Psittacids diet and health

31 August 2020 – News

Psittacids, like humans, do not select food because it’s good for them but because they like it. Most owners know little about their nutritional requirements, which can cause serious health problems.

Previous studies have shown that many birds receive inadequate levels of vitamins A and D3 and calcium when fed with seeds or human food. An excessive fat content and lack of protein are also common issues.  It is important to address diet deficiencies to support the wellness and wellbeing of captive birds.

In this review article, the authors make recommendations to improve their diet and, in so doing, strengthen their bond with their owners.

A typical error is supplementing drinking water with vitamins and minerals as the intake of water varies by species and Vitamins C and A are light sensitive. Vitamin toxicosis have also been reported in some species of psittacids caused by supplementation. Birds offered seeds are also more prone to obesity and have a higher rate of reproductive difficulties because they can lack calcium, lysine, Vitamin A and E.

The formulation of species-specific seed mixtures is largely based beak size and on the apparent dietary preferences of the species, rather than their actual nutritional requirements. The authors recommend that either a grower-breeder diet should be offered or a maintenance diet.

Nutrition and behavior are linked and the difference between the behavior of captive and wild birds differs significantly. Captive birds can’t spend 90% of their active daytime foraging and preening as they do in the wild so owners must use food-based enrichment devices to increase similar-to-wild activities and avoid behavioral problems. Birds’ eating behaviour must also be regularly addressed as it can give us some important clues about their health and welfare status.

F. Péron and C. Grosset. The diet of adult psittacids: Veterinarian and ethological approaches. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, July 2013.