Water Bowls vs Water Bottles

I came home from work the other day to find the most vile looking slop in the water bowl of Linus, my umbrella cockatoo.  As I investigated the bowl’s contents, I found several water logged pellets, bits of broccoli, toy parts and slivers of wood. I gave him some clean water immediately, and he drank several big gulps right away.

This is one thing I have never been able to understand about Linus and so many other parrots I have known. Why would a parrot fowl his only water source? Without being able to delve into their eccentric minds, this question will go unanswered. We can speculate that the food was placed in the water for softening. This is often referred to as Parrot Soup and it creates a bacteria-filled sludge in the bowl that makes the water completely undrinkable. The toys and wood pieces may have been added into the recipe on a whim.

My birds will periodically bath in their water dishes, leaving a powdery film floating on the outside of the water. Libby, my quaker, confounds me by pooping in her water dish no matter where I place it in the cage. One would think that with no toys or perches placed above or near her water bowl (which is on the bottom of her cage) that it would be in a poop-free zone. Over the years, I have come to learn that there is truly no such place.

It is a concern to me when I am away for the day that my birds may be going for periods of time without water because they choose to be impractical with what has been provided. Fortunately, aside from Libby’s special abilities, this is not an everyday occurrence.

A solution to this problem is the water bottle, which prevents any dunking, diving, or defecating into the water supply. The bird has to lick the nozzle attached to the bottle, which displaces a ball at the tip allowing water to flow out. The bottle is attached outside the bars of the cage using clasps that are provided. Of the more affordable styles I have seen, the one pictured below is the superior design. Notice that the bottle itself, most of the nozzle, and the parts attaching the nozzle to the bottle are all behind a metal plate and safely out of reach.

There are two concerns with the use of the water bottle. First, it is difficult to keep clean, especially inside the nozzle, where bacteria can develop and be dispersed as the bird drinks. It is imperative that you meticulously clean every part of the bottle and nozzle and replace the old water with new every day– the water doesn’t stay fresh simply because it remains inside the bottle.

The second concern is in the durability of the nozzle. Some larger birds will be able to crush the end of the nozzle in some brands. If you suspect your bird is capable or inclined to do that, check out this brand with a stainless steel valve.

If your are thinking about converting to a water bottle, know that you must teach your bird how to use it first and be certain that it is, in fact, being used before you leave them alone without a water bowl in the cage.

My preference is the old fashioned water dish. I am just certain to change the water often and hope that my Parrot Soup chefs at home keep their culinary experiments to a minimum.

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

1 comment

Jose Medina

I am going to try the water bottle that you recommend. I h a African Grey that will put everything he can in his water bowls. I also have a q about water for parrots. Is water from the faucet safe? I am tired of reading bottled water versus faucet water. I asked on a forum which is safer. I got bottled water is safer faucet water unsafe, another forum faucet water is safe don’t trust bottled water. If anyone can help I greatly appreciate it thank you

Jose Medina

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