Seafood In The Parrot's Diet

Seafood In The Parrot’s Diet

 February 20th, 2011
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blue and gold macaw

Q: Is fish safe for my bird?
-Sangita T., Pembroke, MA

A: Yes! There is such controversy surrounding fish these days!  Can pregnant women eat it?? Should children eat it??  What about mercury??!  I wish everyone would just dial it back a bit. Fish is a great food.
Seafood is a great source of protein and is low in fat, unlike many animal proteins. It contains Riboflavin (B2), Omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus and many minerals. These are present in higher amounts than in meats. Eating fish promotes heart health, reduces blood pressure, and promotes brain function, to name a few of the benefits, which far outweigh the risks.
That said, let’s talk about the risks. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal and pretty much all fish are going to contain some level of it. Mercury, is found in our waters both naturally occurring and as a result of industrial pollution (technically a form of mercury called methylmercury). The larger, longer lived, small fish-eaters such as the sharks, some tuna, and swordfish are those found to carry the higher levels.

Congo african grey

High mercury levels are accumulated over time. The longer a fish lives, the longer it is around to absorb mercury and the higher their content will be. Mercury found in humans that eat these fish is based on their level of consumption. For those who eat less of it, the  risks are negligible.
Offering these fish to our parrots in moderation will not cause them harm, but there are other types of fish which present less concern such as salmon, catfish, cod, pollack and canned tuna (only use water packed tuna). Shellfish such as crab, shrimp, scallops, and clams are also considered to be in the lower mercury group and are safe to enjoy. Fish should be baked, poached, broiled, or steamed when intended for our parrot’s dining pleasure.

Blue & gold and military macaws

It is important to widely vary your parrot’s diet. If you are doing that, then the frequency with which they receive any type of food is moderated. This raises the probability that we aren’t offering too much of any one particular food. Keep this in mind when you serve fish or meat and you will ensure that the overall diet is healthy, well rounded and safe.

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29 Comments on “Seafood In The Parrot’s Diet”

rami  02/21/2011 10:47 am

great info thanks

Karen Ciocco  02/21/2011 11:19 am

Can my cockatiel eat fish? Thank you so much,Karen

Betty  02/21/2011 11:54 am

I will try the fish with my parrot, he loves his meat.

Linda  02/21/2011 12:30 pm

Raggae my 11 year old Aftrican Gray gets birdie food for breakfast but at dinner time he eats whatever we do. He loves beef, chicken and seafood and yes I even give him a little cheese & yogurt. I have to say his favorite is warm soup, (especially habitant pea soup) with a soda cracker broken & soakin in it. He is happy, healthy and I have never had an issue with a vitamin defiency, plucking feathers or screaming.

Anell Olivier  02/21/2011 1:16 pm

My one-and-a-halve old African Grey, Danny Boy, also loves to munch away on the chicken bones and eating the marrow!

Trish  02/21/2011 1:38 pm

Two of our parrots (parrotlet and Golfin’s ‘Too) were adopted when a few years old. They were not used to eating real ‘food’ or fruit but we stuck with it. They also were able to see our other parrots, who we got as babies, eating every night when we did. It took a couple months for the ‘Too to start eating food but the little parrotlet took much longer, nearly 3 years. We didn’t give up. Every evening when we sit down to eat dinner they also get their dishes with cooked grain, veggies and a little of whatever we are eating. They all get excited when it’s dinner time now and we hear about it if we’re late! If you have a bird that is adopted or just won’t try new things, don’t give up. Our parrots are happy, healthy and active.

trish  02/21/2011 1:50 pm

PS~ I forgot to add we give them a bit of whatever meat or fish we are eating as well. Eggs too. Sometimes they like it sometimes they don’t. chicken bones are very good for them to eat the marrow out of. I know it keeps them healthy. When we first adopted our ‘Too he barbered his feathers down to the skin and didn’t have any ‘dust’ on his feathers. All he would eat was seeds. Very sad boy. Now he is beautiful and a real booger as well. So if you want to adopt, but the bird doesn’t look very good, with a little care you can bring him/her around if you have patience.

