Should We Share Table Food With Our Birds?

Hyacinth macaw

Q: Is it okay to feed my new blue and gold macaw the same foods as I eat at dinner?
– Devin B., Bethesda, MD

A: Yes. And no. Most of the foods we eat are good for parrots: fruits, vegetables, pastas, grains, fish and small amounts of  lean cooked meats. The term table food generally is used in reference to our preparation of these foods, at which time they begin to get unhealthy.We add salt, sugar, butter, sour cream, and dressings to make the foods more palatable and enjoyable for us. These additions are not good for birds for all the same reasons they are not good for us.

We have about 10.000 taste buds in our mouths – a bird has less than 100. My discovery over the years is that a bird will eat squash that has not been doctored up to make it taste better, so why add anything?  It just raises calories that a caged bird will have trouble expending. The best food for a parrot is in its most natural form.

When you are cooking for yourself, simply separate your bird’s portion from your own before you add those things which are unhealthy for a bird.



Be aware that you can develop bad eating habits in your bird very easily. Even with their scant 100 taste buds, a bird is able to detect and differentiate flavors and will know if something he has grown to like is missing. This may cause him to turn away from the more healthy version of the same food. This is why it might be best that he never learns how good maple syrup is on the whole wheat waffle he now enjoys without it.

Start your bird off right by introducing him to a diet that is healthy and free from human culinary taste preferences.

Check out our third cookbook in our 3-cookbook set Sharing the Table With Your Bird for fun meals you can make and share safely with your feathered friends.

 

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

71 comments

Patty

@ Lynn, I am late in responding to this, but you raised such good questions! First, here is a link to a post that speaks in part about foods that are “questionable”. In other words, those that are not unsafe, but have properties to them that have cause some birds minor problems. This is an opinion based post, citing my experience with my own flock and that of friends.: http://www.birdtricks.com/blog/unsafe-foods-for-parrots/. The best way to avoid problems with certain foods like garlic, a wonderfully healthy food which can be unhealthy if served too frequently, is to use moderation and be observant of your bird’s reaction to it. The very best parrot diet is very varied. Doing this sees that all the nutritional bases are covered and it forces moderation in certain foods. It also makes the general diet more interesting and appealing to your bird. If you are having good luck with your bird’s current diet, and he is healthy, stick to it. Other birds, with different needs and preferences, may eat differently.

Patty
jennifer andrews

when i come down to breakfast the minute Sky my Amazon Blue sees me put the kettle on thats it squawks till he gets his toast and i dare not eat anything in front of him he just brings the house down till i give him some !!!!

jennifer andrews
Lynn

I am so confused. Every time I read these comments I see people giving their birds things that I have been told not to feed mine and on the other hand I feed my bird things that people here say should not be fed to them.. I have an African Grey, Martha, which I purchased here in Nigeria where they come from and have raised her since nine months and she is now almost 5..We love her dearly and have always tried to feed healthy foods that she might eat in the wild since that is where she came from. She was raised on peanuts which is what they give them before you buy them, she has never had any problem with them at all to date, also she eats fresh tomatoes everyday and the same applies. She absoutely loves garlic, but when I seen someone on here say that it was not good for her I stopped giving it to her.. She has a large variety of foods, including mango, bananna, potatoes(raw), celery leaves, cucumber, okra, green beans, and fresh peas. She loves fresh lime, and orange, (not too often) because of the acid, pineapple, guava, corn-boiled and roasted. She is crazy for cashews (fresh-unsalted) which grow here and most other nuts. She doesn’t seem to like seeds much unless they in a plant or something. I had my husband buy her the local millet seed with some other little seeds in it as well and she will only eat a few and toss the rest in her cup on the ground, but the seeds tossed grew up into plants; in the rich African soil; and she loves the millet that has grown on the plants. Until recently I did not feed her any milk products at all but since Chet mentioned that a little once in awhile wouldn’t hurt them I have now started giving her a little cheese on occasion and the odd touch of icecream both which she loves. Peanutbutter is another story, if she hears me opening the jar she is there like a dirty shirt and will pester me till I give her some.. but that not too often. As far as the other folks that said they have the world’s most spoiled bird int he world, NO that would be mine, she is like a dog and follows us everywhere, in and out of the house.. she is never caged except at night. In fact she is sitting with me; on my lap right now and if I don’t pay attention to her while I am typing she will pinch me,, little bugger. I forgot to mention that she also has a steady diet of electrical cords etc. another computer mouse bit the dirt last night.. she has this obsession with chewing anything that has a cord attached to it. Oh Boy!!! I am in trouble with my husband again:::::: BUT WE LOVE HER… ANYWAY!!!

