The following is a compilation of information we've received
from various sources over the years, things we've learned through
experience, and probably some mythology. We make no claims to
absolute accuracy or authority but we believe it to be a good starting point for a new bird
Basic Bird Care Index : Nutrition | Environment
| Body Care | Security
| Recognizing Signs of Illness
Your bird's diet is one of the most important considerations in
it's overall care. Parrots eat a wide variety of foods in the
wild and will thrive on many of the same foods in a healthy human
diet. They can be fed the same grains, vegetables, fruit and meats
that your family enjoys.
Grains, Breads, and Cereals - These foods can make
up approximately 50% of daily food intake. Foods in this group
- Whole wheat bread (Not White Bread)
- Cooked brown rice
- Commercial monkey biscuit
- Other whole grain products
Fresh Vegetables - Vegetables can account for 45%
of your birds daily diet. Fresh vegetables are best for vitamin
content but may be supplemented with cooked vegetables from the
family table if these are not seasoned too highly. Frozen vegetables
(thawed in the microwave) are acceptable when fresh vegetables
are not in season. Vegetables that may be offered include:
- Sweet Potato
- Green Peas
- Green Beans
Fruit - Fruit should be offered in limited amounts.
Fruit in combination with the protein and calcium foods that follow
can make up the remaining 5% of your birds daily intake. Typical
fruit can include the following:
Protein Foods - Protein foods include meats,
peanuts or other mature legumes (cooked navy beans, kidney beans,
etc.) The following foods are acceptable:
- Other cooked fish
- Cooked Beans
Chicken can become a source for fatal Salmonella poisoning
if left in the cage too long. Use extreme caution when feeding
these items. Never feed uncooked chicken or eggs.
Calcium Foods - Dairy products should not be fed
in excessive amounts. Although small amounts of cottage cheese
or hard cheeses are enjoyed by many birds. Calcium is essential,
however, and must be supplied by supplements in the form of:
- Oyster Shell
- Mineral Block
- Crushed tablets, liquid, or powder added to other
OFFER FRESH WATER EVERY DAY
Seed - Your bird doesn't need seed for a complete
diet and probably won't like them too well unless taught. Sunflower
seed is fattening and has low nutritional value. Seed can be offered
as an occasional activity food but should not be made the main
portion of your birds diet.
Pellets - Commercial pellets designed for parrot
feeding will supply most of the essential nutrients found in the
above foods and may be substituted as a time saver. Modern pellet
formulations are believed to supply the complete needs of parrots
and some can be fed to the exclusion of other foods but be sure
to supplement with vegetables and fruit for activity, variety
and extra nutrition. Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer.
Pelleted foods are particularly valuable to busy families who
do not have time to prepare fresh foods daily or for birds who
will not eat a balanced diet. Pellets have the additional advantage
of being dust and hull free and are available in medicated forms
should your bird ever get sick.
- Thawed frozen mixed vegetables are a time saver.
- Carefully monitor TOTAL food consumption during
a diet change.
- Introduce small pieces of a single new food at a
- Offer cups of fresh food at twice daily 15-20 minute
time periods rather than leaving food in the cage all day. (Pellets
will not spoil if dry and may be left in the cage for extended
- If a complete and balanced diet is consumed by your
bird, vitamin supplements will not be required. However, many
birds will eat favorite foods to exclusion of others and thus
may need vitamin supplement. If commercial vitamins are needed,
use dry formulations sprinkled on soft food dry water-soluble
vitamins mixed into the drinking water. Oil-based vitamins are
not recommended for adding to drinking water as these may quickly
become rancid and lose all potency, especially during hot weather.
- Remove ALL food and water cups and clean daily.
Remove all spilled food from the cage daily.
- Offer some foods that provide sources of activity
Buds and leaves
Corn on the cob
Temperature - A healthy bird can tolerate temperatures
that are comfortable to its owner. Sudden changes in temperature
(e.g. drafts) may be a potential threat to a sick bird. In temperatures
above 90 degrees, your bird may show signs of overheating by panting
and holding the wings away from the body. A water spray with a
plant mister will remedy this situation in most cases.
