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My Bird Loves French Fries, What should I Do?

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

I received a question from one of our awesome customers the other day asking if French Fries were okay to give to her pet African Grey. While one French fry will not immediately harm the bird, there are much better choices of treats to give to a bird that would be enjoyed without compromising the birds health in any way. In this article, I will discuss bird nutrition, give a few recommendations, choices of bird foods, treats and healthy munchies that your bird will enjoy.

Why is Bird Nutrition Important?

Parrots live a VERY long life. Some parrots live upward of the one-hundred-years and to support such a long lifespan, it is imperative that we provide the very best nutrition possible to ensure a healthy long life for the bird. In fact, it is our absolute responsibility to give the bird the nutrition they need if we are to maintain the bird in captivity and our care. It is the very least we can do for the bird since we are enjoying its presence in our home. Normally, birds would go in the wild and have a variety of native plants, fruits, veggies and grains to choose from. They also find nuts, bugs, insects, bark, plant nectar, tree sap, mineral soil, and other variety of foods to maintain their health and well being. All of this being said, we must do everything in our power to mimic this in captivity with nutrient rich variety of foods offered to our pet birds.

If you look at the nutritional chart for humans, we see Starches, Fruits and Vegies, Proteins and Oils/Fats. We can guide ourselves with that for our pet birds but we must keep in mind that birds are not humans and have different dietary needs. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  1. What type of bird is it? The type of bird, where it comes from and what they eat in the wild is extremely important to keep in mind when choosing a bird diet for pet birds that we keep in captivity. In fact, this is probably the best guide to follow. A parrot from central America will most likely not be eating strawberries and apples in the wild. Although it may not harm them to eat it in captivity, we should try to emulate what these birds are accustomed to eating in their native place.

  2. One food source is not a good idea. I have seen many people feed seed and only seed to a Quaker parrot for its entire life. Although a good quality cockatiel seed mix may be nourishing, birds should eat a variety of foods which should include different types of seeds, pellets, treats, some fruits and veggies and other supplemental foods. Even the best premium and balanced cockatiel seed mix will be deficient on calcium, amino acids and certain vitamins like vitamin A. On the contrary to that, a pellet only diet is not recommended for several reasons. First, it is psychologically unhealthy for the bird to be fed the same brown pellets every single day, year after year. Birds love foraging and doing this would tremendously alter the birds natural behavior which can lead to other issues. Also, there are oils that may not be found in the pellet diet that can be found on seeds. Lastly, not all pellets are created equal. Choose pellets that are high quality ingredients, consistent and easy to find everywhere you go. The last thing you need is to run out of the pellet food and not be able to quickly find your birds food. I recommend a 70% pelleted diet such as Kaytee or Zupreem, 20% of a good quality fresh seeds such as Independent's Choice Feed, and 10% of Fruits and Veggies.

  3. Table foods are okay, but.... be extremely careful on what you feed your birds. Birds digestive track is extremely sensitive and things like lactose can be detrimental for a birds health. A lot of our people foods are made with several ingredients that may be harmful to birds that we may not think of. Let's take for example, a drink such as coffee, soda or even a fruit juice. Caffeine and sugar are two ingredients that can harm a birds health. While it may not be noticeable at the moment of ingestion, it may be the cause of heart failure in the future. Parrots have a heart rate over 250 beats per minute and giving caffeine to a bird will elevate their heart rate to dangerous levels causing harm to the birds delicate heart and eventually being the cause of heart disease. These are things we do not see immediately but unknowingly can cause problems in the future. If you must give a bird people foods, choose foods that are low in sugar, fats and sodium. Ensure that the foods you are giving contain no artificial ingredients and offer only in very small amounts.

In my own breeding program and aviary, I feed 70% Zupreem Fruitblend Diet, 20% High Quality of seeds such as Independent's Choice Feed, 7% fresh veggies and fruits and 3% treats such as monkey chow and some nuts such as palm nuts.

In conclusion, nutrition is a must for a birds health. Special attention must be given to ensure the bird lives a long and healthiest possible life. It is our responsibility to ensure we know the types of foods that the birds would eat in their natural habitat and match those dietary needs to the best of our abilities. It is our duty to treat our birds in the most humane possible way in providing a variety of foods and to protect our birds from having secondary effects by being careful on the foods we provide. Remember, these birds did not ask to be in our homes. We brought them to enrich our lives. We have a responsibility to care for them to the fullest extent possible.

If you liked this article and have learned a thing or two, I humbly ask that you share it with your family and friends. Together, we can educate others for the benefit of the birds in our care and Aviculture as a whole.

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About the Author

Charlie Plaza, at the age of 14, started his collection of birds in the United States. He purchased his first pet bird, an Indian Ringneck Parakeet from a pet store named Critter's Corner in Casselberry, FL for $175. This is where he met the pet store manager, Jeff, who introduced Charlie to the bird breeder, Linda Norris, who hatched his pet Ringneck. Charlie, as a young kid started working for Linda cleaning cages and assisting her in the labor of breeding exotic birds. Charlie quickly developed a passion for birds as he saw the joy that pet birds can bring to people. Charlie followed his passion for birds and started his long lasting career in the pet industry where he worked his way up to upper management at two of the largest, most successful pet specialty stores known today as Pet Supermarket and PetSmart. What once started as a hobby, CP Birds has become a well known national name in the aviculture community making hand fed, friendly birds more accessible to pet owners. Charlie has been a guest speaker at several local bird clubs, bird conventions and has trained many aviculturist in the care, husbandry and breeding of exotic birds.

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