Should You Add Fruits and Vegetables to Your Pet Bird's Diet?

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My cockatiel Buzzy hissed and ran away the first time I offered him a piece of carrot. Here's what I learned about how to feed him properly.

Does my bird need fruits and vegetables?

Birds should eat fruits and vegetables for the same reasons humans should—for better nutrition. Real foods are also good for variety and add interest to the diet, which is important for a bird's mental health.

Are seeds enough for a bird?

Fresh foods are especially important for birds on a seed-based diet, because they provide nutrients seeds lack.

Are pellets enough nutrition for a bird?

Birds on pellet-based diets should have some produce as well, since the vitamins and minerals in real food are more easily utilized by the body. There's also some concern that too many pellets may lead to kidney problems in some birds (especially small ones, such as cockatiels), so fruits and veggies help balance things out.

Which fruits and vegetables are safe for birds?

As many bird owners know, not everything that's safe for humans is safe for our feathered friends, and that goes for table foods, as well. Which fruits and vegetables are safe to offer?

Appropriate fruits and vegetables:

  • Romaine lettuce, kale, watercress, spinach, carrots, carrot tops, sweet potato (cooked), broccoli, peas, green beans, pumpkin, zucchini, bell peppers, corn, apples, mango, papaya, pineapple, banana, blueberries, and raspberries are all good. (The list is by no means exhaustive, but I tried to include the most common bird-safe fruits and veggies. If in doubt, check with your avian veterinarian).
  • Celery is okay on occasion, but it's too high in water to offer much as far as nutrition.
  • Also keep in mind that spinach is high in oxylates which can interfere with calcium absorption, therefore shouldn't be served every day.

Which fruits and vegetables are NOT good for a bird:

  • The fruits and veggies to be avoided are: avocado, onion, mushrooms, and tomato leaves (the fruit is okay).
  • Also avoid fruit seeds and pits, as they may contain small amounts of cyanide.
  • Canned vegetables are usually high in sodium and therefore are not the best choice. If you do use canned, be sure to rinse the veggies well before offering them to your bird.
  • Frozen veggies are usually fine for birds, but be sure to read the label and avoid brands with added salt.
  • Mushy or moldy foods should be avoided as well. If you leave fruits and veggies in the cage for your bird, they should be removed after an hour or so because of spoilage.

How do I get my bird to eat fruits and vegetables?

For many bird parents, getting the bird to eat vegetables and fruits is the hard part. Some people are lucky enough to have birds that eat anything put in their bowls, but birds are naturally suspicious of new things, and some may not recognize the fruit and veggies as food. (My cockatiel, Buzzy, hissed and ran away the first time I offered him a piece of carrot.) It may take patience, persistence, and creativity to get your bird to eat veggies, especially if he is older and set in his ways, but it can usually be done.

The following methods were recommended by my avian veterinarian, and I had at some success using them with my own picky bird.

  1. Show him how. Eat bits of the food in front of your bird, so that he knows it's safe to eat. Make a big deal about how great it is, and he might become curious enough to take a bite.
  2. Try hand-feeding. If your bird already eats treats from the palm of your hand, try offtering a piece of vegetable from your hand instead of putting it in a bowl. Your bird may think it's a treat and give it a try. He may spit it out, but getting him to taste it is usually the hardest part. If he likes it, you're all set (at least with that particular vegetable).
  3. Start with the easy stuff. Most birds like the taste of corn, and it gets them used to the texture of fruits and veggies, so that might be a good veggie to start with. Just make sure to use organic corn to minimize your bird's exposure to GMOs and pesticides. Broccoli and peas are also good "starter veggies." Peas are seeds, which most birds love, and many birds enjoy picking apart the broccoli heads.
  4. Cooked or raw. Generally speaking, raw food is best, but if your bird is resistant to raw produce, you can try cooking it. Cooked veggies are better than no veggies! Some foods, such as sweet potatoes, should be cooked before being offered anyway, and others, such as carrots, have more antioxidants after being cooked.
  5. Experiment with size. Try chopping the food into different sizes. Some birds prefer large chunks, others prefer tiny pieces. My Buzzy prefers his veggies and fruit pureed into a mush like babyfood.
  6. Hide the surprise. Sprinkle pieces of a food your bird likes on top of the veggies or fruit. I often have to bribe Buzzy with some millet to get him to eat his veggies, or mix the puree into his cooked grains. If your bird likes bird bread, you can add pureed or finely chopped veggies to the batter before baking. Sweet potatoes are great for this.

