by Kyra Brown
Because diet affects the length and quality of life of pet birds, it’s important to feed the best diet possible to our Quaker Parrots. And while it’s true that even the experts still argue over what is the best diet, here is one Quaker owner’s opinion on the subject. A list of toxic foods is included at the bottom of the article.
“What you put in is what you’ll get out”, is an old expression that still rings true today, especially as it pertains to the diet of Quaker Parrots. Perhaps you have already owned a bird, or two, or three, or more in your life and already know all there is to know about diet as it relates to health in the companion parrot, and if so, Congratulations! You have outdone avian medicine, breeder study, and science all together.
What I am trying to say is that no one has proven a 100% guaranteed, healthy, risk-free way to feed a captive parrot as of yet. Our responsibility as birdie parents is simply to provide the most well balanced, planned, variety of healthy foods possible to our Quakers, and then hope for the best.
Feeding a Variety of Foods
General consensus among bird enthusiasts, avian medicine, and professional breeders is that a pellet based diet is superior to a seed based diet and any possible drawbacks to the pellet based diet are far surpassed by the potential benefit.
What do I mean by “pellet based”? Just like it sounds, the diet is centered on a constant offering of high quality companion parrot pellet food, with a generous offering of fresh unseasoned vegetables, fruits, dairy, carbohydrates, and protein. Sound familiar? It should!
Simply put, our Quakers should eat as we should. Not as we do, however. Quakers are somewhat prone to fatty liver disease and hypertension, and therefore it is extremely important to offer them only foods that are low in saturated fats and sodium (salt). There is some debate over the ratio in which our birds should eat, but it is somewhere between 60%/40% pellets-fresh food and 80%/20% pellets/fresh food. Your Quaker will probably set its own pace somewhere within that acceptable range.
To Feed Seeds or Not
Does this mean that Quaker Parrots never eat bird seed? NO! Anyone who denies their Quaker both the pleasure of cracking seed and the dietary benefit of variety, is, in my opinion, doing their bird a terrible injustice. Cracking seed is a natural bird behavior, an excellent behavioral enhancer, and, well, just the right bestowed by wearing feathers. It is essential to feed only a superior quality, well stored, low fat seed, however. This would preferably be a parakeet (Budgie) mixture that does not contain sunflower seeds.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds in bird seed are very high in fat and should be reserved for the occasional “special treat” food only. Wild bird and human prepared seeds are loaded in salt and should never be offered your Quaker. Premium seed mixtures for parakeets should be available at the dealer where you purchase your pellets and should be offered as approximately a 10% dietary supplement, preferably mixed in with the pellets. My Quaker, Tango, loves to pick through his food dish, and I have never had a problem with him only wanting the seed. Remember though, Oats are a grain, or carbohydrate, and not a seed. Quakers love them, but they should be fed in moderation as well.
As with any bird, your Quaker will crack open the seed, eat the contents, and leave the hull behind. Quite often this gives the visual impression that the bird has not eaten any or all of the seed, although there may be nothing left behind but the “suitcase”. Check this thoroughly when deciding whether or not your Quakers food needs replacing.
The Importance of Clean Water
All birds must be offered a constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water. It is simply a bird trait to soil the water dish, and you will just have to get used to changing it many times every day. If at all possible, it is probably healthiest to provide your parrot with bottled non-carbonated mineral water. If you must use tap water for your bird you should bring it to a rapid boil first and allow it to cool before placing it in the container. This will help destroy potentially toxic bacteria that grow in the water as it sits in the house pipes and also boils out many of the chemicals added at the water treatment plant. Although we humans are able to tolerate many of these substances, our body mass is substantially larger and our significantly smaller avian friends are not as adept.
Further, another option is to offer your Quaker a birdie bottle, which is a plastic, gravity fed water bottle with an incorporated stopper to prevent food from being inserted through the tip, blocking the gravity feed. Many Quakers adjust well to these bottles, and if you work all day, this a great option. Do not remove your Quakers water dish when not at home until you know for sure your bird has adjusted to the bottle, and be sure to change the water inside the bottle frequently as well, even if there is a lot left.
It is not alright to let your bird drink contaminated, soiled, foul water no matter how many pet stores you see that allow it. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t allow your baby to. Also, it is not necessary, nor is it healthy, to add vitamins to your birds drinking water. Most vitamins oxidize in the water after a very short period of time and are actually contaminating it!
Eating is a Flock Activity
Eating is not only a means to achieve nutrition and energy, eating is a very social activity for birds as it is for us human kind. Most Quaker Parrots truly enjoy eating with their families, and I think this is preferable whenever possible. There is an excellent bird behavior specialist/author who claims that certain birds have suffered from anorexia for being denied the right to participate in meal time with their human flock-mates. Participating in mealtime is also desirable because most Quakers eat fairly small portions several times a day and breakfast and lunch with the family will provide your Quaker the opportunity to enjoy freshly prepared human food at least twice a day.
Things to Avoid
There are several things already mentioned that are bad for your birds, fatty foods, salty foods, moldy or otherwise unfit foods should all be avoided. There are certain things that present an even more immediate danger to your Quakers health and should NEVER be allowed. These include caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and nicotine. These things are bad for you, and deadly for your bird. Although some people do allow their Quakers to taste their beer and other (mind altering) things, there is truly no need for this, and I do not understand why you would take the risk. You have the ability to make an educated decision about what you consume, your Quaker does not.
Harmful Foods for Parrots
The following foods are toxic to your Quaker: Avocadoes, chocolate, apple seeds, and the pits of most fruits, i.e. cherry, peach, etc. Do not allow your bird to consume these three things under any circumstances. Some Quakers have ingested chocolate without harm, but others have died within hours. Please avoid that possibility.