Feeding Pet Mynah Birds

By Laurie Hess, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

Knowledge of bird nutrition is constantly evolving, both from heightened awareness of the importance of nutrition and from increased research into birds’ different needs. As with all other animals, birds need a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Different species of birds often require different foods. Mynah birds eat a variety of foods and have relatively short digestive tracts when compared with other parrots. This combination makes for a very quick transit time of food through the gastrointestinal tract, so Mynah birds eat often and produce frequent and often very loose droppings.

Should I be concerned about what my Mynah bird eats?

Too often, bird owners assume they are feeding a proper diet to their pets when, in fact, they are not. Poor nutrition is a common cause of many health problems in birds. Mynah birds have specialized dietary needs. Before you consider having one as pet, you should be familiar with their nutritional requirements so that your Mynah bird can be healthy and thrive.

What do wild Mynah birds eat?

Mynah birds are omnivorous. In the wild, they eat a huge variety of fruits, insects, larva, amphibians, lizards, small snakes, eggs, baby birds, baby rodents, and they scavenge for garbage occasionally. Mynah birds are not seed-eaters in the wild.

What should I feed my Mynah bird?

Mynah birds do not chew/bite their food into pieces like parrots do. For this reason, they should be provided with food in small, easy to swallow, bite sized pieces. Consult your veterinarian with any questions regarding your Mynah bird’s health and nutrition.

Pelleted Diets. Pellets have been developed to meet all your bird's nutritional needs. Pellets are nutritious, easy to feed, and since pellets are dry, bird droppings tend to be less messy when birds eat a pelleted diet.

Mynah birds are very sensitive to the iron levels in their food. They should be offered pellets, typically labeled for soft bills, that are low in iron. Some pellets, while nutritious, may contain too much iron. For Mynah birds, this may contribute to the development of iron storage disease, also called hemochromatosis, a potentially fatal disease which causes birds to develop heart and liver failure. Pellets are safe to feed Mynahs if they contain less than 90-100 mg of iron/kg of diet. Check with your veterinarian for their recommendations regarding appropriate pellet choices for your Mynah bird.

Fruits and Vegetables. A large variety of diced fruits (see table below) should be offered to a Mynah every day. Fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly to remove chemicals. They should be cut into manageable pieces appropriate to the size of the bird. It is not necessary to remove the skin. Fruits and vegetables should be offered in a separate dish from pellets and other foods. If your bird appears to develop a particular fancy for one food item, reduce its volume, or stop feeding it temporarily to promote the consumption of other foods.

Some suggested fresh food items include:

* Foods with higher iron content (or that increase iron absorption)  should be fed sparingly, if at all, to a Mynah bird.

Small amounts of diced vegetables may also be offered, but vegetables should not comprise a large portion of a Mynah bird’s diet. Pale vegetables, with a high water composition (i.e., iceberg or head lettuce and celery), offer very little nutritional value and should not be offered. Avocado is potentially toxic to birds and should never be fed to them. The acid in citrus fruits increases iron absorption, so Mynahs should not be fed citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. If they are fed citrus fruits, it should be done so sparingly. Raisins are also high in iron and should be fed rarely or not all. Remove the seeds in fruits before they are fed to birds, as they may be toxic.

Avoid giving green vegetables that are high in iron, such as peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. All fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly to remove chemicals before they are given. If organic produce is available, it is preferable. Consult your veterinarian if you encounter any problems with the diet or health of your bird.

"Avoid giving green vegetables that are high in iron, such as peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, and broccoli."

Water. Fresh clean water must be available at all times. If the quality of your tap water is poor, consider using bottled water. Clean your bird’s food and water dishes every day with hot, soapy water, and rinse them thoroughly before using them.

What about other foods?

As a rule, nearly any wholesome, nutritious food that you and your family eat can be offered to your bird in very small quantities. Junk food, including chocolate, caffeinated products, alcoholic beverages, and foods high in salt or fat should not be offered.

"Mynah birds may occasionally enjoy pinky mice or insects such as mealworms,
wax worms, crickets, and other insects."

Occasionally, some birds even enjoy a small amount of lean cooked meat, fish, egg white, or yogurt. Dairy products should be consumed only in small amounts, as birds are lactose intolerant. Once in a while, Mynah birds may also enjoy pinky mice or insects such as mealworms, wax worms, crickets and other insects.

Does my Mynah bird need extra vitamins, minerals, or amino acids?

In general, Mynahs eating a base diet of pellets, along with a variety of other foods, do not need supplements. Specific vitamin or mineral supplements may be more important at various times during a bird's life (e.g., calcium supplementation is required when laying eggs). Your veterinarian can help you assess your bird's diet and its particular needs.

Does my bird need gravel or grit?

Controversy exists over birds’ need for gravel. Previously, it was believed that grit was necessary for the mechanical breakdown of food in the gizzard to aid in digestion. This is true for birds that ingest seeds whole, shell and all. However, Mynah birds eat mostly soft foods and do not require grit or gravel for proper digestion.

What pointers should I remember about feeding my Mynah bird?

  • Always monitor the amount of food eaten every day by each bird, especially if multiple birds are housed together.
  • Be careful not to overfeed vegetables and fruits with high iron content.
  • Offer fresh water every day.
  • Offer fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Clean all food and water dishes daily.
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