My severe macaw won’t touch fresh fruit. Can I give him dried fruit?
-Lonia G., Boston, MA
Dried fruits have a lot of advantages. It lasts a long time, it is an easy snack if you are traveling and because there are no bacteria harboring juices, it works great in foraging toys and stays fresh in the cage all day. There are, however, some things you should be aware of.
When fruits are dehydrated, the process shrinks them to a fraction of their original size. The concentration of sugar becomes very high and because they have less bulk and no water, more can be consumed leading to a very high sugar and calorie intake.
Dehydration will cause many of the fruit’s nutrients to be lost. Vitamin C, for example, deteriorates in heat and is all but lost in the drying process. Berries tend to lose a great deal of their nutrition. Dried fruits do, however, maintain their fiber and iron content and many of their antioxidants. In that regard, they are a healthy snack.
When you go to purchase dried fruits, be certain to buy only the products that state that sulfer dioxide is NOT used as a preservative. Sulfer dioxide is known to cause asthma-like symptoms in humans. Also avoid sweeteners. Often dried cranberries are sweetened because of their tartness. Be wary of packaging that target kids for that reason.
Most birds love dried fruits, and they are a perfectly safe and delicious snackwhen served in moderation. But they do not offer the same benefits as fresh fruits.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.