Are Parrots Omnivores? (We’ve Got The Answer)

  • Time to read: 9 min.

More people are taking in parrots as pets thanks to their entertaining and friendly nature. A proper diet is one of the essential maintenance practices of these feathered friends. This article covers what parrots eat and if they are omnivores or not.

Parrots are omnivorous animals. It means that you can also incorporate meat into their diet. However, white meat is preferable to them over red meat. It is because red meat contains high cholesterol and saturated fat.

Is a Parrot a Herbivorous Animal?

Parrots’ unique features include curved bills, zygodactyl feet, and an upright stance. These features assist in their everyday living. It includes how they consume their foods. A large part of the parrot diet includes consuming nuts, fruits, seeds, buds, nectar, and pollen (Source).

Cockatoos and true parrots, in particular, are fond of seeds. Their powerful and large bill has developed over the years, allowing them to eat tough seeds. Parrots aren’t seed dispersers; instead, they are granivores. When they are spotted consuming fruit, they are actually trying to get to the seed. 

Given that seeds have poisonous coatings that protect them, parrots are careful when removing them and any other toxic fruit parts. 

Swift parrots, Lories, and hanging parrots are known for their consumption of pollen and nectar. They have gut adaptations that assist with pollen and nectar collection. Other parrot species also consume nectar when it is at their disposal. 

Parrots have become common companion pets after cats and dogs. When exposed to the right environment, they become very entertaining and affectionate. However, this doesn’t mean they are low maintenance. They require attention, interaction, and the proper diet to be healthy and happy. 

Their diet needs fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and seeds. Various species require different diets. Pellets and formulated diets have become common in households in the United States. Unlike seed-based diets, parrots can’t only pick their favorite seeds with formulated diets (Source). 

Veterinarians should be involved when determining diets for pet parrots. Most of them recommend formulated or pelleted diets. Keep in mind that these diets may contain items not part of parrots’ natural diet, like soy.

Owners should supplement the pellets with fresh fruits and vegetables. It ensures parrots also have adequate vitamins and minerals. You should thoroughly wash the fruits and vegetables if they are raw. 

With that said, most parrots are omnivores and not herbivores. Their diet ranges from fruits and seeds to meat (source).

Besides fruits and vegetation, wild parrots also feed on arthropods and other prey. It mainly includes invertebrate larvae. Water snails are preyed on by golden-winged parakeets. 

The New Zealand kea has even hunted adult sheep. It occurred in 1968, and the birds were considered sheep killers, which led to their persecution. The government gave these birds protected status in 1986. 

Are Parrots Meat Eaters?

A meat crazed man appears to get ready to eat meat.

Most parrots are more inclined to have green foods and fruits. The birds will also devour flowers, twigs, and buds. Aviculturists opt for legumes such as beans and peas to boost their protein intake for captive pets. It can either be fresh, cooked, or canned. 

When breeding, all psittacines need more protein intake. Great sources for the extra protein include cooked egg, meat, yogurt, and cheese. The meat could consist of cooked poultry, red meat, or fish without bones. While birds will eagerly consume milk, it is highly discouraged (Source).  

While rainbow lorikeets consume pollen, insects, and nectar, scientists established that they also consume meat. After a study conducted on the birds, they found this fact showed that meat was a standard part of their diet.

It started after a report by ABC News highlighted the Lorikeets eating meat in Elimbah, North of Brisbane. Experts found that the phenomenon works throughout Australia in both wild and captive birds (Source). 

Darryl Jones, a professor at Griffith University, initially thought the lorikeets were simply strange birds. It was not until later that he found that these birds and other parrots do eat meat. He noted it was a common occurrence when female species were producing eggs. 

According to some specialists, wholesome and nutritious food that one consumes with their family can be fed to birds. Provided that you give it in small quantities, that is. The foods include eggs, fish, and lean cooked meat. 

You should keep in mind the lactose intolerant nature of birds and moderate the amount of dairy provided. (source)

Keas are in the Nestoridae family. These large parrots live in alpine and forested areas of New Zealand. They have an omnivorous diet that consists of nectar, berries, insects, roots, and leaves. They are also known for feeding on other birds and mammals. Note that people do not keep them as pets.

You can find Keas wandering close to the caves of shearwater colonies. The chicks are hidden in the caves when the adults are at sea. Since keas know this, they move in groups around the shelters and listen out for movements by the chicks. (source)

Since the entrance to the caves can be narrow, the keas dig out dirt till they can reach the chick. They then kill them with their beaks. Other than shearwater chicks, keas are also known for attacking sheep. 

Currently, there are about 1000-5000 Keas in existence. In the 19th century, about 150,000 birds were killed. It was after farmers waged war against them for killing their sheep. They would peck holes close to the sheep’s kidneys. The sheep would then die from injuries and blood poisoning because of dirty talons (Source).

However, the grudge between the sheep farmers and parrots could be over. Thanks to researchers conducting trials on nauseating sprays that could prevent keas from attacking sheep. 

Since keas are currently protected species, farmers have to tolerate them. It also remains a mystery why some keas attack sheep while others don’t. Theories that have been put forward include hunger, entertainment, curiosity, and maggots (Source).

