recently attended the International Symposium on Pet Bird Nutrition
that was held at the Centre for Animal Nutrition at the Hanover
Veterinary School in Germany.
most startling statistic presented to the symposium came from
respected American avian vet G J Harrison. He pointed out that,
according to official statistics, 99% of one year old American
human children are suffering from some form of malnutrition. As
he said "If we can't feed our children properly what chance do
we have of feeding our birds properly". In his opinion 90% of
the avian cases that he sees in his clinic have poor nutrition
as the basis of their illness. If we fed our birds better they
would live longer, happier lives. And they will breed better as
American, Laurie Hess of the Animal Medical
Centre in New York, presented some research data that helps to
quantify the extent of the bird nutrition problem.
isn't enough space to present all of Laurie's data but she studied
135 pet birds that were eating, either all seed diets, seed and
fruit diets or seed, fruit and pellet diets. Very few were eating
a diet with 75% or more pellets and, since there are few bird
vitamin and mineral supplements on the market in America, those
birds not eating diets with that minimum amount of pellet were
all deficient in one part of their nutritional requirements or
another. In the whole study less than 2% of the birds were being
fed adequately. Laurie Hess used recommended daily nutrient requirements
as determined by Ritchie, Harrison and Harrison in 1994 as her
definition of an adequate diet.
following figures give some indication of the major areas where
these birds were suffering.
had insufficient vitamin A in their diets.
of the birds studied had insufficient vitamin D3 in their
of birds were getting less than the recommended calcium
levels in their diets.
had less than the recommended phosphorus levels in their
worse still 83% had a calcium:phosphorus ratio that was
way out of balance. The only birds with an appropriate calcium:phosphorus
ratio were being fed at least 75% pellets in their diets.
highlights that, without some form of calcium supplementation,
seed and seed and fruit and seed and table scrap type diets cannot
provide the correct balance between these two important minerals.
key feature of the whole symposium was that there was never any
question amongst the delegates as to whether birds' diets should
be supplemented. There was however sometimes quite heated debate
about the method of supplementation. The North American expanded
pellet manufacturers were well represented at the symposium. They
argued that their method of feeding birds was the only
way forward. The scientists from the Hanover Centre for Animal
Nutrition voiced the opinion that seed based diets could be properly
supplemented and so pellets were not the only way
to guarantee good nutrition.
discussed this disagreement with a number of North American vets
it became quite clear that, whilst Europe has a number of manufacturers
producing vitamin and mineral supplements specifically for cage
and aviary birds, this is not the case in North America. However,
in the years since this symposium, European supplements have become
much more easily available in the USA so American bird keepers
now have a viable alternative to pellets.
what are the options for you and your bird?
(non-breeding) bird feeding is very simple. The basic diet, whether
seed, fruit or nectar, should be supplemented with a suitable
vitamin/mineral supplement. The selection of supplement depends
on what other foods the bird is eating. Birds eating fruits and
vegetables should have Daily
Essentials3 sprinkled over the moist foods every day. This
product is highly palatable. If the bird does not eat much moist
food then the daily drinking water should have Daily
Essentials1 added to it. Birds that eat diets composed
mostly of sunflower seed and/or table scraps should have Fussy
Feeder Essentials in their water.
can be a problem in pet birds as they get far too little exercise.
Ensure that they get seed mixtures low in oily seeds and nuts
(most parrot mixes contain far too much sunflower seed). If the
bird is still overweight feed less seed and more protein in the
form of pulses to the diet of parrots. Many birds won't eat pulses
so for them use Feather-Up
on fruit or human foods or Fussy
in their water.
an optional extra Potent Brew
or BioPlus can
be given two or three times a week, preferably by adding them
to fruit. Alternatively they can be added to the drinking water
at the rate of 5mls per litre (1/2 ml per 100mls).
birds should get a calcium supplement once or twice a week. CalciBoost
will provide enough for pet Greys if fed twice a week either in
the drinking water or added to fruits. Remember – if the birds
are eating fruits that is the way to give them their supplements.
Fruit eating birds don't drink enough to supplement via the drinkers!
water should have Saniclens added
at the rate of seven drops per pint unless Potent
Brew or BioPlus
are in the water in which case change the water daily. Please
note that Saniclens
can be mixed with Daily
of soft billed and nectar-eating pets should contact
us for advice on their particular circumstances.
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