Why Flighted Birds Eat Healthier Than Clipped Birds

Photo by Dave
Location: Moab, UT
Flying: Congo African Grey “Cressi”

Our latest freeflight student is a 13 year old Moluccan Cockatoo named Pooh. He comes from California where he will only eat colored pellets and lots of fruit but refuses veggies.

I was disappointed in his diet but we had a ton of other things to work on so we didn’t make a big deal of it right off the bat in his training. I knew it would come at some point or another anyway, and if anything, come to work naturally making it a much easier transition for his human companion.

Just as I thought, far enough into the training, we took Pooh outside for some serious skill learning in outdoor flight training. We brought along our three macaws too, to teach Pooh a thing or two and add in some observational learning.

It worked like a charm and Pooh was flying longer than he had ever flown before. By the end of the day, both Pooh and his human were tired from all the excitement! The day before Pooh stayed in our dressing room while shows went on and every time we left the room he’d scream his head off. This day, however, after spending the entire morning flying, he didn’t make a single sound during the show. Dave and I were laughing inside because we knew how exhausted he must be from all that irregular exercise (add a little wind resistance to your flights and you’re working hard!).


As we said goodbye to Pooh and Kai, I told Kai when he got home to offer Pooh lots of veggies. “I know he has refused to eat them in the past, but with his body working as hard as it did and will be in the future through all your flight training… his body is going to CRAVE those healthy foods and nutrients so offer them and you will be blown away by what he eats!” I told Kai.

Two days later we spoke with Kai for our weekly consult and sure enough Pooh had devoured a whole thing of broccoli. Kai was shocked and I was more than happy! I told him what changes he could expect in Pooh’s attitude, energy level and body as he builds muscle, loses fat and continues to eat the good stuff.

Flight training can easily lead to a breakthrough for many birds in eating healthier. When you work out and take care of yourself, your body takes care of itself too by giving you the proper cravings for foods it needs to replenish itself so it can continue working hard and being healthy.

Photo by Dave
Location: Moab, UT
With me: Congo African Grey “Cressi”

So if your bird isn’t a healthy eater, try giving him more exercise and see what he starts eating that will surprise you!


  1. Feed the healthiest foods first when your bird is the hungriest.
  2. Stay organic as much as possible, even when it comes to the pellet you feed.
  3. Encourage mental and physical stimulation (trick training, puzzles, foraging toys and flight training)
  4. There’s more than one way to skin a cat; try serving the healthy stuff in a variety of ways from cooked to raw to shredded to baked into things and more.
  5. If you can, use your bird’s favorite food as treats. Our birds, believe it or not, respond better to blueberries as their reward than pine nuts!



It took me a while to figure out how to make them (conures) eat their fruits and veggies. When I cut the food into small pieces they wouldn’t eat them, but they loved to eat them when I started cutting food into ‘sticks’ which they can hold. I cut the larger blueberries, raspberries or grapes in half and they eat it all. The somewhat flat veggie sticks also function as ‘chew toys’ but most of it ends up in their mouths instead of the floor (they tried to eat the small stuff too but it was a nuisance for them and me, their cleaning lady). I am scared of letting our guys fly. Once when we sat in front of our house, both scared by a sudden movement and one of them took off. We were lucky to find her; several neighbors helped us locate her. She didn’t come back although her mate screamed (and we called her too), she was sitting on a tree a block away and was obviously scared. Since this experience, we keep the feathers clipped and stay inside. A screen door and our sunny CA climate can provide natural light for them. How can you make them flay safely with 100% return?


Like Betty Jean, I am apprehensive to let my birds free fly. How could one prevent a predator bird, eg eagle, magpies, blue jays, raven etc from chasing cockatiels in a free flight? How does one establish their territory in the air? Also in my neighbour hood people are feeding meat to kookaburras, magpies etc. This is a common practice in country towns.


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