Malnutrition in Parrots and What to Do About it

Photo by Dave Location: Loveland, Colorado Pictured eating corn and brown rice: Camelot macaws "Comet" & "Tusa"

Every once in a while a parrot related article will catch my eye and a recent on on malnutrition in parrots caught it this week. So I wanted to talk about the signs and symptoms of malnutrition, and what to do about it.

First, what IS malnutrition?


Photo by Dave Location: Loveland, CO Eating corn on the cob: Blue throated macaw "Jinx"

Signs and symptoms that tell you your parrot is malnourished:

  1. Poor looking feathers/plumage either dull, lacking color,  or even discolored
  2. Brittle primary and tail feathers (easily bent or broken)
  3. Overgrown toe nails and beak as well as flaky-ness on the beak
  4. Excessive health issues
  5. Cracks/flakes on the beak or feet
  6. Sneezing followed by clear discharge from the nostrils, or dry crust
  7. Swelling above/on/around the eyes
  8. Underweight/overweight parrot
  9. Stool is primarily wet/urine, or is dark black to bright green and very soft
  10. Continually sick from one infection to the next
  11. Feather picking/plucking along with moodiness, irritability, etc.
What you can do:
  • Change the diet of your parrot to an organic pellet such as Organic Life Enhancing Pellets for Parrots. Most organic pellets are not sold in pet stores so look online for them instead, FYF is automatically delivered every month so you don't have to even think about it and it comes with a birdie bread recipe that you make with the pellets so your bird will like them from its old diet.
  • Use fatty foods like seeds and nuts strictly for treats and training sessions and not as part of your bird's daily diet.
  • Include raw fresh fruits and veggies into your bird's daily diet and feed the best food first when your bird is the most hungry so he's more likely to consume it. (Don't give up!)
  • Look into helpful things like an outdoor aviary for Vitamin D and sunlight (great for plumage and behavior) as well as red palm oil from Harrison's Bird Foods as a helpful supplement if needed.
  • More bathing can help plumage look nice and colorful.
As long as you can spot the signs and point them out to your avian vet, your vet can tell you what other dietary changes or environmental changes to make for your bird that's more species specific rather than general. If your bird needs seeds or nuts in its daily diet (ie: hyacinth macaws need macadamia nuts daily) try to use them specifically rather than just tossing them in with your bird's food. Use them when your bird comes out willingly from its cage, or goes back inside his cage without a fight, or reacts well around a stranger, anything that's small and simple, or even cue a trick or word to say and reward that. It's better for the bird to earn those treats then always have them just included, plus it makes you more likely to train (cough... mental stimulation...)
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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