Avoid the following items in your bird's environment:
Humidity - Most birds have the ability to adapt to a
wide range of humidity. Most birds native to tropical climates
will benefit from localized increase in humidity (e.g. in bathroom
with running water or frequent spraying of feathers with water.
Keep the bird warm until the feathers have dried. Most birds of
the parrot family will enjoy and benefit from a daily misting
of warm water from a plant mister.
Light And Fresh Air - Give your bird frequent opportunity
for supervised access to fresh air and direct sunlight (not filtered
through a window) . If the bird and cage are placed outdoors in
comfortable weather, always provide a retreat for shade. Never
Leave Your Bird in Direct Sunlight.
- Air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, insecticides,
and toxic fumes from overheated Teflon coated utensils. Be very
careful with, or eliminate use of, Teflon-coated irons, ironing
board covers, pots and pans. If Teflon (or similar coatings)
are overheated for just a short period, fumes will be produced
that can quickly kill birds.
- Mite boxes and mite sprays
- Easily dismantled or ingested toys such as balsa
wood, small link chain items, toys with metal clips or skewers,
or lead-weighted penguins for larger species.
- Access to toxic house plants, fans, cats, dogs,
- Access to cedar, redwood, or pressure treated pine
chips used as cage litter.
Perches - The most natural perch material is wood.
Use clean, pesticide-free wood branches from non-toxic trees (e.g.
northern hardwoods, citrus, eucalyptus, Australian pine, manzanita.
Make sure the perch is easily removeable for replacement and cleaning
but sturdily mounted and vibration-free under the bird's weight.
The perch should be sized to allow comfortable and confident standing,
walking and sleeping. A perch of too large a diameter will not
allow the bird to easily lock his claws around for sleep and rest,
while too small a diameter may cause discomfort if the birds nails
wrap around and contact the back of the feet. Variation in diameter
and shape is natural and can provide interest for the bird.
The perch should be located to avoid contaminating food or water
with the birds droppings and high enough to prevent the bird's
tail from contacting food, water or the floor of the cage. Birds
of the parrot family love to climb and will usually pick the highest
perch. Make sure the highest perch in the cage will not force
the bird to bend his head to avoid contacting the top of the cage.
Water and Food Bowls - Use wide food bowls rather than
deep cups. Birds enjoy viewing a variety of food and may try more
new foods if they are attractively displayed. Deep cups may also
encourage digging and food waste. It is not necessary to place
food and water bowls near the perch for birds of the parrot family.
They climb well and enjoy "searching" for their food.
Hygiene - The cage bottom and food/water dishes should
cleaned daily to avoid diseases and pests associated with spoiled
food and droppings. Daily notice of droppings during clean up
will help alert to potential signs of illness.
Cage Liners - Liners of newspaper, paper towels, or plain
liner paper are recommended. Litter such as wood chips, chopped
corn cobs, or sand will not allow monitoring the appearance of
the bird's droppings. Remember to replace liner paper daily.
Most parrots in the wild spend all day searching for food and
participating in flock social activities. They fly relatively
long distances, climb, open fruit, nuts and seeds, build nests,
hunt for insects, avoid predators. The cage environment alone
may not fulfill the instinctive need for activity in these intelligent
animals. A bird kept in a cage without stimuli may develop behavior
abnormalities such as feather picking, screaming, or throwing
food. Most birds are flock oriented and you and your family are
your bird's flock. Locate the bird cage near family activity to
allow this interaction.
Freedom - As appropriate to the species and degree of
training, birds benefit from occasional freedom from the cage.
Wing clipping is recommended for the safety of any bird allowed
freedom! Parrots enjoy a comfortable perch outside the cage for
interaction with the family and exercise. Hand fed birds gravitate
toward humans and particularly enjoy handling and interaction.
Toys - Toys are very useful and necessary to provide
mental diversion and encourage exercise and beak use. Select toys,
however, with the bird's safety in mind. Pick chewable items such
as branches, pine cones, rawhide dog chews, natural fiber rope
and soft white pine. Birds love variety in color and shape. Toys
that are safe for human babies are generally ok for birds. Avoid
any toy that can be swallowed (in whole or part). Young birds
raised to expect a variety of foods will try to eat most anything!
Most parrots are expert mechanics and can dismantle the most firmly
constructed toys. Be sure that no parts of the toy are small enough
to be swallowed.
