MDPR’s Life with Birds
MDPR’s Life with Birds – The Wolf-Pack Flock by Michele Wolf
Sterling, my 11 year blue and gold macaw, joined our flock in the fall of 2013.
In his previous home — and quite possibly for his entire life — Sterling’s diet consisted primarily of seed. While it sounds like the right or natural thing to feed a bird, a seed diet is not only high in fat but is also not nutritionally appropriate for parrots living in our homes. It’s important that parrots have a balanced and varied diet and so a few weeks ago I began the process of switching his diet to our home’s standard “flock-fare”, which includes a serving of whole grain and vegetable/fruit mash in the AM and pellets and other good stuff in the PM.
Sterling is not what I would call “food motivated” – unlike my other birds (who come running and flying to us whenever we open a container of anything), he is rarely interested in trying new food items even when he sees me eat them – which means he sits on the kitchen table with his face practically in my face watching me eat, and making “hmmm” noises.
I had previously switched him from the seed mix to Nutriberries and pellets for both of his feedings. Dr. Opitz, our MDPR veterinarian, had advised me that Nutriberries are a good transitional food from a seed only diet to the MDPR standards of care diet.
To begin switching to mash and veggies for his morning meal, I prepared Sterling a mix of the grain mash and vegetables, topped with some broken up Nutriberries. As I started switching him to new foods I carefully monitored his intake and output (droppings). Because he was so accustomed to his old diet, I was concerned that he would not recognize the new items as food yet and it is obviously important to make sure that he is getting enough to eat.
At first he would only eat the corn and the nutriberries – but by the end of the week he was eating carrot pieces, peas and the rice in the mash mix, and at least sampling the beans.
After 3 weeks Sterling is now fully transitioned to the morning mash, and I am now introducing new veggies is small pieces to the existing blend so he can continue to expand his pallet. He has also become more interested in what we are eating, and enjoyed some turkey and sweet potatoes with us over the holiday.
Transitioning a bird’s diet can be challenging and MDPR offers the following tips for successful food transitions:
- Mix new foods and old favorites in small pieces
- Monitor consumption – look for chewed pieces, empty legume shells, overall volume left in bowl vs. what is on the floor.
- Monitor droppings frequency and volume.
- Don’t give up! It takes a bird many days to become used to seeing a new food item and to recognize it as food.