People who work with lorikeets tend to regularly complain about their bird’s poo. It’s a runny, sticky, noxious substance, that I half-jokingly argue has the corrosive power to melt concrete. If that’s not bad enough – lorikeets happily shoot it on a 45-degree angle. None of this business of a nice clean drop straight through a grille at the base of a cage! Lorikeets are happiest if they can “paint” nearby walls.
That’s an important characteristic that people need to understand when working with lorikeets because it is a characteristic that bird food manufacturers often exploit.
I receive a lot of messages for help with ‘aggressive’ lorikeets and before I even think about training techniques, the first question I always ask is what are you feeding it?
A common answer is some sort of seed, a pellet (even a special lorikeet pellet) or some sort of dry lorikeet mix. I’ll ask if they’ve tried a wet lorikeet mix, fruit or vegetables? Then I often get told about the mess their bird has made when they have tried that in the past. Many people have tried to convince me that they have found a amazing diet “especially for lorikeets” that is dry and designed to eliminate the dreaded poo problem. Well, that’s exactly what the bird food companies wanted them to think.
When it comes to lorikeets, an owner needs to think about what motivates a bird food company to market such a diet as a “solution”? I’m pretty sure it isn’t because they think that constipation is a healthier alternative to normal digestive function. If you find yourself needing to change how a bird’s digestive system works in order to live with that bird – then perhaps you chose the wrong species of bird as a pet?
That sounds like common sense but I can’t emphasize enough, just how well some of these products are marketed. Birds will survive on these diets without any obvious signs of ill effect and so owners swear that they’re fine. I know from working with my 60-year-old galah, that early dietary issues may not show up until the end of a bird’s lifespan. I have yet to see a 20-year-old study on any of these ‘poo solution’ diets. Until I do, I won’t be convinced that changing the way a bird’s digestive system works is a good idea.
Lorikeets naturally eat a lot of fruit; their natural diet has a lot of water in it. If given a dry mix or a pellet, they’ll drink more to compensate and you’ll either have a constipated bird, or one who poos a lot of clear liquid. It just isn’t healthy.
My guys eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. They get fresh foliage and native flowers very regularly and a wet mix daily. I mix up the wet mix with pureed fruit. The lazy person in me has discovered that organic pureed baby food comes in friendly little ready-to-go jars, so I usually mix those in. A word of warning on some wet-mixes though – many are high in sugars and don’t have enough vitamins in them. Brands vary in different countries, so check with your avian vet to see what diet they’d recommend. Here in Australia, the avian vets that I know tend to mainly recommend two brands, Passwells and Wombaroo.
Personally, I don’t entirely dismiss the dry lorikeet pellets that are available. Some of those pellets make excellent training treats for lorikeets. In small quantities, along with a decent diet – they can be very useful. They just shouldn’t be used to alter a bird’s digestive pattern.
So please don’t just assume a bird food company’s marketing has your bird’s best interest at heart. Instead, please check and see what your avian vet recommends. Getting the diet right is definitely an important start for any training that you want to do. A bird needs to be healthy and on a good diet if training is going to be effective. From experience – lorikeets are a lot friendlier when they’re not constipated!
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.