Please help me not starve my parrot

A Blue Front Amazon Parrot
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We’ve got some feedback on our statement “50% of captive birds deaths are from malnutrition” and I’m horrified.


Dollar’s Mum asked some pointed nutritional questions below and I’m always glad to have this discussion.


I think that people who serve their bird’s “chop” are well-intentioned but very misguided. A parrot living on nothing but chop is a malnourished bird.

Birds can’t and were never meant to eat people food.

  • Parrots have a standing heart rate of 200 bpm – humans – 80.
  • Birds can fly – humans, cannot.
  • Humans have a single integumentary system – skin. Parrots have one too but it’s covered in feathers.
  • Humans can run on nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days
  • Parrots cannot (maybe seagulls)



A parrot’s physiological demand for protein necessary to reproduce ALL it’s feathers on a cyclical basis may be higher than you think.

Looking at a captive bird’s diet with a broad stroke we talk about protein, fat and vitamins.

We are going to focus on protein for the moment:

One of the problems in trying to determine a parrots need for protein is that there’s not a lot of research out there.

What we do know is that birds and parrots eating nothing but seed and or table food will be deficient in lysine and methionine.

If you look on the back of any bag of bird food or any pet food for that matter you’ll see something like:

Crude Protein (min) 11.0%, Crude Fat (min.) 0.5%, Crude Fiber (max.) 0.1%, Moisture (max) 4.0%, Ash (max) 8.0%
Guaranteed analysis per 1 c.c. (per dose 0.55 g). Guarantees are minimum unless otherwise stated.

As you and I get older we may find a need to add fiber into our diet for digestive assistance.

With birds and parrots, if there’s too much fiber they can end up with a fecal protein “loss”.

Lorikeets (lories) are nectar feeding birds and they do well with a low fiber diet which is more readily digestible and can sustain protein levels from 3% to 5%.

Budgies and cockatiels require somewhere around 8% to 13% protein which is lower than larger birds like African grey parrots which need about 10% to 16% protein.

Too much protein on the other hand can result in gout. Oddly cockatiels seem to be tolerant of high percentages of proteins like up to 70% as long as there’s been no genetic predisposition to renal disease or gout.

A jump in dietary protein may overwork a birds kidneys producing hyperuricemia and visceral gout.

So if a vet tells you your bird needs more protein you don’t want to ramp it up immediately. You’ll want to take your time over the period of a few weeks.


On to the question replied 

Hi, I read Mitch’s blog stating 50% of captive birds deaths are from malnutrition and I’m horrified.

I know I’m not feeding my bird right and don’t know what to do about it.

He is accustomed to eating people food, and junk people food at that: pizza, pasta, burritos, hamburger helper, cabbage and noodles (mostly the noodles), and he refuses to eat his RoudyBush pellet food.

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He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they would visit their monthly birdie brunch in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.