One day I’ll stop apologizing for stepping on toes. Although I have great respect for my esteemed associate who answered this question previously (on Quora) I have a totally different point of view.
The most influential factor in determining the lifespan of any companion bird in captivity, in and of itself – is daylight and the daily duration of light vs darkness.
50 million years of hard wiring for an animal to believe that he or she can go where they want anytime changes the moment they occupy a bird cage.
Unfortunately many captive birds do die of malnutrition. Many captive bird owners mistakenly believe that human food in the form of something called “chop” can replace commercial bird food that has been researched and produced under exacting conditions for dozens of years. There is also a misconception about seed diets. According to Mark Hagen, the creator of Hagen bird food who has a Masters Degree in agriculture.
“The most dramatic nutrient problem with seed based diets is not their deficiencies, which can be met with supplements, but their excesses of fat which can not be removed prior to feeding. Fat levels in the three most commonly eaten seed kernels are so high that these seeds are referred to as “oilseeds”.
Although safflower is a smaller and less palatable oilseed than sunflower, its fat content is, in fact, higher than sunflower. All birds may not like the bitter taste of safflower and thus tend to eat a larger variety of seeds when eating a diet based on it. Read more here
Withholding seeds from a bird deprives them of the texture they enjoy on their tongue as well as different tastes. We talk about foraging and enrichment which I’ll get to in a moment, but without providing large seeds and nuts to an African grey parrot, or parrots in general, the birds are missing out on doing natural tasks like cracking the shell on a hazelnut.
Now let’s circle back to nutrition. The majority of experts are great proponents of a pelleted diet, Something that supposedly will extend a bird’s life expectancy. Full transparency, I am an internet retailer bird supplies (we sell no livestock just the supplies).
We offer 26 brands of bird food all for captive birds and for 15 years I have been reading labels while entering them into the internet (our website) so I’m familiar with the ingredients of not only the commercial bird foods that we sell but our competitors and the ones we don’t sell, for reasons of Our Own.
Naming Harrisons & Kaytee in the same sentence is like comparing aged Prime beef versus taco meat. That said, Harrison’s contains toasted soybeans. Soy Has been shown to be a plucking trigger and plucking is a common behavior found in African grey parrots.
That is why we sell 26 brands of bird food which still really isn’t enough because we have to satisfy the dietary requirements of close to 700 + species of captive birds many with unique digestive systems.