Can Parrots Eat Meat?

Parrots shouldn't eat meat or anything of animal origin, such as milk, as in freedom, they obtain proteins from plant sources.
Can Parrots Eat Meat?

Last update: 22 October, 2021

Many bird owners ask themselves the following question: Can parrots eat meat? Although these animals are omnivores, their digestive systems don’t process animal foods well. Therefore, the answer to the question is no. The proteins parrots need are extracted from plant foods (such as legumes), so they don’t need to resort to hunting other living beings.

Being animals that haven’t undergone a domestication process, having them at home implies that you have to emulate their living conditions and diet in freedom as closely as possible. Below, you’ll find the dietary considerations of parrots in this regard, as well as the reasons why they can’t eat meat. Keep reading!

Why can’t parrots eat meat?

As we said in the introduction to this article, parrots have an omnivorous type of diet. However, in the wild, they’re not hunters, but opportunists: Most of their day consists of searching for food in the branches of the trees, safe from predators. If they take animal protein, it’ll come from an unsuspecting insect or other invertebrate.

Therefore, the consumption of meat (as well as that of other products of animal origin) can cause damage to the organism of parrots. Some of the dangers of this practice are the following:

  1. Meat contains too much saturated fat and cholesterol for a parrot. Heart and liver problems (such as fatty liver) can occur if this ingredient is given to the animal.
  2. An excess of protein in the parrot’s diet can lead to kidney problems.
  3. Raw meat can carry a variety of internal pathogens and parasites, such as toxoplasma gondii.
A parrot pecking at its own feathers.

The feeding of wild parrots

The opportunistic habits of wild exotic birds make their diet highly determined by the availability of food in their environment. That’s why their diet isn’t regulated at all and, although it’s not normal, nutritional imbalances can also occur in nature.

The list of most common foods eaten by wild parrots is as follows:

  • Tree fruits
  • Berries and nuts
  • Leaves from trees and bushes
  • Seeds found in the ground
  • Tree bark
  • Occasionally, a small insect within reach

As you can see, parrots don’t need to eat meat to stay healthy when they live in the wild. In captivity, it’s exactly the same, but a nutritional imbalance can occur if their natural diet isn’t properly imitated.

With this in mind, here are some general guidelines on feeding parrots. It’s important to note that the specific diet of each bird will depend on the species, the state of health, and the individual. So, consulting with a specialist will be the most appropriate course of action.

How to feed a domestic parrot?

Controlling the feeding of a domestic parrot is essential to keeping health problems at bay. It’s not just a nutritional issue, as these birds are very selective about food and will always choose the most appetizing. So, choosing their diet is also a matter of education.

There are 2 main ways to feed domestic parrots while avoiding eating meat in the process: A homemade diet and extruded feed. Next, we’ll tell you in detail what each nutritional choice consists of.

Homemade food

This system aims to imitate the feeding of the parrot in the wild so that all the nutrients it needs are provided even if it doesn’t eat the same food that it would obtain in the natural environment. This diet consists of the following:

  1. Seed mixture: It should constitute about 60% of the total food that the bird eats at the end of the day. A good mix contains a minimum of 10-12 different seeds, and sunflower seeds should be reserved as a treat.
  2. Fruits, legumes, and vegetables: The remaining 40% of the menu will be a fruit salad, soaked legumes, and fresh vegetables. Find out what vegetables your bird should or shouldn’t consume, as some of them can be toxic.
  3. Nuts: These provide minerals and vegetable fats that are beneficial for your parrot, but they must be administered as a treat and only occasionally.

The best thing to do is to divide this diet into 2 intakes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This way, you imitate the habits of parrots in the wild, which usually feed first thing in the morning and before dark.

Feed mix

Another way to offer a balanced diet to your animal is through extruded feed. These are marketed in the form of pellets and contain all the necessary nutrients for the bird.

Feed is especially useful for very selective birds when it comes to feeding, but some of them take time to get used to it and reject it at first. It’s also a more comfortable way for the owner to control the parrot’s feeding.

Although the stores present it as the only food your pet needs, it’s good to supplement the feed with fruit, vegetables, and legumes. In molting or breeding season, vitamin supplements can be provided if the bird requires them.

A parrot eating.

The diet of the animals that live with us (not only that of parrots) is essential in order to correct and prevent health problems and save on visits to the veterinarian. In the case of exotic species, special care must be taken, as they’re not made to live in captivity and they suffer imbalances much more easily.

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  • Galetti, M. (1993). Diet of the scaly-headed parrot (Pionus maximiliani) in a semideciduous forest in southeastern Brazil. Biotropica, 419-425.
  • Ragusa-Netto, J., & Fecchio, A. (2006). Plant food resources and the diet of a parrot community in a gallery forest of the southern Pantanal (Brazil). Brazilian Journal of Biology66, 1021-1032.
  • Brightsmith, D. J. (2012). Nutritional levels of diets fed to captive Amazon parrots: does mixing seed, produce, and pellets provide a healthy diet?. Journal of avian medicine and surgery26(3), 149-160.