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.

72 comments

Linda Nachimson

My Cockatoo loves edamame. He also loves to eat corn on the cob, fava beans in it’s pod, whole wheat bread with cream cheese and pasta. He also eats chicken and I sometimes give him a chicken bone to chew up. He loves the marrow in it.

Linda Nachimson
Shama Chitnis

Our Kuku, african Gray loves our curries and vegetables with spices and wants it on his rice at dinner time. He never ate our food till last year when we came back after a month. we started giving him little curry on his rice, but then sometimes we feel he cant digest it. He was not well again last week so have stopped everything except plain rice. but he keeps asking for it when we eat and i really feel bad and dont know what to do. He was sick a few years ago and i am worried about him since then. we dont know if he was sick two weeks ago because of the cold or because of food he eats. we love him so much and dont know what to do.

Shama Chitnis
Janet Sherman

I had a parakeet that loved balsamic vinegar and came to the bowl every time I finished my salad (no oil). Wouldn’t eat the lettuce! Can’t get the birds I have now to eat anything but bird seed, they ignore everything else.

Janet Sherman
Gwen

My little cockatiel, loves to eat cooked jungle oats, I don’t add sugar or milk though, just water… not sure if it is healthy for her? Yes / No ??? Not a big veggie eater and fruit is a no no, not even apples.

Gwen
Judy Ventrella

My birds love soy beans they have to extract from the pods – edamame. My newest bird, a 15 yr old Goffins cockatoo, is having a hard time learning to eat healthy food. And learning that it is never going to be eaten from our dinner plates

Judy Ventrella
Aleta

The way I look at this Problem. Is it’s the human problem not your birds. You should think about it like this: If your bird lived in their natural environment would they have access to the junk food you eat? That’s a NO. so If there is no store in the wild. Just feed your bird what is natural, made from the earth. Nature. They will live longer, be healthy and happy. And they wouldn’t know the difference of what’s good for them or not unless the Human tries to make them human also. Happy Parroting. I have a Scarlet Macaw, and a padigonian Conure.

Aleta
tasha

my cockatiels, eat mostly anything i eat, although i wont let them have anything salty or sugary or just strait up fattening, I mostly only allow steamed veggies,pastas and eggs, wheat breads, and of course fruits, everyonce in a while i will let them have a bite or two from a potatoe chip, I will not allow them to go to town on it. but i see nothing wrong with the occasional bite as a treat.

tasha
Leisha

My African Grey Timneh, Choochie, LOVES popcorn. I try to give her the pieces with the least butter, and only once a week or so. She also loves meat and eggs (which just seems wrong!). The kids gave her a treat of cheese puffs over the holiday and they were a big hit as well, but she won’t get them again! They really can be junk food junkies!

Leisha
Nell Matthews

Sun conure, Cheddar, won’t eat berries – strawberry, blue berry, black berry, etc. Gives the same signal he gives for avocado – runs his tongue up and down, bobs his head, and refuses the food. I’m betting he can’t have fresh berries like he can’t have avocado. Jam is OK, just not fresh. When I am away, my son doesn’t share all the bad food (eg what I am eating) with Cheddar, and so he eats about 3x the amount of healthy food than when I am there. After my return this time, I vow to restrict Cheddar’s food to in the cage and only in response to good behavior. I always frowned on people who fed dogs at the table. I should heed my own prejudices.

Nell Matthews
Colleen

Lucy is always eating from my plate, but I do not season my own food. I can tell you, she loves ranch dressing… My grey loves Dorito’s, his first owner fed them to him and when he sees the bag he goes nuts.

Colleen
aliciary

mine love KFC but no skin hates popeyes my nanday loves dry pasta he will open a kitchen cabinet and rip open a box just to get it

aliciary
Sharyn Irwin

My Quaker will eat pretty much what I am having. He loves rice, mac & cheese, and spaghetti with no sauce. Also, toast (no butter), chicken, turkey, scrambled eggs, and just about any green veggie with no dressing or dip.

Sharyn Irwin
Rich W.

My Indian Ringneck LOVES Animal Crackers but she only gets one a day when we have some. She also loves hot air popped popcorn! We always share with her when we eat it (plain of course).

Rich W.
Tonia

I recently took in a 5 year old goffin cockatoo (Buttons) that has some bad eating habits. We already have a 1 year old Blue and Gold Macaw (Valentino) that follows your suggestion of natural pellets and fresh fruits and vegies but it has been difficult to get the goffin to eat the heathly things, any suggestions

Tonia
Lynpesen

My mom and I were eating chicken one day and I put a bone aside and my cockatiel `Piper’ walked over and started to eat the little left pieces. We were both surprised and my mother said `That’s your cousin you know’ . Piper loved chicken , pork, pretzels , frosted flakes and english muffins. Piper and my mother used to share breakfast together.

Lynpesen
Sally

Jeff, This is what’s wrong with soy: http://www.optimumchoices.com/Soy.htm

Sally
Joan

My blue and gold also loves plain pasta, and cooked corn on the cob, absent the buter of course.

Joan
maggie

my quaker loves hard cheese. he knows when i take it out of the fridge and wants it so bad!

maggie
Joey

Can birds have strawberries?

Joey
Polly Watkins

We have an adorable Quaker he loves everything we eat, rice, pasta, veggies, fruit, granola with milk, yogurt, chicken, right now we are giving him snow peas from the garden, if someone offers him something that is seasoned he does not tend to like it. The one bad vice he has is he does seem to like salty things if it is offerd and fresh strawberries with a little vanilla ice cream before bed. He is a flighted bird and is only in his cage if we have to be gone, WHEW thank goodness cause he eats and i think he could be a little chubby. We have a vet visit coming up, worried about the weight check!!

Polly Watkins
jodie

I have a jenday conuer, Skipper. GOT HIM AT 6 months and he is now a year and 3 months old. The cage top is always open, unless I am out of town. He climbs down a rope and follows me everywhere- to the shower(which he loves), and anywhere else he thinks that I am. I hear him sqawking and his little feet clicking on the floor. He screems when he hears my car pull in the drive. My husband calls it love. The cat, Beach, and he are friends that can’t live without yet tolerate eah other. So far the only fruit he will eat is tangerines and he will nibble on broccolli. He does eat pizza crust though! He gets really excited whe I shake the cereal box as well. I hope thahe will expand his flavors.

jodie
jeff

i got an African grey and the owner was given it chicken and chip and i don’t know will i give it to her or what

jeff

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