While there's still a lot unknown about the exact ideal diet for captive parrots, one thing we know for certain: since we've made the switch from seed based to pellet based diets, the health of our patients has improved dramatically. For this reason, we still believe pellets to be the best choice for parrots. But is is still OK to add other items to the pellet diet, for example table foods, and maybe some seeds? And how much is OK? A recent article in the Journal of Avian Medicine and surgery attempted to answer that question. In this study, parrots were offered 3 diets: 1) 25% pellets, 50% produce and 25% seeds; 2) 60% pellets, 22% produce and 18% seeds; and 3) 75% pellets and 25% produce.
Diets were analyzed for nutrient content, including fat, calcium, phosphorus and more.
The conclusion was what we would expect: Birds on the first diet consumed much more fat than recommended, and the diet was deficient in calcium with other imbalances noted as well. Birds on the second diet consumed more fat than was recommended, but other nutrients were in balance. Birds eating the third diet consumed an acceptable level of fat, with recommended levels of nearly all of the other measured as well.
This matches well with our current recommendation: 75% pellets and 25% low fat, carefully selected table foods, consisting mostly of green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, and a small amount of fruit and grains.
Here is the authors' conclusions: "owners of psittacine birds should be encouraged to supplement manufactured diets with low energy-density, fresh produce items to provide stimulation and foraging opportunities without fear of causing major nutritional imbalances."
We still think there's room in the diet for a seed or two: mostly for rewarding good behavior, and to hide in foraging toys!