Bird diets Confusion - Seeds, Pellets, Organic

It can be confusing walking down the bird aisle in the pet store. This article eliminates some of the confusion in bird diets.


It can be very confusing when you go to a pet store

and try to pick out the best diet for your pet bird.  A bird’s metabolism is faster than most animals so a well-balanced diet is important for your pet. Without a proper diet, health problems are more likely to occur.

There are some basic guidelines in feeding your pet bird that you need to follow when feeding.  The food dish should never be empty.  This goes back to the idea that a bird’s metabolism is very high. They will eat continuously throughout the day and fill their crop, which will sustain them overnight. They have excellent eyesight but very few taste buds.  Texture and color are very important in diets. 

You may notice that the diets tend to be very colorful.  Birds that are going through a molting phase, where they are shedding some of their old feathers, need more food.  This is because molting requires a lot of energy and thus they must eat more.  Birds, like most animals, should never be switched radically from one food to another.  Many will starve themselves before they will try something new.  If you do decide to switch the diet you should do it gradually, mixing some of the old food with the new food.

There are certain nutrients that are essential to a bird’s diet.  Carbohydrates help maintain the glucose level and thus give them the energy to maintain those metabolic reactions.  Proteins are essential for repairing body tissue, reproduction, and give resistance to infection.  A deficiency of proteins can result in poor feather quality.  Fats give them energy, but much like humans, too many fats can cause them to become overweight.  Birds require thirteen essential vitamins and you will notice that many diets are fortified with vitamins.  Water is very important. 

They can survive longer without food than they can water.  It is important to always have a fresh source of water.  It is always important to feed fresh food and water because it can become contaminated with droppings and cause an infection. There are two basic diets, those being seed diets and softbill diets.  Seed diets are more common because most common pet birds require seed diets.  For those that subside on seed diets, it is important to remember that a seed diet should only consist of seventy-five percent of the overall diet.  There are two basic categories of seed diets, those being oil seeds and cereal seeds. Birds that subside on oilseed diets tend to be your larger parrots. 

An oilseed diet is very high in fat and carbohydrates.  The sunflower seed falls into the oilseed category. The striped sunflower seed is most common, but white sunflower seeds tend to be more nutritious because they contain a higher level of protein.  You should never feed sunflower seeds that are for human consumption because many of these are salted and salt is not good them.  Safflower seeds are also in the oilseed category, they are smaller than sunflower seeds, are white in appearance, and are good for smaller parrots such as conures. 

Peanuts are a favorite treat and many owners use them during training.  The pine nut is also popular but it is not very common to find this nut in pet stores in America. It is important to limit the intake of oilseed diets because they contain high levels of fat and carbohydrates and can lead to obesity.  As with any diet, the food should always be fresh; an oil seeded diet can grow mold easily and mold can be very harmful and sometimes fatal.

Cereal seeds are the principal component in many diets for parakeets, budgies, finches, and cockatiels.  Cereal diets contain more carbohydrates than fats.  Canary seed is a cereal seed.  What is meant by canary seed is not the actual diet fed to canaries but a shiny seed that is sometimes known as the white seed.  Millet is a very popular form of cereal seed.  It can be recognized by a round shape.  It is sometimes sold as loose seeds or as a spray.  Many birds prefer to eat the millet spray because this is how they would find it in the wild.   It is important that millet never composes more than fifty percent of the bird’s diet.  Oats are also part of the cereal family, the oats are easy to digest and increase metabolism.

There are some other forms of diets that are popular in pet stores.  There is the pelleted diet, that can resemble pellets you might feed to your guinea pig or even colorful pellets that look like sugar cereal.  Pelleted diets have an advantage because in seed diets many birds will pick out the seeds they really like and not eat the entire diet.  Many pelleted diets are fortified with vitamins and they tend to like them a lot better.  An extruded diet is similar to a pellet diet in that it provides all the necessary nutrients, the only difference is texture, extruded diets tend to have a texture like crunchy food.

Birds can have an enormous benefit from having soaked seeds.  These are seeds that have been soaked in warm water for a day.  The soaking increases the nutritional value of the seeds.  This is important especially during molting.  Seed treats are also an excellent source of vitamins, but they should be used moderately because many contain added sugars. Softbill diets are not seeded diets, they are usually special mixtures that include ingredients such as honey and nectar.  The types of birds that feed on these diets are not common birds to have as pets, such as the toucan, the hummingbird, and the mynah bird. Birds should have fruit and vegetables in their diet.

All fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly clean.  Raw vegetables are often preferred overcooked vegetables. Any uneaten fruit should be removed from the cage within a few hours.  You should only feed fruits every other day.  It is very important to never feed avocado. It can be toxic to many birds. Peanut butter and cooked eggs are excellent sources of protein.  The egg should be hard-boiled then served mashed.  Like any food, any uneaten portion should be removed from the cage since eggs tend to spoil easily.  Cuttlebone is essential.  This helps keep the beak trimmed and will also supply the calcium.  This is especially important in females that exert a great deal of calcium in the eggshells they produce.

Grit is another important substance for birds.  Grit is important because they lack teeth, and food is ground up in the gizzard with the help of grit.  Caged birds must be supplied with packaged grit  Smaller birds should only receive small and fine grit. It is important to check with the place you purchased your bird as to what diet you should feed.  Some birds that come from a pet store are hand fed and eat a porridge-like diet and must be weaned on to a seed or pellet diet.  Always keep in mind that changing diets should always be a gradual process.   

Now that you are aware of some of the pet diets you will understand a little bit better the next time you walk down the bird aisle in the pet store.  It is important to remember that many pet store employees will be more than glad to help you decide on the best diet.