Frequently Asked Questions about
Parrot Health and Nutrition

Questions:

1) What do you feed your birds?
2) Is there anything my bird should not eat?
3) So what IS safe for my bird?
4) What about Teflon?
5) How long do the birds take to wean?


Answers:

1) What do you feed your birds?

The young babies that are being handfed receive a special diet that we grind up and mix ourselves. As the babies start to wean, they are provided the same diet our breeder birds get which is a mix of 20% pellets (Zupreme® avian maintenance- it is shaped like almonds), 30% seeds (we mix it ourselves but it is pretty close to the "Topper®" or "Sleek & Sassy®" diet) and 40% fruits and vegetables. We try to introduce the babies to many different foods - both in an effort to get them to start eating on their own and for the nutritional balance they provide. We believe that parrots are very intelligent creatures with highly developed taste buds and as such, they enjoy and benefit from having a varied diet. We have found from personal experience that the more variety you can provide the healthier your bird will be. It is for this reason that we do not feed a strictly pelleted diet. Below is a list of some of the fruits and vegetables your bird will most likely have tried before you get it from us:

Fruits
apples, oranges
bananas, melons,
grapes, pears, kiwi

Vegetables
corn, beans, peas,
carrots (cooked slightly in microwave. soft but crunchy)
yams (cooked the same as carrots)
broccoli, spinach(fresh), kale, mustard greens
bell peppers, potatoes (cooked or mashed)

Rice, Pastas, Grains
long grain rice, noodles, 12 bean soup (we just cook it up and then drain it)
bread (they like this, we just give them small pieces now and then)

Proteins
cooked eggs
cooked chicken

2) Is there anything my bird should not eat?

The following list was compiled by Birds n Ways and can be found at:
http://www.birdsnways.com/articles/plntstox.htm

Harmful Plants (first source)
Amaryllis - bulbs
American Yew
Avocado
Azalea - leaves
Balsam Pear - seeds, outer rind of fruit
Baneberry - berries, root
Bird of Paradise - seeds
Black Locust - bark, sprouts, foliage
Blue-green Algae - some forms toxic
Boxwood - leaves, stems
Buckthorn - fruit, bark
Buttercup - sap, bulbs
Caladium - leaves
Calla Lily - leaves
Castor Bean - also castor oil, leaves
Chalice Vine/Trumpet vine
Christmas Candle - sap
Clematis/Virginia Bower
Coral Plant - seeds
Cowslip/Marsh Marigold
Daffodil - bulbs
Daphne - berries
Datura - berries
Deadly Amanita
Death Camas
Delphinium
Deffenbachia/Dumb Cane - leaves
Eggplant - fruit okay
Elephants Ear/Taro - leaves, stem
English Ivy berries, leaves
English Yew
False Henbane
Fly Agaric Mushroom - Deadly Amanita
Foxglove - leaves, seeds
Golden Chain/Laburnum
Hemlock - also water the plant is in
Henbane - seeds
Holly - berries
Horse Chestnut/Buckeye - nuts, twigs
Hyacinth - bulbs
Hydrangea - flower bud
Indian Turnip/Jack-in-Pulpit
Iris/Blue Flag - bulbs
Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Japanese Yew - needles, seeds
Java Bean - Lima bean - uncooked
Juniper - needles, stems, berries
Lantana - immature berries
Larkspur
Laurel
Lily of the Valley - also water the plant is in
Lobelia
Locoweed
Lords and Ladies/Cuckoopint
Marijuana/Hemp - leaves
Mayapple - fruit is safe
Mescal Beans - seeds
Mistletoe - berries
Mock Orange - fruit
Monkshood/Aconite - leaves, root
Morning Glory
Narcissus - bulbs
Nightshade - all varieties
Oleander - leaves, branches, nectar
Philodendron - leaves and stem
Poinsettia - leaves, roots, immature
Poison Ivy - sap
Poison Oak - sap
Pokeweed/Inkberry - leaf, root, young berries
Potato - eyes, new shoots
Privet
Rhododendron
Rhubarb - leaves
Rosary Peas/Indian Licorice - seeds
Skunk Cabbage
Snowdrop
Snow on the Mountain/Ghostweed
Sweet Pea - seeds, fruit
Tobacco - leaves
Virginia Creeper - sap
Water Hemlock
Western Yew
Wisteria
Yam bean - roots, immature roots
Harmful Plants (other sources)
Alacia
Apricot
Autumn Crocus/Meadow Saffron
Beans - all types if uncooked
Birch
Bittersweet Nightshade
Bleeding Heart/Dutchman's Breeches
Bloodroot
Bracken Fern
Broomcorn Grass
Candelabra Tree
Cardinal Flower
Cherry Tree - bark, twigs, leaves, pits
Chinaberry Tree
Crown of Thorns
Croton
Elderberry
Euonymus/Spindle Tree
False Hellebore
Ficus (weeping)
Firethorn/Pyracantha
Four O'Clock
Glory Bean
Ground Cherry
Honey Locust
Honeysuckle
Horsetail
Indian Licorice Bean
Ivy
Jasmine
Jimsonweed/Thornapple
Jerusalem Cherry - berries
Johnson Grass
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Lupines/Bluebonnet
Mandrake
Mango Tree - wood, leaves, rind-fruit safe
Moonseed
Mountain Laurel
Mushrooms - several varieties
Nectarine
Nettles
Nutmeg
Oak - acorns, foliage
Peach
Peanuts - raw
Pencil Tree
Periwinkle
Pigweed
Pikeweed
Pine needles - berries
Plum
Pothos
Prune
Rain Tree
Ranunculus/Buttercup
Red Maple
Sandbox Tree
Scarlet Runner Beans
Snowflake
Sorghum Grass
Sorrel
Sudan Grass
Tansy Ragwort
Vetch
Yellow Jasmine
Yew (Amer, Engl, Japan) - needles, thistles
Sources: American Medical Association Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants ; R. Dean Axelson, Caring for Your Pet Bird; Gallerstein, Gary A., DVM, The Complete Bird Owner's Handbook; Garry Gallerstein, Bird Owner's Home Health and Care Handbook; Greg and Linda Harrison, eds, Clinical Avian Medicine and Surgery; Gillian Willis; Wade and Carol Olyer Parrot Pleasures, Safe Wood Products and more

