fruits. Those with an * after them are highest in vitamin A:

  • Apples (no seeds)
  • Apricots *
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe *
  • Cherry (sour - no pits) *
  • Cranberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes (dark)
  • Guava
  • Kiwi
  • Mango * (no skin)
  • Nectarines *
  • Papaya *
  • Peach
  • Persimmons *
  • Pineapple
  • Plantains
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Pricklypear

Nuts and seeds make great treats for all birds. Birds that have a lot of seed in their diet should not be given a lot of nuts as treats. Seeds and nuts have high levels of fat. Many birds can become obese and even develop liver problems if given large amounts of these foods. Certain types of birds have higher requirements for fatty foods than others. Macaws, particularly Greenwings and Hyacinths do best with high fat levels. Nuts are a very good way of meeting this dietary need. All unsalted nuts and seeds that are eaten by us can be given to birds. The more variety the better. It is best to feed raw shelled nuts to smaller birds and raw in the shell nuts (crack them to lessen waste) for larger birds. If raw nuts are not available those that have been roasted but are not salted, flavored or candied should be used. Some of the best nuts and seeds are Pine nuts (pignolias), pistachios, brazils, almonds, pumpkinseeds, and sunflower seeds. Some nutshells may have toxins in them when fresh. These toxins seem to be safe in dry or roasted nuts. Macadamia, cashew, brazil and walnuts are four nuts with a slight chance of having toxins in their shells.

Processed treats, such as Avicakes, Nutraberries and Seed sticks often have high levels of sugar. These are not bad for birds in limited amounts. We use them for young birds under high levels of stress because they contain a lot of calories and energy. For most birds we instead recommend treats such as Dr. Harvey's Bakery Treats, Bombay Bisquits, White Wings Farm or HBD Power Treats. There are also a number of bird cake recipes and mixes that allow you to bake fresh treats for your birds. (See Sally Blanchard's famous Glop recipe in this section.

If you give your birds processed foods that were meant for people we recommend things such as unsweetened whole grain breakfast cereals, naturally sweetened low fat granola or energy bars and other healthfood style treats. Chocolate, caffeine and alcohol are just a few of the things that we regularly consume that can be deadly to your birds and should never be given.

In general the best foods to feed your bird are those that are the healthiest for us to eat. We now know that it is important for all birds to have moist foods in their diet. This combined with the fact that fresh vegetables are the best source of vitamin A means that all birds need them in their diet. We are very aware of how difficult it can be to get some birds to eat these foods. Regardless of how stubborn your bird is it is possible to get him or her to eat a variety of moist foods. It is as important to his health as everything else we recommend is. We can suggest a number of methods that you can try.

Fresh Doesn't Necessarily Mean Safe

by Terry Beaudoin

Many fruits and vegetables that are purchased at the grocery store or co-op are imported from out of the country. Many of these countries regulations on pesticides are different from those of the United States. There have even been instances of fruits and vegetables grown in this country (including organic- though it is usually your safest choice) that have tested positive for several toxic agents.

Some fruits (i.e., raspberries) and vegetables (i.e., broccoli) are difficult, perhaps impossible to clean well. These products should be cooked thoroughly before being fed. All other fresh produce should be washed well before offering them to your bird.

Safe Cleaning of Fruits and Vegetables

Fill your clean sink with cold water. Add 4 tablespoons of salt and the juice of one half fresh lemon. (This makes a diluted form of hydrochloric acid.) Soak fruits and vegetables for 5 - 10 minutes, 2 - 3 minutes for leafy greens, and 1-2 minutes for berries. Then rinse well under cold water. Peel skins and rinds unless the produce is certified organic. Meat and eggs should always be very well cooked. Veggies can be fed raw, but are probably more digestible if they are steamed, cooked, or baked. However, overcooking can destroy vitamin content. Do not add salt, sugar, or fat to your parrot's food.

This article was published on Tuesday 22 June, 2004.
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