|Let's Celebrate Pet Birds!|
T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.
Seeds in Birds' Diet
Seeds can be a good and important food in the diet of pet birds. As with any food, their use depends upon their nutritional value. Because of the enormous variations in nutrient content from one seed to another, and to avoid misuse of seeds, certain facts should be considered.
Seeds can be an excellent food for pet birds when used as part of a total nutrition program.
The nutritional value of seeds can well be compared to grains-oats, corn, wheat, etc. These are all excellent foods and have an important role in supplying the nutritional needs for humans. No one, though, would remain healthly living on just oats and corn, or some combination of grains. There is no single natural food that will fill all the dietary requirements for people or birds. Seeds, in general-like grains, are incomplete foods lacking in certain vitamins, minerals and proteins.
If a diet is based on a certain variety of seeds and other foods, then all the food offered needs to be eaten at each meal. If only part is eaten, likely the nutritional value will be lacking. As with any foods for birds, each meal needs to be a balanced diet.
Birds will always eat seeds. It's more than just tradition. Birds like seeds and always seek them out. Nature seems to have taught them that when other foods are not available, to eat seeds. In times of drought, famine and winter weather, seeds are an important lifesaving food. An exclusive dry seed diet can be thought of as a ''hard times'' or ''survival'' diet, usually eaten by wild birds when other foods are not available. These may appear nutritious, but ordinarily lack many of the nutrients needed for life and health.
"Good times'' diets are found in the wild during spring and summer. At this time of year nature's restaurant provides an abundance of foods that appeal to birds' appetites and provides balanced diets, Some of the foods that comprise nature's menu are bugs, insects, spiders, caterpillars, worms, larva, fish, sea life, ripe fruits and vegetables, greens, grains, pollen, etc. These foods contain the nutrients needed for maintenance, reproduction, raising young and molting.
Placing a variety of seeds and other foods in a dish and expecting a bird to pick out a balanced diet creates problems. Birds have neither the instinct nor ability to choose a balanced diet from a cafeteria of foods.
Free choice feeding a loose mixture of seeds and other food encourages birds to become picky eaters. Birds will approach their food dish as if more concerned about what not to eat, rather than what they should eat. Picking and pecking, spilling out, sorting through and finally selecting food, make up their daily routine. This highly undesirable situation fosters nutritional deficiencies in addition to wasting food.
The future of seeds as a food for birds will probably be their incorporation into cakes, bars, nuggets and in mixes with pellets, crumbles and granules.
Did you know that fresh seeds found in your garden, backyard, or in a field can be added to your bird's diet?
Some of the common ones are: ryegrass, timothy, cockspur, plantain and dandelion,
The Danger of Foods with a High Fat Content
People feeding birds in the parrot family know how much birds enjoy eating sunflower seeds. (In fact, in many instances their preference for sunflower seeds has been so strong that they refuse to eat anything else.) Some people have suggested that sunflower seeds are addictive. While this is not true, it illustrates the tenacity of parrots not to give up their favorite food.
Sunflower seeds as the main ingredient part of the diet invites disease. While they can contribute to a balanced diet, alone they are a deficient food much too high in fat.
Extreme as it may sound, a parrot eating most of his diet as sunflower seeds, is equivalent to a person living mostly on a diet of peanuts.
|sunflower seed kernels
|safflower seed kernels
|peanut butter||50.6% fat|
Sunflower seeds, peanuts, peanut butter, and safflower seeds are all high fat foods that need to be restricted to a small part of the diet.
Birds on high fat diets develop many of the same type diseases that people do-hardening of the arteries, fatty liver disease, and cholesterol plaques with narrowing the lumen of the arteries. Thus, bird owners must govern the type and amount of fat in birds' diets as much as they do their own.