A healthy, well fed bird will instinctively take care of his
body. Birds kept indoors will require occasional attention in
the care of beak, nails, feet and feathers.
Molting - All birds molt to lose old feathers
and grow new ones. Some species molt during certain seasons and
others molt continuously. Molt is natural and is not a sign of
disease unless it is excessive or during the wrong season for
your bird. Additional fat, protein, or vitamins may be required
during molting as well as additional darkness to encourage rest.
When the new feathers begin to appear, the bird may pick at the
pin feather covers to remove them. Do not interpret this as "feather
picking" or the presence of mites.
Bathing - Many birds enjoy taking a bath and can
be occasionally provided with a shallow bowl of warm water for
this purpose. Reluctant bathers should be periodically sprayed
with warm water. Water will wash off excess feather dust and encourage
preening. Soiled feathers can be cleaned with a mild detergent
(such as Woolite) followed by a thorough warm-water rinse and
towel, sun or gentle blow drying. Keep feathers dry and free of
Wing Clipping - Any pet bird who will be allowed
freedom from the cage should have a wing clip to prevent injury
or escape. Wing clipping will also aid in taming and training.
An expertly done wing clip will not cause any discomfort or injury
and will not detract from the overall appearance of your bird.
Ask your veterinarian for advice regarding wing clipping.
Leg Bands - It may be wise to remove open leg
bands to prevent leg injury. If a closed band must remain on for
identification purposes, check under the band occasionally for
dirt accumulation, signs of swelling or leg constriction.
Beaks and Nails - Your bird may require period
nail trimming. Nail trimming must be done expertly to avoid bleeding
or injury. Beak trimming is usually not required for healthy birds
that enjoy chewing opportunities. Your veterinarian can advise
you regarding nail and beak care.
Birds are valuable and thieves know this. Secure your bird
as you would any valuable family member. Do not place your bird
directly in front of a window that will advertise its presence
Don't take your bird outside without a wing clip. Check wings
occasionally for regrowth. Even partial regrowth may allow enough
flight to escape. No matter how tame or bonded your bird may become,
a sudden sight or sound may startle and cause instinctive flight.
Never leave your bird outside unattended. Remember that birds
are the natural prey of cats, dogs and birds of prey.
Recognizing Signs of Illness
As a responsible pet owner, you should constantly monitor your
bird for signs of illness. A bird will instinctively attempt to
hide any appearance of illness as long as possible. This is a
survival tactic in the wild. Therefore, by the time symptoms are
apparent, the bird may have been sick for some time. Familiarity
with the your bird's healthy behavior, feeding habits and droppings
may be the key to early detection and treatment of illness.
The following symptoms may indicate a serious problem requiring
immediate veterinary assistance:
1. A change in the character of droppings such as:
- A substantial decrease in the total number or volume
- Change in the color of urates or urine (clear and
white portions of droppings).
- A increase in the water content of droppings (diarrhea).
- Decrease in volume of droppings with increased urates
- Increase in the urine (clear) portion of the droppings.
2. Decreased or increased consumption of food or water.
3. Marked change in attitude, personality, or behavior, such
- Decreased Activity.
- Decreased talking and singing.
- Increased sleeping.
- Poor response to stimuli.
4. Change in appearance or posture.
- Ruffled feathers.
- Inability to stand.
- Staying on bottom of cage.
- Sitting low on the perch.
- Drooping wings.
5. Change in Respiration.
- Any noticeable breathing movement (such as tail
bobbing) while resting.
- Heavy breathing after exercise.
- Change in voice quality.
- Breathing sounds such as sneezing, wheezing or clicking.
6. Change in weight or general body condition.
- Loss of weight as determined by a scale or by handling.
- Prominent breast bone due to loss of muscle tissue
- Serious Condition !
7. Enlargement or swelling on the body.
8. Injury or bleeding. Birds do not have a large blood supply
and can quickly lose a critical amount of blood.
9. Vomiting or excessive regurgitation.
10. Discharge from mouth, nostrils, or eyes.
In general, given the proper environment and nutrition,
birds are very hardy pets. With the same attention as any member
of your family, a pet bird will be your faithful companion for