Parrot Care - Parrot Feeding, Protein… Requirements and Sources

Parrot feeding is very important for a bird’s health, so it should be looked upon as a diet that must contain the right amount of protein. Used by your bird to grow and repair muscle, organs, feathers, beak, and other body tissue, proteins are mostly amino acids, that are oft being called the “building blocks” of protein. Amino acids can be divided into essential and non-essential amino acids. The latter ones are produced by the parrot’s own body, but they are not enough for a bird. So there are at least ten other amino acids that you must feed to your parrot by its diet, as a bird’s body cannot produce them. These are the essential amino acids: arginine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, threonine and valine.

Parrot food contains protein that is either “complete” protein or “incomplete protein”, depending on the fact that food contains either only some amino acids or it contains all of them. High levels of all of the essential amino acids can be found in eggs and animal proteins, thus they are considered to be protein foods of higher quality.

For psittacine birds, pellets are a real source of complete protein. Although acknowledged by many people to be a complete diet, in my opinion they cannot substitute all the other products used in parrot feeding. I will never be confident in the practice of giving pellets to the parrot, instead of a total diet. Some scientists have stated the existence of a real trend of feeding the parrots on a formulated commercial diet. They themselves could not advise bird owners to practice this method, as it cannot be considered to be proper parrot feeding. The scientists recommend not using only highly processed foods in bird diets. It would be ridiculous to give the parrot the same meal every day, so you cannot say that the best way to feed a bird is a pelleted diet. A parrot’s body is not much different than the human body. And as people are advised to have a varied diet containing fresh food every day, why should birds be fed only on pellets. This is indeed certified and organic food, but keep in mind the fact that it is only an addition to the diet. To sum up, diets based on pellets alone are not considered to be proper and attractive parrot feeding.

Let’s now consider corn, for example. Although it is rich in protein, corn is seen as a poor source of protein, because it does not contain many of the essential amino acids. Dairy products and meats are also source of complete protein. So eggs, chicken, fish and diary products are real suppliers of essential amino acids, that birds need in small amounts. On the other hand, when you give your bird beans along with whole grains, there is no need to feed any more animal protein.

Some say that parrots can not digest dairy produces, meaning that they are “lactose intolerant”, but this is not the entire truth. They can digest low to moderate amounts of dairy products. So when you feed your parrot diary products, be very careful with the quantities and watch your parrot’s droppings. That is because when they are loose or watery, you must reduce the amount given to the bird.

Fresh vegetables are low in amino acids, calcium and vitamin, although they are full of many other valuable nutrients. Vegetables are not a good choice when aiming to balance a parrot’s diet that is based on seed. Though deficient in amino acids, you can wisely combine them in such a way as to provide good quality protein. The only vegetable that is very high in protein is beans, but if the diet includes many kinds of vegetables, you could fairly have a chance at balancing the diet.

Protein requirements published so far are a great deal of help in deciding upon the amounts of animal protein that should be fed to a parrot. They advise us to feed a bird on average between 10% and 16% protein daily, but you should also consider the fact that breeding birds and young, growing birds need greater amounts. For example a teaspoon of complete protein daily would be about enough for the needs of a medium-sized parrot.

If not fed enough “complete” protein foods a parrot will not be completely healthy, because deficiencies in the amino acids’ consumption will put your bird at risk. They may easily catch infections, poor growth and decreased fertility in breeding birds, feather picking, poor feather quality overall. Remember that growing parrots or birds during periods of molting and when breeding need larger amounts of protein.

Protein amounts that should be fed to a parrot vary upon the fat content of the diet. Everyone knows that the amount of food a bird eats depends on the number of calories in the diet. A diet high in calories will make the bird eat less food. This is the reason why the protein levels in the diet must be higher, so that the parrot can take in the right amount. On the other hand, a diet low in calories will determine the bird to eat more and the parrot will need less protein in each mouthful. Now there comes the real problem. Remember how many people feed a lot of snack food to a parrot? The snack food for humans have many calories and will make the parrot eat less healthy food. Malnutrition is an extreme consequence of an unbalanced quantity of protein in the diet.

The main idea is to try to keep a balanced diet for your parrot. Exceeding the previously mentioned requirements can harm your parrots good health. This is due to the fact that when feeding too much protein causes an excess in amino acids and they are udes to produce energy and finally uric acid which must then be excreted by the kidneys. Kidney damage is one of the complications that can occur.

For the time being there are no accurate figures to describe the protein requirements of each species, but I’m sure that we will shortly see some numbers. In my opinion African Greys parrots and most cockatoos need higher amounts of proteins than the New World species and when fed higher levels of protein pellets on the market, these parrots’ health is at its peak. This of course including fresh food at the same time.

I for example have been feeding my own parrots pellets along with fresh foods, and it has been a very good thing for my little ones’ health. I have to admit that sometimes my parrots don’t even like to eat their pellets, while other times they give up healthy food in favor of them. Hopefully parrots will balance their diets if their owners feed them healthy and varied foods, that are not fat or contain much sugar. This will ruin just any diet!