How do you know which food is best for your bird? Is all food for parrots the same? Can you feed a canary with parrot food and vice versa? Let’s find out!
What’s in prepared bird food?
To start with, you need to look at the basis: complete (dry) grain food is made in accordance with birds’ needs. Good feed contains most essential nutrients and are often supplemented with healthy additives. This allows your pet to get most of the substances it needs for healthy living and growth.
There are also specialised foods: for plumage colour (including for red feathers), for feeding during moulting season, as well as food for songbirds.
Is it possible to give different bird species the same food?
Absolutely not! This could result in an unbalanced diet (lacking essential components), and lead to various health conditions, such as obesity, digestion problems, and other issues.
How do I choose the right food type for my pet?
The easiest way is to read the package – all manufacturers specify what species the grain mixture is intended for. However, in the case of budget products, it’s not enough to rely on the front of the package. You should check the list of ingredients to make sure that it at least doesn’t contain any harmful additives.
How to feed canaries
Feeding canaries is quite simple. Grain is their staple diet; not only one seed type, but a complete mixture, which is called canary food. It includes:
- canary seed;
- white millet;
- linen seed.
This nutritional base can also be supplemented with a small amount of poppy seeds, salad seeds, niger and sunflower seeds, and shredded nut. The last two ingredients should be given in moderation.
This is because, although sunflower seeds and nuts are favourite treats for canaries, they contain a large amount of vegetable fats, which, in combination with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity. Their ratio in food should be kept below 7%.
How to feed parrots
Feeding parrots is more complicated. First of all, there is a great variety of parrot species and almost all of them have their own preferences and eating habits. These can differ significantly even among the main categories described below.
Small granivorous (seed-eating) parrots, such as parakeets or corellas, make popular pets. The basis of their diet is made up of various grains and seeds, i.e. the same as canary food. However, this isn’t enough for healthy development, which is why dried fruits or vegetables or sweet treats (honey granules for instance) are often added to this mixture.
Pellets are another feeding option. During their production, all the essential ingredients are crushed and mixed together, and small granules are formed from the resulting mixture. The main advantage of using these is that the bird won’t be able to pick out only the tastiest ingredients, making its diet unbalanced.
As granivorous species include birds of various sizes, this also affects the content of mixtures. For instance, feeding nuts to small parrots is not recommended, as they contain too much fat for their digestive systems to handle but, on the other hand, nuts are necessary for medium size parrots. Medium and large parrots also enjoy eating corn, which is too tough for smaller species.
This and all following species are less common as pets, but they are worth mentioning anyway.
Apart from grains, the diet of herbivorous parrots, such as military macaws, blue-and-yellow macaws, and mitred parakeets, also includes nuts, various roots, hard bark, and a large selection of fruits and berries.
There are species (such as lories or lorikeets) which prefer nectar to grain, and mostly feed on fruit pulp and juice, pollen grain, nectar, and small seeds.
This last category feeds on almost anything edible: from the usual seeds and fruits to various insects and invertebrates. These species are usually large and have a powerful beak. For example, sulphur-crested cockatoos and red-tailed amazons are omnivorous.
What should be added to complete food?
Apart from the basic nutrition, birds also need vitamins and minerals, and you might want to give your pet a special treat from time to time too.
Treats for parrots come in the form of sticks with honey and fruits. These sticks allow parrots to procure their food as they would in the wild, while also providing them with nutritious substances and vitamins.
There are also treat sticks available that are specially formulated to aid the moulting process of birds. They contain essential minerals and vitamins that aid feather growth and restore vitality.
A mineral block, which is necessary for all bird species, helps them to replenish vitamins and minerals, and also provides an additional source of calcium, which is especially important during moulting and nesting.
Finally, it’s important to remember that even carefully selected and balanced prepared food is not enough for a cage bird.
Even if the food contains dried fruits, you should supplement it with fresh fruits and vegetables. For parakeets or canaries, these should make up about 25–50 % of their daily diet, as they improve digestion and contain essential vitamins and minerals.