My flock contains a few parrots that require a specialised diet, which makes mealtimes a little more challenging at my place. This is particularly true for my lorikeets.
Lorikeets and lories are known for their need for a specialised wet diet. In the wild they largely feed on pollen, nectar and wild fruits. Some species of lorikeet (such as the Rainbow Lorikeet) have a tongue that is adapted to enable them to more easily feed on this pollen and nectar diet. If these birds are fed a seed or pellet based diet, this brush like appendage can easily be damaged.
Lorikeets and lories require a lower protein diet than other parrots. These birds fulfil their protein needs by consuming pollen and insects. The type of protein that is found in pollen contains a higher amount of essential amino acids than the type of protein found in the fruit that humans commonly eat. In plain English, this means that captive birds are not going to do well on an all-fruit diet.
Lorikeets and lories require more carbohydrates than other parrot species. In the wild they usually get this from nectar or insect secretions. They do not do well if they consume refined sugars. Refined sugars tend to mess a bird’s gut flora. If nothing else, they promote bacteria growth. These birds need natural complex sugars, which are found in nectar or fruit, but as I said above they won’t do well on an all-fruit diet because such a diet won’t meet their protein and fibre needs.
It all sounds rather complicated, doesn’t it? In short it’s why owners of captive lorikeets and lories usually rely on a good quality commercial wet food mix as the main part of their bird’s diet.
There are two brands of wet food mix available in Australia that I use and recommend. That is Wombaroo and Passwell. I believe they’re available overseas as well. The reason that I recommend these two brands is because they have a balanced mix of vitamins, minerals and essential amino and fatty acids without containing too many useless fillers.
I mix these powdered formulas up with pureed fruit or vegetables, although you can just mix them with water.
There are three reasons why I used pureed fruit or vegetables instead of serving it dry or just with water. Firstly, their digestive system has adapted to a wet diet and I don’t believe in changing a bird’s digestive function just because we humans find their poo too messy. Secondly, the birds themselves seem to prefer it. (This wet mix is the staple part of their diet and therefore I want them to eat it first.) Finally I do this is because the wet mix alone is an inadequate diet. They still need real foods. What do I mean by real foods? Actual fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. Some vitamins are better presented in their natural form rather than in a supplement form. Adding those real foods in a pureed form to make them more appetising makes sense.
Taking Vitamin A as an example. It’s essential. They need it for everything from healthy feather production, for their eyes and for their skin and even for healthy reproductive function. However, if Vitamin A is given as a supplement it can be toxic if the bird has too much. Given in its natural form, the bird will only convert the amount of Vitamin A that it needs, from the carotenoids found in the food.
People often ask me what I feed my lorikeets because the BirdTricks.com feeding system is not meant for lorikeets? That’s true. The system is not meant for lories, lorikeets or Eclectus parrots (they have different needs again). The protein and carbohydrate content in the feeding system is not balanced to meet the needs of lorikeets and lories. However, I still use those recipes with my lorikeets.
My daily process with my lorikeets is to provide the wet mix as the staple major part of their diet. The wet mix is about 70% of what I feed them per day. I still feed the batch recipes/other recipes from the cookbooks but in lesser portions than I would feed to my other birds. I use those recipes to provide variety in how I present fresh fruit and vegetables. The recipes in the cookbooks aren’t seed based, many are soft and won’t damage the lorikeet tongue. These recipes make up 20% of what I feed in a day.
The observant ones amongst you will have worked out that only adds up to 90% of what I feed in a day. The remaining 10% is fresh foliage and native flowers. If for some reason I can’t get fresh foliage/native flowers, I’ll give them sprouts, a tray of wheat grass (they love nipping off wheat grass shoots), or something like milk thistle or dandelions.
No article on the lorikeet diet is complete without mentioning that the wet mixes can’t be left out all day. The good mixes don’t contain preservatives, so they need to be removed from your bird’s cage within 3 hours (maybe less in warmer climates). Any longer and you’re risking dangerous bacterial growth.
The other thing that I should mention is water. One water bowl is inadequate. If it’s liquid – they’ll try to swim in it. Lorikeets in particular have a knack for half drowning themselves, drowning their environment and leaving their water bowl empty or fouled very quickly. I’ve found that if I provide one really large bowl for swimming and one really small bowl for drinking, the smaller bowl tends to remain reasonably drinkable for the day.
If you ever get stuck on diet, my advice is always the same. Get the core diet right (which in the case of lorikeets and lories is a decent wet food) and then as long as you’re providing pretty of variety of good quality fresh foods and foliage in conjunction with that – you’re going to be doing ok.
As one final point, a lot of people ask about what treats are suitable to use when training lories and lorikeets? Click here to access another blogpost on that. If you’re having trouble with your training, I always suggest looking at the way these birds use light to communicate. Often we miss their signals and understanding those signals makes training a lot easier.