"Parrot Nutrition 101" discussed the importance of a variety of foods in providing a balanced and nutritious diet to pet birds. For smaller parrots such as budgies and cockatiels, a good goal is a diet that is 25% seed, 50% pellets, and 25% fresh foods. For larger parrots, aim for about 50-60% pellets and the rest made up of fresh foods and treats and a small amount of seeds.
Unfortunately, not all birds are keen to try new foods, and some are downright stubborn about trying anything new. Here are some tips for offering new foods in a way that might entice your picky pet bird to try some new things.
- Start young if you can - young birds are usually much more willing to try new foods than older birds who may be "set in their ways."
- If a food is totally new to a bird, it may not even recognize it as food. Offer new food in a familiar dish with other foods you know your bird already likes, and he or she may try the new food. Even if your bird only gets a taste of the new food by accident they still might decide they like it.
- Place a couple of treats such as sunflower seeds, raisins, or cheerios in a dish of new food. Your bird will likely get a taste of the new food while extracting the treat (the key here is to only use a couple of the treats and make your bird dig through the new food to get to them).
- Offering new foods first thing in the morning is helpful since this is when many birds naturally forage for food. Offer new foods alone first thing in the morning, and then give them their usual food a couple of hours later.
- Try different forms of new foods - some birds prefer raw vegetables to cooked, while others are the opposite. Some like cooked veggies warm, others prefer them cooled. Some birds might be more willing to taste a puree or even juice made from new vegetables.
- A food that is ignored in a food dish might be eaten if offered in a clip on the side of the cage or in a play area. Try weaving greens through the bars of the cage, and using a clip for slices of vegetable or fruits.
- Offer a chunk of corn on the cob, which many birds like to gnaw on.
- Bright orange or yellow fruits and vegetables often attract attention. Try a mix of brightly colored veggies, in bite-sized pieces and mixed together (cooked or raw).
- Give leafy greens freshly washed and still wet and hung from a clip. The droplets of water may attract your bird's attention.
- Offer foods after you have a bite - watching you eat the food may be all the temptation your parrot needs. Try making a fuss, acting like this is the best food you have ever had, and maybe even feed some to another family member to help convince your parrot that this is something he/she really wants to eat!
- Most birds enjoy eating freshly sprouted seeds, which are an excellent source of nutrition and are often helpful in enticing birds to make the leap from seeds to greens.
- Never starve a bird into trying a new food.
Specific advice on introducing formulated diets (pellets) to your bird can be found in "Switching Birds from Seeds to Pellets."