3) So what IS safe for my bird?

The following list was compiled by Birds n Ways and can be found at:
http://www.birdsnways.com/articles/plntsafe.htm

House and Outdoor Plants
Acacia Aloe
African Violet
Baby's Tears
Bamboo
Begonia
Bougainvillea
Chickweed
Christmas Cactus
Cissus/Kangaroo Vine
Coffee
Coleus
Corn Plant
Crabapple
Dandelion
Dogwood
Donkey Tail
Dracena Varieties
Ferns (asparagus, birdnest, boston, maidenhair)
Figs (creeping, rubber, fiddle leaf)
Figs (laurel leaf)
Gardenia
Grape Ivy
Hen's and Chickens
Herbs (e.g. oregano, rosemary, thyme)
Jade Plant
Kalanchoe
Marigold
Monkey Plant
Mother-in-Law's Tongue
Nasturtium
Natal plum
Pepperomia
Petunia
Pittosporum
Prayer Plant
Purple Passion/Velvet Nettle
Schefflera (Umbrella)
Sensitive Plant
Spider Plant
Swedish Ivy
Thistle
Wandering Jew
White Clover
Zebra Plant
Trees and Bushes
Source: Gillian Willis
Apple
Arbutus
Ash
Aspen
Beech
Birch
Citrus (any)
Cottonwood
Crabapple
Dogwood
Elm
Eucalyptus
Fir
Guava
Hawthorn
Larch
Madrona
Magnolia
Manzanita
Norfolk Island Pine
Nuts (except chestnut and oak)
Palms (areca, date, fan, lady, parlour)
Palms (howeia, kentia, phoenix, sago)
Pear
Pine
Poplar
Sequoia (Redwood)
Willow
Sources: Birds USA Magazine; Gillian Willis; Wade and Carol Olyer, Parrot Pleasures, Safe wood products

4) What about Teflon?

Following are excerpts taken from the paper:
TeflonTM poisoning: The silent killer
by Darrel K. Styles, DVM
Hill Country Aviaries, L.L.C.

Teflon poisoning, or more correctly polytetrafluoroethlyene (PTFE) intoxication, is a rapid and lethal gaseous intoxication and can affect all species of birds.

The only clinical signs of illness are birds starting to drop off their perches or displaying severe respiratory distress such as open-mouthed breathing, tail-bobbing, or even audible respiratory rales (raspy breathing sounds) followed quickly by death.

The cause of PTFE toxicity is gaseous emission of the material from nonstick cookware. The brand of cookware does not have to be Teflon. Any brand of Teflon-type non-stick cookware, such as Silverstone™, can result in intoxication. Also, cookware is not an exclusive culprit; this toxicosis has been caused by heat lamps coated with Teflon backing as well as range-burner or eye backings that are coated with the substance.

PTFE toxicity occurs because the coating is overheated. This usually is a result of forgetting that the cookware is on the stove and leaving it empty or letting the contents overheat and dry. The excessive heat causes Teflon coating to enter a gaseous state. For humans and other mammals, the PTFE gas is innocuous in the concentrations reached. However, birds are exquisitely sensitive to the gas and are quickly overcome by the vapor.

All types of birds are affected, from finches and canaries to macaws and Amazons. The smaller the bird, the less gas required to manifest the effect, so small birds are at greatest risk. The best course is prevention. To avoid this catastrophe, be careful of your Teflon coated surfaces. Some vets and aviculturists advocate eliminating the cookware from the home. I think this is a bit extreme, but I advise using some common sense and taking precautions.

First, I recommend not keeping birds in the kitchen for several reasons. Not only are they subject to PTFE toxicity, but I have seen some severely burned birds who were much too curious around mealtime and investigated the fried chicken too closely while it was still in the pan. Secondly, watch your Teflon; don't leave the cookware unattended. As long as the material is not overheated, it is generally safe to use. When the cookware begins to age or is damaged, dispose of it. We all have those pans in which the non-stick surface now sticks. Just get rid of it (Besides, it's a pain to have to scrub those pans, which just damages the surface more.) Do not use Teflon-coated heat lamps for any reason; it just isn't worth the risk. These lamps generally will state that they are coated with Teflon on the label. They cannot be relied upon to maintain a nongaseous state.

Finally, if you suspect a pan has overheated, but your birds show no immediate signs, remove them from the area and monitor them over the next 4 hours. If no signs appear, then you can feel relatively comfortable about averting disaster, and a vet may not be necessary.

5) How long do the birds take to wean?

This depends on each bird and also different species vary. For most cockatoos, expect 4 months - this also applies to the large macaws. We wean our greys, mini macaws and eclectus around 100 days. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is weaning a baby too early, so we take our time and allow the babies tell us know when they are ready.
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