Companion Birds and Human Foods: Natural Foods for Birds

A hand feeding a banana to a parrot

Daniel Osterkamp / Getty Images

Not only do most birds love sharing dinner with their human flock, but the fresh foods we enjoy offer an unsurpassed variety of nutritional benefits and enrichment options, as compared to commercial pellets for birds and seed diets. Birds are thrilled when they can choose from an array of foods during a meal.

Fresh leafy greens, root vegetables, and organic fruits are all good examples of quality whole food items you can feed your birds to build and maintain their good health. However, it's important to remember a few guidelines. 

Check for Toxicity

As is true for many pets, many human foods are good for pet birds, when prepared correctly. You can safely and successfully add fresh foods to your bird's diet. Some common "people foods" are toxic to pet birds, and should never be offered, not even as an infrequent treat.

Warning

Be sure to identify these toxic foods so that you never serve them to your feathered friend:

  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic, onions
  • Castor beans, castor oil
  • Chokecherry, rhubarb
  • Apple seeds, and pits and seeds of most fruits
  • Salty or sugary foods
  • Processed foods

Slow Introductions

Some pet birds, particularly those that have been accustomed to mainly seed and pellet diets, may not be interested in fresh foods right away. When introducing new foods, offer your bird the regular diet as well, to prevent possible weight loss and subsequent illness.

If you find that your bird won't try fresh foods at first, don't be discouraged. Taste some of the food in front of your bird, and be very expressive about how good it is. Once your bird notices how much you enjoy what you're eating, it will only be a matter of time before it'll be ready to try the first bite.

Raw Versus Cooked Food

When feeding fresh fruits and vegetables to a bird, always offer them raw. A bird's digestive system is best suited to eating fresh foods in their raw natural state, just as they are in the wild bird's diet.

Occasionally, some food items are better for your bird when cooked. Cooking makes the nutrients more bioavailable because the vitamins and minerals become more readily absorbed by the body. For instance, slightly cooking a sweet potato makes it more nutritious.

Warning

Bear in mind, some foods must always be cooked before serving. Dry beans, for example, should never be served raw. They must be soaked overnight, drained, rinsed under cold water, and then boiled for about 20 minutes. Once the beans are boiled, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let them simmer until soft. This will ensure that the toxins found in raw beans have been removed. Grains such as quinoa and other ancient grains should be cooked and cooled before serving as well. Cool foods to room temperature before serving to any bird.

If you do choose to feed your bird a cooked dish such as eggs or pasta, for example, make sure to prepare it in cookware that does not have a non-stick coating as these emit chemicals that are also toxic to birds. Stainless steel is the preferred cooking surface, as it won't contaminate the food.

Add Herbs and Seasonings

Although a little crushed pepper is a welcome addition to a side portion of any bird's food, salt can be harmful. While it is usually best to leave the flavor as nature intended, some birds simply love seasonings such as fresh herbs like cilantro and basil. Other birds are wild about a little fresh parsley in their food. And adding a splash of flavor might just result in excitement at dinner, when they may not initially be interested in a bland dish.

By keeping these tips in mind, you should be able to safely incorporate a cornucopia of fresh foods into your bird's diet. Your bird will benefit from the array of nutrients, and sharing meals with your pet can be a great bonding exercise as well.