Fruit in Your Pet Bird’s Diet

Due largely to their intelligence and entertainment value, birds from the Psittaciformesorder, which includes Parrots and Cockatoos, are very popular as household pets. Bird-lovers who have welcomed one of these fascinating birds into their family are generally quick to tell you what a rewarding experience it is. Ongoing research confirms that the best way to ensure that your beloved pet bird stays in peak condition is to pay attention to its diet. Recently the role of fruit in a bird’s diet has come under the spotlight, with varying opinions on the matter.

It is true that psittacine birds have very specific likes and dislikes, just as people do. However, just as we would not allow our children to dictate what they will or won’t eat, because as parents we have the responsibility to ensure an adequate diet, for the same reason it is not wise to allow our pet birds to dictate what they will and won’t eat. So what role does fruit play in a pet bird’s diet?

All birds require a wide range of nutrients, including fatty acids, carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, disaccharides and simple sugars, as well as water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins and minerals. Fruit is mostly composed of water and sugars, with some minerals and fiber, and therefore cannot fulfill your bird’s nutrient requirements. Whereas previously it was thought that fruit and vegetables cause diarrhea in birds, this is not the case. However, due to the high water content of fruit and vegetables, your bird will urinate more frequently, and as birds excrete both liquid and solid waste at the same time, this may be mistaken for diarrhea. It is important to know what your bird’s droppings normally look like, in order to detect changes that may signal a health problem.

For healthy bone maintenance, the calcium to phosphorous ratio should be roughly 2 to 1. Fruits do not contain anywhere near this ratio and should therefore be seen as a treat, rather than an essential part of a daily diet. The question of “how much is too much?” can be difficult to answer, but a good rule of thumb is about a teaspoonful of fruit a day for budgies and cockatiels, and about a rounded tablespoon for macaw-sized birds. A balanced diet should consist of pellets, healthy table foods, nuts, seeds and some fresh vegetables and fruit.