Lena  02/21/2011 2:21 pm

My Amazon, aged 35, tastes everything I give her – fruit, pasta, rice, sauce, bones, fish, potatoes, clams, yoghurt (as a treat), even chicken on bone. She eats ice-cream out of a spoon she holds herserf, etc. etc. She prefers whatever comes from our plates onto her own tin plate (preferably warm or lukewarm), and eats whenever we do. this hass become such a routine that she claims her food, and whemever I woant to introduce somthing new to her, I just give it to her on her own plate, and she just can’t resist trying it out.

Kathryn Riley  02/21/2011 2:53 pm

What do little finches like to eat besides greens. Mine won’t touch fruits.

Debbie Williams  02/21/2011 3:37 pm

I have been trying for two years now to get my Keisha, a blue and gold to eat fruit, veges, and meats, and eggs. I have put stuff in muffins that I have made. I have done everything and it is offered every single day. She still will not eat any of it. I have tried putting bits of treats in toys, she finds it and throws it on the bottom of the cage or out her door! I rescued her when she was 10 and have been trying every day ever since to get her to eat varied meals. What am I doing wrong!

Joanne  02/21/2011 4:39 pm

Bird eating bird? Like mammal eating mammal…most of us do so.

Lynn Zakas Campbell  02/21/2011 4:53 pm

To Maylan Studart: What about birds that prey on other birds and their eggs like the American Kestrel, Crows and most Birds of Prey? There are a lot of birds that eat other birds

Rita  02/22/2011 2:04 am

I will try the salmon. When I got Paco my cockatoo he would turn his nose up to anything that was not seed. Hes converted to your food after I used it in the muffins. He now will eat apples and oranges. He also likes pizza. So I keep trying new foods. Bananas are not on his list . Greens are still hard to get him to eat. Your right variety is the key. At least he is trying everything. By the way he loves the toys.

Casey  02/22/2011 7:31 am

Please excuse my ignorance. I was under the impression that macows are herbivores? So can we feed them meat and chicken over and on top of the seafood suggestion too?

Annette  02/22/2011 9:47 am

Thanks for this, I was wondering as we do have a lot of fish.

Sorry for the late question but how good is mango pips for the bird as my macaw loves it?

Tobi  02/22/2011 12:00 pm

I have never heard of grapes being unhealthy for birds. My Amazon eats about anything (except for chocolate and avacodo), he loves toast with peanut butter given as a treat once in a while, loves peppers, potatoes, beans, still working on other veggies as he was a rescue and my umbrella cockatoo we are still experimenting with different foods. She is a rescue also and didn’t kow what anything other than seed was when we first got her. Now, almost a year later she loves broccoli, beans, egg, fish, oranges. She is more willing to try a new food if she is taking it off my plate. A little spoiled.

jean surowiec  02/22/2011 4:58 pm

Janet -be patient and keep offering the good stuff. His curiosity will get the best of him eventually and he will eat it. Cut back on the seed or mix it with something you want him to eat. Like a child he wont starve himself .

Julie Gordon  02/22/2011 9:18 pm

Will someone explain the no grape or olive oil comment. Our vet has no idea what that is all about either.

Lauren  02/22/2011 9:49 pm

I cannot afford to buy the pellet food sold online. I try to feed my cockatiel a varied diet. Is there any other healthy food for cheaper that I could possibly purchase?

Yoly Gottlieb  02/23/2011 7:21 pm

My Mexican Double Yellowhead “COTY” is 39 years old. She had been healthy all her life. She was fed on seed, very little fruit and vegetablesand occasional chicken bones. The seed she ate was a very complete seed mixture. All of a sudden about two years ago that particular brand of seed was not sold anymore. I bought the 40 lb bags that were availabe at the feed store. Coty left bunches of seed uneaten and then started moulting a lot in the last two years, until all of a sudden she was almost featherless. I bought pellets from you. but could not make her even try them…, She doesnt particularly like vegetables or fruit that much. Seems like I have tried almost everything! I thought she would die on me! Then I started putting Baby vitamin drops (touching the eyedropper) to pieces of dry banana, which Coty loves, and in a couple of months she has regrown a lot of her feathers and she acts happy again.

