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Dietary Needs For Psitticines

The better the diet for your birds, the longer they live happier, less-stressful lives.

Low stress = Better and more reliable performers

1.Reasons for a high quality diet

Free choice diets

Outward appearance can be deceiving

Example: 21 year old amazon

All seed diet her whole life

Appeared "Fat and Happy"

Presented to us emaciated, jaundice, not eating and weak

Liver, WBC, Cholesterol, and negative Chlamydia EBA indicate hepatic lipadosis

Due to prolonged poor nutrition

Also had an E Coli infection. Started her on antibiotics and hand feeding regiment.

Obesity is a problem in Rose-breasted Cockatoos, Amazons, and Budgies.

A bird’s diet should supply all essential amino acids for each particular stage of their life

Life Stages: Embryonic







2.Nutritional Needs









Vitamins Function Deficiencies Source Comments

Vitamin A

Cofactor in vision, aids in growth of epithelial cells and cell membranes, also acts as a hormone

Often results in sinus infection

Carrots, Sweet Potato, Greens (spinach, parsley, kale, dandelion, turnip greens)Red peppers, cheese, egg, fish meal, corn, and peanuts

Most seed diets are missing Vitamin A

Vitamin D3

Mineralization of bone

In growth stages bones and beaks fail to calcify. Adults produce thin or shell-less eggs, end result is osteomalacia (bones demineralize)

Fish oil and Eggs.

Most adequate light provides enough for the birds. Skin is struck by light; 11-45 min. per day is ideal; Vit D3 is absorbed through the skin or ingested while preening

Vitamin E

Antioxidant. High levels boost immunity. Aids in digestive process. Prevents Selenium loss. Interacts with Selenium

Encephalomalacia (brain disease) Exudative Diathesis (fluid in the joints) In poultry Muscular Dystrophy

Safflower, Sunflower seeds and oils, Soybeans, wheat germ, cereal grains, and fish products.

Needs to be considered with Selenium in a complete diet. Birds on a pelleted diet need to be supplemented.

Vitamin K

Aids in clotting of blood.

In poultry, skeletal abnormalities have been seen, assumed it can occur in other species. Excessive bruising, bleeding due to slight trauma

Parsley, Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Spinach, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Broccoli, Carrots, Turnip greens, eggs, and fishmeal.

Needs to be balanced with calcium.


Vitamin B1

Aids in metabolism

Polyneuritis (neurological symptoms: head tremors)

Brewer’s yeast, Rice bran, Soybeans, Peas, Beans, Wheat oats, Peanuts, Millet, Carrots, Eggs, Whole Grains, and Potatoes

Brown rice preferable. Blueberries and beets will prevent absorption.


Vitamin B2

Aids in metabolism

Retardation at growth, diarrhea, and leg paralysis.

In most pelleted diets.

Wheat germ, Eggs, Millet, Peas, Beans, Wheat and Corn.

Egg laying hens require higher levels of Riboflavin.











Vitamin B6

Essential in Nitrogen or amino acid metabolism. Aids in the synthesis of antibodies.

Reduced appetite, slow growth rate, and neurological signs.

Brewer’s yeast, Wheat germ, Eggs, Whey, Peanuts, Sunflower, and Safflower seeds, Peas, and millet.


Vitamin B12

Critical component in metabolic pathways.

Anemia, gizzard erosion, fatty heart, liver and kidneys. Can create a folic acid deficiency.

Fish by-products, Eggs, and Yeast products.

Interacts with several other nutrients.


Needed for normal function of tissue, skin, and nervous system. Important component of metabolism.

Slowed metabolism, improper skin growth.

Yeast products, Sunflower seeds, peanuts, Wheat germ, and Corn.

Diets high in Millet and Corn bind Niacin, making it unavailable for absorption.


Aids in metabolism of energy, glucose, lipids, and amino acids.

Results in fatty liver and kidneys.

Safflower, Eggs, Soybeans, Oats, Peas, Peanuts, Barley, and Beans.

Wheat and Barley prevent absorption.

Folic Acid

Vitamin M

Aids in the excretion of nitrogen and amino acid metabolism. Required for WBC production.

Slow growth, poor feathering, failure for feathers to pigment properly, and anemia.

Soybeans, Wheat germ, Oats, Peanuts, Beets, and Spinach.

High protein diets require increased amounts of Folic acid.

Pantothenic Acid

Component of coenzyme A. Aids in metabolism.

Growth retardation and ragged feathering.

Royal jelly, Eggs, Peanuts, Sunflower and Safflower seeds, Peas, Millet, Oats, and Corn.



Essential part of cell membrane. Required for maturation of the cartilage of matrix bone.


Wheat germ, Yeast products, Sunflower and Safflower seeds, Peanuts, Beans, Peas, and Eggs.

Prevents hepatic lipadosis. High protein or high fat diets require increased choline. Over vitaminizing possibly because the bird’s body can synthesize choline.

Ascorbic Acid

Vitamin C

Major component of skin and connective tissue. Synthesizes collagen. Excellent antioxidant


Psittacines and Passerines make their own Vitamin C in their body.

Oranges and Bell Peppers.

Supplementation is a good idea given the instability of the Vitamin in manufactured products as well the potential for stressful situations in the bird’s lifestyle.







Essential role in blood coagulation, formation of bones and joints.

Weak bone structure. In egg layers, thin or shell-less eggs.

