Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: New Jersey, USA
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Everybody has a different opinion on what is a proper diet for a parrot and this is mostly and unfortunately because nobody really knows what their nutritional needs are (no, not even avian vets or avian nutritionists, I am afraid -there is simply not enough reference or studies). What I do is go to nature and see what the bird eats in the wild, not so much in terms of specifics because, of course, we don't have access to the same type of plants, fruits, seeds or nuts they do in the wild, but more of the composition of the diet meaning how much protein, humidity, fiber, fat, what type of vitamins, etc, when and how much of each thing, etc.
I live in USA but I don't feed pellets. I've done research on parrots diets and nutrition since 1994 when one of mine was found to have high uric acid and I was horrified at what I was actually feeding her so I changed it and have been tweaking it ever since.
Now, the main reason why pellets are considered good for parrots in America is the way they were commercialized when they first came out. Dr. Harrison is a very smart business man and sold them only to vets and, because avian vets do NOT study parrot nutrition in school, they tended to believe everything the salesmen told them. Mind you, back in those days, people fed them mostly peanuts and sunflowers seeds as well as crappy human food like pizza, meat, etc so of course that pellets were a much better alternative at the time! Add this to the fact that the vets made money selling the product and voila! Every single vet out there was recommending them which created this 'I better recommend them too or everybody will think I know nothing about this subject' mentality. But, if you look at the ingredients, you realize that they are nothing but ground grains and pulses mixed with man-made vitamins (with the exception of TOPs which uses nature-derived) so you might as well feed them a good multi-grain bread and add vitamins to their water. It would be cheaper and healthier for them because bread is moister than pellets and the grains used would be human grade instead of animal feed grade (and there is a big difference between the two -I worked for ten years at a grain company).
My birds get seed/nuts for dinner. Not in the morning and not free-fed. They get them for dinner, a measured portion (just enough to fill their crop) and as low protein as I can make it so, in the winter, the larger species get a cockatiel mix with just a few striped sunflowers (I do NOT feed black oil ones), some safflower and mostly millet, canary seed, wheat, etc. which are all cereal grains and not oil seeds. People have a misconception as to what parrots eat in the wild and do not take into consideration the globalization of crops. For example, peanuts are form South America but wild African parrots (particularly Senegals) eat the people's peanut crops. Wheat as we know it has been cultivated into an almost different grain from what Nature created and I've seen people state categorically that gluten is bad for parrots because they don't eat it in the wild but that's because they haven't seen a wild flock of BFA, Patagonians or Quakers descend over a crop field and decimate it in a matter of hours.
As to the biggest difference between small and large species, in my personal opinion, it's noise, space needed (you need a minimum of 30ft long rooms for a macaw to fly while 10ft is a large space for a budgie), and emotional needs. The smaller species do EXCELLENTLY in an aviary environment with companions of their own but the larger ones are normally much more dependent on and attached to their human so you need to spend A LOT of one-on-one time with them while the little ones appreciate but do not really need your company.