Is a Bird a Herbivore, Carnivore or Omnivore?

Omnivorous animals are those that can survive on animal and plant matter. They obtain energy from proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat. On the other hand, herbivores depend on plant matter, while carnivores depend on animal matter.  

It isn’t uncommon to find carnivores that consume non-animal foods. They are known as mesocarnivores. Herbivorous animals, such as parrots, can also consume small portions of animal matter, such as chicks and insects.

Birds feed on various items ranging from seeds, plants, nectar, other birds, and carrion. Their digestive system contains a crop used for storage. Also, there are species without gallbladders (e.g., pigeons) (Source).

Various species of birds are omnivorous. These include cassowaries, crows, Kea, rheas, chickens, and cranes. To assist with their flight, most birds have adapted to fast digestion. Migratory birds, for example, store proteins in various parts of their body to boost energy during migration (Source).

While parrots are mostly known for eating vegetables, fruits, and nuts, they are generally omnivores and not herbivores. Different species are omnivorous to a greater or lesser extent. There are those with a greater need for meat and those with more significant needs for fruits. Macaws are an excellent example of this type of parrot (Source).

Other than the Kea, some parrots feed on insects in the wild. While parrots are omnivorous, not all of them eat meat in captivity. For those that enjoy meat, you don’t have to give it to them every day. 

Can Parrots Eat Chicken?

While parrots are omnivores, they can lead an everyday life without eating meat. If the meat is available, the parrots will readily consume it. It includes insects you can find with ease. Parrots find hunting time-consuming, dangerous, and exhausting, and they prefer to forage for food instead. 

Parrots can consume chicken in captivity; however, you should do it in moderation. The chicken should be cooked but shouldn’t be salty and contain seasoning. The parrots do not eat the bones. However, some crush them and eat the bone marrow inside (Source). 

When parrots eat chicken, they enjoy its tasty nature and other additional health benefits. Chicken is preferred over red meat as it contains less fat and cholesterol. 

Meat is rich in proteins and minerals such as zinc, niacin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin b6. Parrots with protein-rich diets stay fulfilled, happy and energetic.

Chicken also boosts the immune system of parrots. A robust immune system allows the bird to stay healthy, fight infections, and get rid of viruses easily. Thanks to protein and antioxidants from other food matter (Source).

Additionally, consuming chicken promotes healthy bones in parrots. Bone health is an essential part of parrot life, and chicken has proven to play a significant role in keeping it healthy. The bone density of parrots is lost when they age, which leaves them unhealthy. Therefore, incorporating chicken into their diet helps them in the long term. 

Introducing chicken to the diet of the feathered pet can also bring with it adverse effects. While parrots are omnivores, they tend to lean towards a vegetarian diet. It means they are not used to cholesterol in their diet. Therefore, you should monitor your parrot when cholesterol is suddenly introduced into their diet. 

Other than monitoring them, you should give the foods in moderation. It is to prevent weight gain and obesity. Checking the parrots’ keel bone helps owners tell if the parrot has gained weight. You should reduce calorie consumption if they are overweight (Source). 

While some parrots may respond positively to the meat, some may experience complications. Owners should consult their vets before introducing new foods to the pet’s diet. Others will exhibit signs of irritability as they don’t appreciate the diet modification. By checking how they respond and behave, owners will decide whether to proceed with feeding them meat. 

Lastly, the parrots may have an upset stomach after eating. It will be followed by a bad mood, attacking other humans and parrots, and worsening fecal matter.

What Does a Parrot Eat?

A small percentage of caged and aviary birds receive the proper diet following their physiological needs. Others are forced to take foods they are not used to in their natural habitat. The lory species, for example, feed on nectar, blossoms, fruit, and pollen. However, in captivity, they are forced to make do with seeds. 

A mistake made with birds in tiny cages is giving them food high in energy. It usually results in the birds becoming fat. It is a common occurrence for pet budgies. While budgies who weigh 30 grams are considered obese, many weigh 50-60 grams (Source). 

The proper diet for parrots will have them living long and trouble-free lives. Most bird species in the wild live in vegetated zones. Such areas provide access to a variety of foodstuffs. One finds that competition for food in such locations is lower.

Birds require a diet rich in minerals, fats, proteins, energy, water, and vitamins. They could get sick if a deficiency occurs. It could take a week or longer to notice such changes (the manifestation being faster in younger birds than adults).  

Most parrots are natural seed eaters. When in the wild, they have the chance to seek out diverse flowers, insects, seeds, and fruits. In captivity, however, parrots have to deal with commercially packaged seeds. Pellets and formulated diets are also standard.

While parrots can consume foods that humans consume, you should avoid some foods at all costs. These include caffeine, chocolate, avocado, and alcohol. Since birds are lactose intolerant, dairy products should be avoided or given sparingly (Source).

Summary

While parrots have shown that they prefer consuming plant matter, they are not herbivorous animals. They also feed on animal matter, which makes them omnivorous animals. Parrots such as the Kea are known to feed on other birds and sheep. In captivity, parrots should be given meat in moderation to avoid too much cholesterol. 

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