Fruits and Vegetables in Birds' Diets

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Laurie Hess, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

Can I feed fruits and vegetables to my bird? 

Pet bird owners should feed their birds a variety of vegetables with a small offering of tropical fruit every day - in addition to a base diet of commercially available, nutritionally complete pellets formulated for birds. Fresh vegetables offer a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Fresh produce should comprise no more than 20%-40% of the diet.

Bright yellow, red, and orange vegetables and fruits, including bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, mango, papaya, and cantaloupe, all contain a great deal of vitamin A, which is a critical nutrient in a birds’ diet.

Frozen or thawed fruits and vegetables are acceptable to feed, but fresh fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious. Cooking, however, can deplete some foods of their nutritive value. Canned fruits and vegetables may be packed in large amounts of salt or sugar, so they are not recommended for birds. Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

Some species like toucans, toucanets, lories, and lorikeets require specialized diets. It is imperative to research the proper diet for these birds before owning one.

Cut produce into pieces appropriate to a bird’s size. It is not necessary to cut them up too small, as larger pieces of food that require more chewing will give birds something to do. Eating can be a great source of entertainment and enrichment for a bird. Bird owners should vary the selection of produce they offer to keep their birds interested and to provide a broad base of vitamins and minerals. Wash all produce well and offer organic produce, if possible. Birds are very sensitive to pesticides, chemicals, and other sprays.

Are there any fruits or vegetables that I should avoid? 

Avocados should be avoided because some of its parts have been shown to cause fatal toxicity when fed to pet birds. Onions and garlic contain chemicals that may be harmful to your bird’s blood cells, so these should be avoided as well. Iceberg or head lettuce is not recommended, as it is mostly water and has little nutritional value. Similarly, while many birds enjoy the crunch of celery stalks, their high-water content offers birds few nutrients, so they, too, should be fed sparingly.

Will my bird get diarrhea from eating fruits and vegetables?

Owners are frequently concerned about their birds developing diarrhea if they eat fresh produce. The increased water output that bird owners often notice when feeding their birds fruits and vegetables is actually increased urine output due to the high water content of fruits and vegetables. This increased urine output is called polyuria. While polyuria can be normal when birds first eat more fruits and vegetables, it can also indicate the presence of certain diseases. If your bird isn’t eating increased amounts of produce and develops polyuria, contact your veterinarian.

Are there any tips for feeding fruits and vegetables to my bird?  

  • Always monitor the amount of food your bird eats every day.
  • Offer fresh water every day.
  • Offer a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before feeding them.
  • Clean all food and water dishes daily.
  • Offer variety: it is better to offer small pieces of many different types of food than a big piece of one type of food.
  • Introduce new vegetables and fruits slowly.
  • If your bird is particularly fond of one food, consider feeding less of it to encourage the consumption of other foods. To entice the bird to consume fresh vegetables, cut back on pellets or seeds offered to just a quarter of the food bowl each day.
  • Do not place food on the bottom of the cage, as this is where the bird’s droppings fall.
  • Just because a bird rejects a food once, does not mean they will never eat it. To entice birds to try new foods, offer the same fruit or vegetable every day for 3 to 5 days before giving up on it.

What fruits and vegetables are recommended for my bird?

Some suggested food items include:

apples cabbage mango rapini apricots canteloupe melon raspberry asparagus carrots nectarine rice (brown) bananas carrot tops orange romaine lettuce beans (cooked) cherries (not the pit) papaya spinach beets coconut parsnip sprouted seeds blueberries corn peaches squash bok choy cucumber pear strawberry broccoli dandelion leaves peas sweet potato brussels sprouts endive peppers (red/green and hot) tomato figs pineapple zucchini grapes plum grapefruit pomegranate kale potato kiwi pumpkin

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