Lynn
Mike-MTech

My 2yr old Too just loves Mac and cheese! He eats almost everything we eat just blander. Don’t expect to get it back once he gets it. Give him something he don’t like and you better duck because he will throw it at you! lol

Mike-MTech
Dianna

There is a yellow necked amazon at our local pet store that a woman brought in approximately 4-5 yrs ago. His name is Norman and he’s 25 yrs old. She raised him from a baby and for some unknown reason he attacked, and she ended up with 18 stitches in her face, so she gave him to the pet store and he’s been caged since. Does anyone know of a bird sanctuary that knows what to do in a situation like this. It seems a cruelty for Norman to spend the rest of his life caged when he had freedom for 20 plus yrs. He is definitely a woman’s bird. I live in Washington, so if you know of anyone please contact me at wolfsrule57@yahoo.com Thanks.

Dianna
Sandy Brooks

Nothing with garlic &/or onions, which are toxic to birds. If I plan to share something with my birds, I prepare it without seasoning, take out the bird’s portion, then season my food.

Sandy Brooks
natasha smith

Thank you so much for verifying that I am not crazy for sharing meals with Laroo my conure. My grandchildren say their “Tutu” is wierd, because she eats with her bird!’ Natasha Smith

natasha smith
Karen Joss

My Gallah had never expressed any particular interest in people food until she spied me eating General Tsao chicken. She made a beeline from her playstand to my plate and took it over. This little bird was dragging pieces of spicy chicken out of the bowl and getting very bossy if I tried to stop her. She also loved the wild and brown rice I had with it

Karen Joss
Joseph Lopez

I have a rescued- wild caught yellow nape amazon. He came with the name ‘Tequila’. He did not not like women, blond hair, gloves, any type of brushes and brooms, mops sticks etce.With tid bits he has learned to Step up, and have meals with us but only in his cage. He will not accept anything outside of his cage. He loves most fruits, pizza crust and sticks, pasta first w/o sauce, w/sauce after. He peels his grapes. frozen or not. He enjoys eating together with us.Never chocolate anything caffeinated, ice cream, avocadoes, hot peppers or spic(y)es. He has learned to associate the noises from the stove, microwave, toaster and refrigerator with ’COOKING FOOD and his squaks of Maww. Paww. and JOSIPHER. Josipher or joseph is my name according to him.He now plays tug -o-war with my wife and daughter but only from inside his cage. But sorting the clean laundry is his chore and he has to be caged to keep him from attacking the women.Tequila is 24 years old apparently never had much positive training before. He has been with for over three yrs now and is a full member of the family. joel

Joseph Lopez
darlenehowarth@aol.com

our blue and gold macaw. was given table scrap before we got her and now when i start to cooking or go near the stove, all she does is SCREAM! any advice.. i give her scrap just to get her to stop screaming… she is making me a rec when she starts in..and is up setting the whole house hold… do you have any advice? i have to do something as well as for her STOP CHEWING ON ALL MY WOOD WORK . and anther ? is it normal for her not to know how to fly. i do know the owners before me when she was little she flew in a tree and i guess she was knock out of the tree… PLEASE HELP we live in vermont and i am thinking about getting ride of her… but not with out trying more.

darlenehowarth@aol.com
mks281

I’ve got several cockatiels (just love them!) that I either found (my first one) or took in (the other 3) “we” are the proud new “parents” of two babies who are developing very quickly! I house them in two connected ferret cages giving them lots and lots of room and several levels. I’m still learning about the birds…they will not eat vegetables or fruit just the seed mix (I usually buy the more expensive brands available at PetSmart). Do you cook the pasta? Any recommendations on getting these birds to eat something other than seed?

mks281
Donelda Snyder

My Goffin’s Cockatto, Desi, is an extremely fussy eater. He will eat his pellets and seeds, almonds, soda crackers, and sometimes a slice of banana. After that, he behaves like we are trying to poison him. I have tried him on all kinds of fruit, veggies, and grains. Sigh. At least he keeps life simple that way.

Donelda Snyder
Robin

Good point, and not only chocolate and avocado, but according to our avian vet, also uncooked tomatoes, celery (evidently the “strings” in the celery can cause impacted crops or clog up the intestinal tract, requiring surgery or causing death…). raw onions and garlic, cherry pits (which have a small amount of cyanide in them!) and raw peanuts (aspergillosis hazard). Our little pals especially love raisin and spice oatmeal for breakfast, pizza crusts, and to grab a “chunk” of the boiled ground chicken we add to our dog’s dinner, as well as their own “tacos” – a piece of toasted taco shell with a sprinkling of shredded cheese, a small bite of the chicken and a piece of lettuce on top! Their favorite “guilty pleasure” – a tiny taste of whipped cream on a piece of apple or grape.

Robin
Linda bowen

My rainbow lorri also loves pizza, but one night I gave him garlic bread crust and he fell over and could not walk , in fact he fell over and could not get up. It was really scary to see an animal that you love on deaths door. Thankfully he recovered. I’m a lot more careful now. But he sees me coming with the morning cappacino and likes to lick the chocolate dust off the lid.