It can sometimes take several months for your bird to accept a new food, so don't give up, and continue to offer some form of fruit and/or vegetable almost every day (daily is best). Good luck!

Questions & Answers

Question: How long should I leave the vegetables and fruit out for my pet bird? My budgies will only eat them if they are out for a while so they get used to it.

Answer: Most fresh fruits and vegetables should be removed from the cage within an hour or so. If your birds won't eat them within that time frame, you may want to try freeze-dried veggies and fruits instead, because they can stay in the cage all day. Look for the ones that don't have any added sugar or preservatives. Karen's Naturals is a good brand, and many online bird stores offer their own versions.

Alexa Rain from egypt on December 01, 2017:

Hi, i want to buy a bird since while, this article is very informative and they seem very sweet. great hub.

christopher Staiano on December 01, 2017:

I have two albinos. They from day one were hand trained. A person i knew hurt one and for three months after had no controle of either.

A couple of days back . Witherpen started coming out and near me. Whith just moments ago after 4 months landed on me.

Blizz on June 10, 2013:

Hi, my gcc just ate some strawberries that we didn't know had mold on them? We're not sure if he actually ate them or if he just tore them up. What should we do?

Jennifer Bridges (author) from Michigan on June 10, 2012:

Haha, yeah, some birds love to eat anything!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

clare on June 10, 2012:

our george wud eat anything in sight and if u don't give him he starts saying hello in a very high pitched voice

Jennifer Bridges (author) from Michigan on May 20, 2012:

Thanks so much, kashmir! I appreciate the votes and the comment. :)

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on May 20, 2012:

Hi Jen, this hub is filled with all good information to help any bird owner to give their bird a well rounded diet and with the right fruits and vegetables, awesome job.

Vote up and more !!!

Jennifer Bridges (author) from Michigan on May 19, 2012:

Thanks for reading and for the comment!

Bird bread is just a bread treat that can be made for pet birds. You can either get mixes from bird food companies (my bird prefers Harrison's brand), or make it from scratch. It was the first non-seed food I was able to get Buzzy to eat!

Being gone a lot can definitely be hard on a pet bird - they're like little kids sometimes. Fortunately for Buzzy, I rarely travel, so he fits into my life well. :)

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on May 19, 2012:

Jen, what is bird bread? You did a nice job with this hub and I like your bird's pics. I have never owned a bird, and it would not be a good thing how I work. I wouldn't want to be gone that long with a bird.

Healthy Snacks For Your Pet Bird

Along with your bird’s base diet and other healthful foods, it’s great to offer nutritious snacks, but most importantly, snacks should be fun to eat, like Popcorn Nutri-Berrie Treats. Ideally, you’ll offer snacks formulated for birds rather than salty, fatty, or sugary treats that might be in your cupboard. Snacks should make up no more than 10% of your bird’s diet during the week. Healthy snacks can also include rice cakes, whole-wheat bread, no-salt added whole-wheat crackers, but in moderation.


An ideal diet for your parrot should be made up of 75-80% high quality bird pellets and 15-20% fruits and vegetables. Seeds and nuts should be strictly limited if not completely eliminated from your bird’s diet altogether. Although in the past seeds were thought to be suitable diets for birds, the nutritional needs of captive birds are different. A diet high in seeds can lead to obesity, strokes, high cholesterol, heart problems (including heart attack), and fatty liver disease in parrots. A variety of fruits and vegetables is ideal, including:

  • Collard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet potato
  • Peppers (bell, cayenne, jalapeno, banana, or cherry)
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Green beans
  • Bean sprouts
  • squash
  • cooked mint, parsley, and coriander leaves

  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Persimmons
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Tangerines
  • Apples
  • Star fruit
  • Passion fruit
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries

Avocados may be toxic, so they should not be fed to your pet bird. Remove the seeds of all fruit before you offer them to your bird.

Making the transition from seed to pellets

Most birds are less than enthusiastic about switching from seeds to a pellet or formulated diet, especially if all they have known is a whole seed diet. With patience and persistence, however, nearly all birds will accept a well-balanced diet. The transition may need to take place over months to a year or more. Although this sounds like a long time, it should be remembered these birds can often live for many decades on a healthy diet. Never try to starve your bird into eating pellets – this could be lead to the death of your bird. We recommend you use a gram scale to monitor your bird’s weight to help ensure that the diet transition is safely accomplished. Your bird should not lose more than 1-2% of its body weight per week.