Calcium carbonate, Dicalcium phosphate, Kelp, Whey, Cheese, most Nuts, Yogurt, and Kiwi.

Most birds can be maintained at <1% in their diet. Oxalates (spinach and rhubarb) also high fat diets prevent absorption. Needs to be balanced with phosphorus.


Readily incorporated into bone and other tissue.

Body has trouble absorbing calcium.

Dicalcium phosphate, Brewer’s yeast, Peanuts, Pumpkinseed, Nuts, Cereal grains, and Eggs.

Extreme amounts can be toxic.

(calcium) 2 : 1 (phosphate) ratio


Protects against excessive fluid loss in the body.

Decreased egg production, poor growth, and in poultry causes cannibalism

Salt, Dried parsley, Dried leafy vegetables, Dried carrots, and Eggs.

Toxicity unlikely in average diets. Chronic Renal Failure needs a slight increase.


Affects acid-base balance. Involved in protein biosynthesis. Acts as a cofactor in numerous enzyme systems. Induces muscle relaxation.

Retarded growth of chicks. Causes low egg production.

Dried peppers, Dried carrots, Soybean products, Dried apricots (caution some contain sulfur), Bananas, Legumes, and Nuts

Widely distributed in most foods. Severe stress can cause hypokalemia due to increased renal potassium excretion.


Required for hemoglobin synthesis, proper bone formation, and maintenance of the nervous system.

Dissecting aneurysm of the aorta, microcytic hypochronic anemia, and cardiac hypertrophy.

Brewer’s yeast, Oil seeds, Nuts, Peas, and Cereal grains.


Aids in biosynthesis of the thyroid hormones (controls the rate of energy metabolized in the cells)

Can result in Goiter, and low thyroid hormone production.

Dried whey, Egg, Cheese, and Molasses.


Acts as a biological antioxidant. Helps retain Vitamin E in the blood.

Poor growth and increased mortality in chicks.

Brewer’s yeast, Oil seeds, Dried parsley, Dried spinach, Cheese, Egg, and Soybean meal.

Vit. E and Selenium together prevent Exudative diathesis. Only happens when both are deficient in the diet. Levels of Selenium in food depend on the level in the soil.







Related to the cellular respiration processes.

Microcytic and Hypochronic anemia.

Bone meal, Calcium carbonate, Soybean meal, Brewer’s yeast, Nuts, Dried carrots, and Cereal grains.

No confirmation that the Iron level in the diet is related to Iron storage disease found in Mynahs and Toucans.


Essential for normal bone structure.

Perosis- no function of the tendons. Low egg production.

Dicalcium phosphate, Calcium carbonate, Hemp seed, Soy products, Oat products, and Nuts.

Recycled many times in the body before being excreted. Excess calcium or phosphorus prevents absorption.


Activates enzymes

Poor growth and neuromuscular signs- leading to convulsions.

Kelp, Bone meal, Sunflower and Safflower seeds, Nuts, and Brewer’s yeast.

High levels of calcium or phosphorus prevent absorption.


Essential for normal metabolism. Mobilizes Vitamin A from the liver. Aids in tissue and wound healing.

Retarded growth, long leg and wing bones may be shorter and thickening of the hock joint.

Wheat germ meal, Wheat middlings, Bone meal, Soybean meal, Nuts, Wheat, and Oats.

As calcium is increased in the diet Zinc should be increased as well.


Helps maintain proper ph in the body.

Mortality, Hemoconcentra-tion, and poor growth. Chicks will develop a nervous condition.

Salt, Molasses, Dairy products, Dried parsley, Carrot, Egg, Broccoli, Green leafy vegetables, and Cereal grains.

Amino Acid






Building block of any protein containing part of the body.

Poor growth, in chickens improper pigmentation.

Soybean meal, Dried parsley, Dried spinach, Brewer’s yeast, Peas, Sunflower and Safflower seeds, Nuts, Oats, Canary grass seed, Barley, Buckwheat, and Millet



Building block of any protein containing part of the body.

Poor metabolism and slow growth.

Corn gluten meal, Brewer’s yeast, Soybean meal, Sunflower seed, Millet, Peas, Nuts, and Cereal grains.




Some species require high amounts in their diet.

Sources- Sucrose, Corn syrup, Honey, Molasses, Jellies, Jams and Juices.


Milk Products

Milk Products

Humans have introduced them to birds.

Birds appear to be lactose intolerant.

Yogurt- Lactose turned into Lactate. Live cultures.



Peanuts (FDA requirements)

Sunflower seeds


Sprouted seeds




3. Recommendations

Peak condition

Pelleted Diets

Pelleted vs. Extruded

Pretty Bird

Specific Diets


Wide variety of options

Specific Species and their Needs

Specific Species and their Needs

Eclectus, Conures, and Blue Fronts require increased Vitamin A

















1. Reasons for a high quality diet

  • Prolonged healthy life

- Better performance

  • Prevention of diseases



2. Nutritional Needs

    2. Nutritional Needs

    • Important to have a well balanced diet
    • Each ingredient relies in another to be present and functioning


    3. Recommendations

      3. Recommendations

      • Know the requirements, if any, for the individual species you have.
      • Yearly bloodwork is a good idea. Especially on any displaying health problems or other chronic problems.
      • Feed a pelleted/extruded diet with fruit and vegetable supplementation.

      This material was prepared by Meredith Wille for a lecture presented to IAATE