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Unraveling the Mystery of What to Feed Birds

Feeding your pet can sometimes seem overwhelming. And even though your bird might be able to say "Polly wants a cracker," an all-cracker diet may not be the best thing for our feathered friends. So what do birds eat? How can you ensure that you're feeding your pet a nutritious diet?

In this day in age, it's all about variety. Bird feed is no different. Go to any pet store and you'll see a vast array of commercially made pellets and seeds available, many of which your vet or local aviary will recommend. However, you can also supplement a bird's diet with fresh foods, too.

Just don't start feeding your pet whatever you happen to have in the house -- birds are delicate creatures. Research the foods that birds can and can't eat and consult your exotic animals veterinarian or an aviary employee so you don’t accidentally harm your little feathered friend.

Raw vs. Cooked Food

Many experts recommend feeding your bird raw items rather than cooked food, as cooking will often remove the food of vital nutrients.

But if you do decide to serve your bird cooked food, avoid using non-stick pans, as they contain a substance that’s toxic for birds. Instead, use pans made of stainless steel. Some excellent foods to cook:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Sprouts
  • Legumes (e.g., beans, lentils, peas)

Raw vegetables and fruits, meanwhile, are an excellent source of nutrients. However, they should be introduced slowly; this allows your bird to adjust to the change in diet. A sudden change can lead to an anorexic bird, and no one wants that. Of course, you should still let the bird have access to its regular food, and fresh, clean water should always be made available.

For vegetables, try to stick to feeding your bird the dark yellow and leafy green kind (just no avocados, which are poisonous to birds!), such as:

  • Parsley
  • Sugar snaps
  • Snow peas
  • Squash
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cucumber

Its hard to match the sweetness and nutritious qualities of fruits, but they should only be a small portion of the diet (and the pits of the fruit, which can be toxic to birds, should be removed prior to feeding). Some favorites among birds include:

  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Apple (remove seeds)

When you first try to introduce fresh food, though, you might find yourself with a fussy bird on your hands -- regardless of whether it is a fruit or vegetable. Don’t despair. Remain patient and keep on trying. Eat the food yourself in front of your bird (hey, if it works with kids, why not with birds?).

Eventually the bird will realize this food must be good and take the food right from your fingers. After all, no one likes to miss out on some tasty grub.


Image: Falk Lademann / via Flickr

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