Why Are Birds So Wasteful With Their Food?

I watched in amazement as Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, picked through his food bowl, tossing to the ground everything that wasn’t that exact piece of food he was after.  Because of it’s design, Linus’s is the only cage that I keep the grate in.  That means that all of that food he was flinging was falling to the cage bottom, and out of his reach.  What was he thinking?  Certainly he knows from experience that he would be hungry for these pieces of food later in the day.  Still he continues to casually toss aside that which he doesn’t want right now.

Food flinging and wastefulness has long been a source of frustration for parrot owners, and if it makes you feel any better, wild birds are slobs too.  Why would any creature who spends so many hours of it’s day foraging for food be so careless as to squander a resource that is so hard to come by?  Because nature intended it that way.

In the wild, a bird plays a huge roll in ecology of the area it lives in.  Birds will often fly for miles to a particular food source. Once there, it will sit in the limbs of a tree, and do its thing: eat some, drop some, flings some unwanted seeds and pits, drop some pieces with seeds in it, eat some more…until it is full.

Waiting eagerly down below, is a hungry ground animal.  He’s no dummy.  He knows that not only will the birds do all the work in collecting the food, but they have awful table manners. He snaps up the dropped pieces and goes on his way.  After he has digested his food, he takes a potty break, and distributes the seeds he has eaten to another part of the forest.  Months later, a plant has begun to grow that will one day be a tree.

So the nest time your parrot sends his food flying across the room, don’t get mad.  He believes he is feeding the hungry and planting new trees.   Okay, so that’s not entirely true, but in his world, neatness doesn’t count, and nature uses that to its advantage.

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

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