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.