Linda bowen
Cherrie

I too have made the mistake of allowing my bird to have potato chips and his favorite thing to drink is root beer. He even will ask for it by name. I only allow it occassionally as I drink it only occassionally. I am of the mind that if it is not a regular diet it’s not going to do a whole lot of damage and it can actually be a treat, just like for humans. Balance is the name of the game!

Cherrie
david woolcombe

dear chet /dave i would like to ask you a question about my (male 14 yr old african grey called chester he is not aggresive but i cant form a relationship with him we have hade him for 3 years now ho takes food from me and copys any thing i teach him ie words/songs ect he is entirley different with my wife she has him on her sholder and he goies soppy for her he was ill treated by his former owner when he nipped his little girl is it because im a male and can he be trained to be mates with me (he just stears at me )he wont eat his food until i have eaten mine can you help thank you mr david uk

david woolcombe
kathleen from nyc, ny

I have a male yellow nape. His name is POPEYE. we feed him his parrot mix, papaya, and sunflower seeds, and slivered almonds as a treat. He also enjoys vegetables, anything that he can hold in his claw and eat.

kathleen from nyc, ny
Bill Wiseman

I wish I had read more posting about parrots; I must have missed this one about something very important. On the first birthday our Grey was able to say “Gracce is one year old”, two days later she died of lead poisoning from a table near her play pen. I know it is a sad note about good food blog but maybe it may save another. Our Cleo, a young Grey, eats reasonable table food, minimal salt minimal sugar.

Bill Wiseman
Joanne

Well my Mr.Rocky .. a Mullacan won’t eat anything once he smells the barbeque on.. he waits very patiently for his little piece of well done steak, chicken, fish, or shrimp.. there is no way to convience him that a piece of sweet potatoe, carrot, green beans etc is better for him.. so well .. ah ha.. he wins.. and of course if a french fry is in his eye shot.. ah ha.. that too.. We love him so much .. although he was abused by previous owner and has some very bad temper fits.. he has been in our lives for 9 yrs now.. and getting better as time goes.. and well he is who he is.. We now live in sunny Antigua.. in the Leeward islands and his outdoor showers are great fun no more cold weather for him .. or us… but there is no Avian Vets here.. sure wish one would move here.. or maybe graduate from our Vet University and stay..

Joanne
Shirley woods

Well for nine years I have been feeding my patagonian conure from the table, plus his mix of food from omars. His favorite is sphagetti and green salad mostly lettuce. he loves it can eat a lot if I don’t stop him. He has a good appetite, he loves alittle fruit, string beans, corn, lima beans, green peas, lettuce, carrots any way whole, diced, shredded or cooked, he loves chicken with no seasoning, he does not like fish I guess that’s because Ireally don’t care that much for it either. When we sit down to eat especially dinner ( my husband gets so upset) ChooChoo has a water cup too, and when he finish eating he will on his own grab the cup and try and drink his water. he is the apple of my eye and maybe that’s why my husband say he’s too spoiled. maybe that’s why he tells my husband to be quiet. I love both of them.

Shirley woods
Nicole Link

Ive only ever fed my Eccy fruit and veg with raw nuts as treats. Never pellets or seed (ok except sunflower seeds for training purposes) and never table ‘scraps’, he eats a varied diet (all sorts of stuff I wouldnt eat!) and is perfectly happy and healthy. Although my husband believes he is possibly the most spoiled and expensive pet in the world lol

Nicole Link
Bird Man's wife

Our Amazon stole a piece of Bacon off my husband’s plate on morning, as we were distracted by a phone call. By the time we noticed, she had already eaten most of it. Ever since then she trieed to get his bacon, when it is served. Needless to day… bacon is a no, no for her. One of our Congo, African Greys adores grapes. If given the chance that is all he would eat. So we have to hide the grapes from him. OH, and also note… please do not give your birds coffee. It has the same effect on a bird as alcohol has on us.

Bird Man's wife
Gloria Buck

My African Grey is such a food snob. When I feed her she walks over to the bowl and then turns her head sideways to look in the bowl and if it is not what she wants she will walk away and just look at me like, is that it? She loves scramble eggs for breakfast and I take her to the restaurant across the street and they know what she likes so they bring her a plate too! We sit outside.

Gloria Buck
Thea

My African Grey gets excited, dances, flaps his wings whenever he THINKS we are about to eat something…if we even open the cupboard door, pantry door, refrigerator….he is sooo funny….he LOVES peanut butter so we give him a tiny bit but not before he does a trick…he has to work for it!

Thea
Thea

My African Grey gets excited, dances, flaps his wings whenever he THINKS we are about to eat something…if we even open the cupboard door, pantry door, refrigerator….he is sooo funny….he LOVES peanut butter so we give him a tiny bit but not before he does a trick…he has to work for it!

Thea

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