The first step in transitioning to a new diet is measuring how much your bird currently eats. Using your gram scale, weigh how much your bird eats in a whole day (amount given minus the amount left at the end of 24 hours). Do this for 7 days, then add up all of those weights. Divide by 7 to get the average daily intake for your bird. The average daily intake determines the total amount of seeds and pellets (combined) to feed each day. During the switch you will gradually reduce the amount of seed fed, and make up the average daily intake by adding pellets.

Next, you need to schedule the transition. Ideally, your bird will readily accept the new pellets, and you could make the switch quickly using a schedule such as this one:

  • Week one: feed 75% of the calculated daily intake in seeds, and substitute pellets for the other 25%
  • Week two: feed 50% of the daily intake as seeds and 50% as pellets
  • Week three: feed 25% of the daily intake as seeds and 75% as pellets.
  • Week four: reduce the seed component even more for larger parrots.

For many birds, however, the switch may need to be much more gradual. For the average bird not used to eating pellets, you may need to try the following transition diet:

Offer a dish with pellets first thing in the morning. A couple of hours later, try to offer the old diet with about 10% of the pelleted diet mixed in. Try to mix the pellets with the seed so your bird has to work around the pellets to get to the seed. You may want to grind some of the pellets and sprinkle them over the seed so the bird can get accustomed to the taste of the formulated diet. Once you are sure your bird has at least tried the pellets, start to decrease the seed and increase the pellets in small increments until you get to the desired amount of seeds fed. If your bird is still reluctant to try the pellets, you can offer the seed mix for only an hour or two a couple of times a day, with a dish of the pellets available all the time. Be patient – for really stubborn birds, the gradual shift may take months to a year or longer. If your bird is on the stubborn side, keep a close eye on its weight with the gram scale.

Making the switch may be difficult, discouraging, and time consuming. There may be some wasted pellets until your bird learns to accept them. Remember, your effort is really worth it and you will be rewarded with a healthy bird on a well-balanced and nutritious diet.

An All Seed Diet Is Damaging To Your Bird's Health

Seeds in moderation are very good to offer your parrot. And some parrots need more seeds than others. But to keep a bird on an all-seed diet is ultimately going to sacrifice their health.

Seeds contain fat. This fat is the fuel that provides the energy needed to turn into a plant. Sprouting the seed burns this fat and transforms the seed from one type of fuel into yet another. Once the seed sprouts, the fat is burned off and the life-giving nutrients begin to develop. It has transformed from a seed into a plant and that’s where the nutrition begins to develop and the availability of those nutrients can be accessed through ingestion.

Seeds are also deficient in calcium and vitamins as well as other important minerals and this is something parrots need more of than an all-seed diet can offer. And the available seeds have been genetically altered to produce high quantities, so not only is an all-seed diet not balanced, the quality of these seeds is very low.

Many veterinarians can spot a bird on an all-seed diet just by looking at them. Their feathers are dull, dry, and brittle.

The health of your bird is primarily dependent on their diet. Food is a fuel that supplies their system with what it needs to function properly. And an all-seed diet just doesn’t cut it in the nutrition department.

Many health problems are indeed the direct result of nutritional deficiencies.

How to Feed a Canary

Last Updated: November 27, 2019 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Deanne Pawlisch, CVT, MA. Deanne Pawlisch is a Certified Veterinary Technician, who does corporate training for veterinary practices and has taught at the NAVTA-approved Veterinary Assistant Program at the Harper College in Illinois and in 2011 was elected to the board of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Foundation. Deanne has been a Board Member of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Foundation in San Antonio, Texas since 2011. She holds a BS in Anthropology from Loyola University and an MA in Anthropology from Northern Illinois University.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 91% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 22,910 times.

Canaries are cute little birds that make wonderful pets. To make sure that they live long and healthy lives, it's important to feed them a healthy and proper diet. This diet needs to include the right foods and should be given to the bird in an appropriate way. This will ensure that the bird is getting all the nutrients it needs.

Watch the video: How to Get Your Parrot to Eat HEALTHY Foods. WHAT TO FEED TO PARROTS

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