Diet is the most common problem that I encounter with my avian patients. Most people believe that the staple food for all birds should be seeds. This is not true. Seeds are relatively high in fat and low in protein, vitamins, and minerals. As a rule, the larger the psitticine bird, the fewer seeds the bird should eat. Parakeets, being one of the smaller psitticine birds, can eat up to 50% seeds. Cockateil can eat upto 35% seeds and the larger parrots such as African Greys and McCaws should get no more then 20% seeds. Fixing your pet birds diet can have a profound effect on its life span. Parakeets are a good example. Their average life span on seed diets is 6-7 years. Switching that same parakeet to a good diet early in it life, increases its average life span to approximately 15 years.
The best single food source for most birds are pelleted foods. These foods are similar to dry dog food in that everything the bird needs nutritionally, is contained in each pellet. There are many varieties of pellet foods. I my experience, most birds do best with pellets that have different shapes and colors. These foods usually have a fruity smell and are very attractive to the birds. If you have a bird that has been eating nothing except seeds, you might have better luck with small brown pellets.
Another alternative is to feed the bird a large variety of people food. Vegetables, fruits, meats, and cereals are all necessary parts of a bird’s diet. I usually recommend that while you are making yourself a meal, you set a little of each item aside for your pet. It is very important to supplement these foods with a good vitamin and mineral supplement.
It can be very difficult to get a bird that has been eating mostly seeds, to eat pelleted foods or people food. The best food choice in this situation is Nutriberries. These are balls that look like seeds, so that they are attractive to birds, and contain vitamin, mineral, and protein supplement seeds. Unlike most supplemented seed diets, the supplement is rolled into the balls along with the seeds, peanut hearts, whole egg, etc. Thus, you can be sure that if the bird eats these Nutriberries, the bird is getting the necessary supplements. The main reason I like Nutriberries, is that most birds will eat them both readily and willingly. I always inform my clients that Nutriberries should be used as an intermediate food. Your goal is to get the bird to eat pellets but this can take months.
Most birds on seed diets are very thin. Feel for your pet birds keel bone down the middle of the chest. In an ideal weight bird, you should feel muscle even with the top of that bone. If your bird is under weight, the bone will feel like a butter knife jutting up under the skin. Switching your bird to a better diet can be very rewarding. Make a point of weighing you pet bird now and again in 2 months. Most bird put on 5-20% of their body weight in muscle in the first 2 months.