I still am concerned that she has malnutrition and would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you!
Yolande Gottlieb

Patty  02/24/2011 8:32 pm

Hi Julie,
I am not seeing the comment about grapes and olives, but grapes are fine and very much enjoyed by parrots. They contain more sugar and water than some other fruits making them of lesser nutritional value, but there are no other reasons not to offer them. Olives are very healthy and reduce bad cholesterol, the only problem with them are that they are salty and oily (although olive oil is also very healthy in moderation). The green olives are saltier than the black ones and most are preserved in brine. There are some organic brands that are packed in water. Keeping these things in mind, they are safe when served infrequently.

Patty  02/24/2011 8:35 pm

Hi Tobi,
The dinner table is often where birds learn to experiment with new foods. A little spoiled? Who cares! Your bird is now eating a healthy diet! Good job!

Patty  02/24/2011 9:00 pm

Hi Casey,
There are no ignorant questions here! This blog is all about learning and education, so never feel bad about asking a question.
Parrots are technically omnivores because, apart from being plant eaters, some species also eat insects and their larva. However, meat and fish is not a natural part of their diet. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that very little of what we feed them is part of their “natural” diet. The foods that we have available to offer are often not found in their natural habitats. Avian science has determined what a parrot needs to thrive nutritionally, and we make do with what is available. It seems to get the job done.
Meats are fatty, fish less so, but both are tolerated by the avian system when offered in moderation. It is an option available to offer variety from a nutritional standpoint and to occasionally spice up a boring diet. Always use lean meats and fish and prepare them by broiling, baking, steaming or poaching. Fried foods are not good for our parrots or ourselves.

Patty  02/24/2011 9:33 pm

Hi Yoly,
Birds don’t molt out all of their feathers. It is far more likely that Coty plucked them in the midst of a nutritional deficiency. Since just seed is not a healthy diet for any bird, please do keep trying to switch her onto a fresh food diet. In the meantime, try a vitamin supplement that is geared towards birds instead of human babies. There will be more of what she needs in those. Google “vitamin supplements for parrots” and you will find a large selection to choose from.
You should have gotten a birdie bread recipe with the pellets you ordered. It would be a great idea to try that to get her started onto a pelleted diet. Also, fruits and veggies can be added to the recipe. Because your bird eats bananas, you could try finely chopping veggies like carrots or broccoli and mashing them into the banana. Have you tried sweet potato? You could cook some for her and see if she enjoys that. It’s sweet and is sometimes a good starter veggie for birds. Also, use the search feature on the blog for more diet info. Type in “nutrition” and a lot will come up.
Best of luck to you both!

Patty  02/24/2011 9:35 pm

Hi Lauren,
I think most of the pelleted foods are going to run about the same cost. If you aren’t using pellets for that reason, please see that your cockatiels have fresh foods available to them to ensure they are getting the nutrients that they need.

Patty  02/24/2011 9:47 pm

Hi Annette,
No. The pits and seeds from most fruits are bad for birds (many contain traces of arsenic), with the exception of pumpkin and squashes, pomegranates and tomatoes. here’s an article on the subject:

Pat Cook  02/28/2011 3:29 am

I have an umbrella Too and he likes to have whatever I am having.. he loves icecream I didn’t think he would eat it because of the cold so I let him stay in my lap while I had some he wanted more but I was afraid of it…also I would like to know about strawberries, black berries, and other fruits of this type I haven’t given them to him because of the seed… I love your

noreen furlong  03/04/2011 12:51 am

my little african grey hen which i inherited, at 23 yrs of age, is a very fussy eater, she loves her seeds,bones x meat,but getting her to eat fruit x veg. is a problem x also pelletts. any suggestions welcome.

Sathish  08/19/2015 10:44 am

My Parrot will eat chicken, egg & fish and watever i eat like other Non veg items, can any body let me know is there any side effects if a parrot consumes non-veg ?