Pet owners commonly neglect the nutrition of their pet birds forgetting that poor nutrition is a common cause of many health problems even in birds.
They often assume they are feeding their Grey a proper diet, when in fact, they are not.
This makes it important for pet bird owners to educate themselves or discuss their parrot’s nutrition with their veterinarian.
For a bird to be healthy, it needs a balanced and rational diet, and just like all other animals, the African grey needs a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, water, fat, and minerals.
Here is what a proper African Grey diet should look like.
African Grey Parrot Diet
Wild African grey parrots have all-year-round access to seeds, but as different plants go through various growing seasons, the kinds of seeds they feed on change throughout the year.
Commercial seed mixes which are given to parrots in captivity are often low in nutrition and high in fat.
So, African grey parrots may become unwell and eventually pass away too soon if these combinations are the only source of food provided to them.
Due to their selective appetite, they can further be predisposed to malnutrition.
Birds usually choose only 1 or 2 of their “favorite” types of seeds from a big bowl of commercial seed mix. This severely reduces their nutrient intake.
Greys often like sunflower seeds and peanuts which are particularly high in fat and low in calcium and other nutrients like vitamin A.
Seeds should NEVER be a captive grey’s primary source of food, and should NEVER make up the majority of its balanced diet.
Instead, only a small amount of seeds and nuts should be contained in their diet.
Your parrot may start eating other meals if you gradually offer fewer seeds and switch them out for healthier options.
Fruits and Vegetables
20 – 25% of your bird’s daily diet should consist of fruits, vegetables, and greens.
Pale vegetables with high water content (i.e. celery, iceberg lettuce, or head lettuce) have very little nutritional value.
According to the Crookwell Veterinary Hospital, avocados are toxic to birds as they contain a toxin called persin, and when fed to birds (even a small amount) can be fatal. So avoid feeding them to your bird.
Vegetables such as squash, peppers, carrots, and sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, an essential nutrient for birds’ skin, feathers, kidneys, and immune system.
Before these fruits and vegetables to your grey, they should be thoroughly washed to remove any chemicals present.
They should also be cut into manageable pieces depending on the bird’s size. The skin does not need to be removed.
Also, remember to serve fruits and vegetables separately.
If your bird develops an extra love for a particular food item, you can reduce the volume of the food in its diet or temporarily stop feeding it.
This encourages them to consume other foods.
Offer your bird a small piece of a variety of food items every day, even if it rejects it once or twice.
Getting a bird to accept a new food may take time and several exposures, so bird owners should not be discouraged after their first attempt.
Fresh water must always be made available to the grey at all times as water is considered the most important nutrient for your bird.
Your pet bird can lose almost all of its stored carbohydrate and body fat, and over half of its protein, and still, survive.
However, a 10% loss of body water can lead to serious illness in your bird.
Depending on the quality of the water available, you may wish to consider filtered or bottled water.
You should also clean the dishes with soap and water every day.
Commercially made pellet contains a balance of all of your bird’s essential nutrients that seeds lack and that your bird needs to stay healthy.
This includes vitamins, minerals, and amino acids,
Compared to seeds, pellets also are lower in fat which makes them better for your bird’s liver and cardiovascular system.
Several formulas are available for different life stages and for managing different diseases.
Pellets are available in a variety of sizes, flavors, colors, forms, and to accommodate the preferences of different birds.
There are numerous reliable brands of pelleted food available in the market.
You should start your hand-raised baby greys on a pelleted diet.
Pellets are the ideal food for birds and should make up approximately 75-80% of their diet.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should make up the remainder of your diet, with very few seeds, if any.
Transitioning a seed-eating bird onto a pelleted diet can sometimes be difficult and can take weeks to months.
But owners can succeed by slowly introducing a pelleted diet to their birds.
It may also be helpful to consult a veterinarian experienced in bird behavior and nutrition.
How to Convert Your Seed Eating Bird to a Pelleted Diet
Seed-eating birds are not always easy to convert to formulated diets as changing a bird’s diet can take days, weeks, or even months.
Initially, they may not recognize pellets as food.
Over four to eight weeks, birds should be gradually weaned off seeds while pellets are made available in a separate dish always.
Mixing pellets with seeds is generally not a good way to transition birds to pellets since birds will pick out the seeds first and leave the pellets behind.
Withdraw seeds entirely only after the bird has tried the pellets and has eaten some fruits and vegetables.
Owners can also ensure that their birds’ weights are maintained by monitoring their weight on a digital scale that weighs in 1-gram increments.
Although birds are stubborn, they can be trained.
While moving a seed junkie to a pelleted diet can be stressful for both you and your bird, you can ultimately improve its nutritional status with the help of a knowledgeable veterinarian.
So if you encounter any problems during this transition or with the health of your bird, consult your veterinarian.
Also, remember that you train the bird. Do not let it train you.
So, to promote the health and longevity of birds, a well-balanced diet needs to be maintained at all times.
African Grey Can Eat Human Food
Generally, any wholesome, nutritious food that you and your family eat can also be eaten by your bird, but only in small quantities.
Observe the general guidelines discussed above, and use your common sense.
A small amount of lean cooked meat, fish, egg, or cheese is sometimes enjoyed by birds.
Dairy products should be offered to birds only on occasion and in very small amounts, as birds are lactose intolerant.
Finally, it is important to avoid high-fat junk food (French fries, pizza, fatty meats), excessively salty items (chips, pretzels), chocolate, caffeinated products, and alcohol.
African Grey Parrot Diet in the Wild
The African grey parrot diet in the wild includes seeds, nuts, vegetation, fruits, and berries. They especially treasure the fruits of the African oil palm, a tree that is native to their natural environment.
They will clamber from branch to branch while feeding instead of flying.
African Grey Parrot Diet in Captivity
The African grey parrot diet in captivity includes a varied diet of fruits, vegetables supplemented with some seeds and nuts. Other healthy foods are rice, cooked chicken, tortillas, corn, pasta, potatoes, bread, and cooked beans.
Captive Greys also need extra calcium supplementation, so remember to add bones, oyster shells, and cuttlebones to the diet.
As explained earlier, the difficult task is getting your bird to eat his new diet.
It is not appropriate to starve birds into eating what you desire. Instead, you need to appeal to their curiosity and playfulness.
The texture and presentation of the food are often more important than taste.
For example, try cutting carrots and broccoli stems into silver dollar-sized slices, stringing them together, and hanging the string in the bird’s cage.
Also, try stuffing rice and cooked beans into rolled cardboard and taping them to the cage.
What Is the Best Food to Feed an African Grey?
The best food to feed an African grey is a pelleted diet as pellets provide all of a bird’s nutritional requirements providing a balanced diet for your bird.
However, according to West Toowoomba Veterinary Surgery, Diets that are 100% pellets can be unhealthy. While pellets should make up about 60% of your bird’s diet, the remaining 40% should be made up of fruits and vegetables.
Seeds and water should also be included in the diet plan.
African greys are vulnerable to both calcium and vitamin A deficiencies and to obesity.
So, feeding a well-balanced diet consisting mostly of pellets will help prevent the development of these conditions.
Bird owners should continuously strive to improve their birds’ diets.
Pet owners should educate themselves constantly about the latest recommendations on proper nutrition. A veterinarian with experience in bird care can help.
Birds, like us, can survive on substandard food, but the goal, however, should be to help our grey thrive, not just survive.