If you're the owner of a pet bird, it is your responsibility to take his health and dietary needs very seriously. African grey parrots, for example, are bright and friendly birds who have particularly high calcium dietary requirements.
Higher Need for Calcium Compared with Other Parrots
Low blood calcium levels are a pretty common issue for African grey parrots, according to BirdChannel.com. This mineral deficiency, which is also known as "hypocalcemia," can easily be avoided through providing your African grey with plenty of nutritious foods that are full of the calcium his body so desperately needs. Remember, too, that calcium is a requirement for parrot species across the board, not just African greys. African greys are just more susceptible to problematic calcium deficiencies. Some symptoms of hypocalcemia are overall weakness, seizures, tremors, collapsing, frequent fractures, loss of coordination and exhaustion. If you have any reason to think that your African grey has decreased blood calcium levels, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. If possible, opt for a veterinarian who specializes in avian care. Even if your parrot seems healthy, take him to the vet at least once a year for a checkup including bloodwork that will determine if he's getting enough calcium.
Foods That Are Chock-Full of Calcium
Supplementation may prevent hypocalcemia. Consider calcium-packed items such as okra, figs, mustard greens, zucchini, dandelion greens, celery, cabbage, carrots, endives, broccoli, apricots, parsley, kidney beans and pinto beans. Before bringing any food items at all into your African grey's diet, always first speak to your veterinarian in order to get her approval. Remember to never feed calcium in excess, as especially inordinate amounts—more than 2.5 percent of your bird's diet—can trigger kidney disease and potentially fatal consequences. Veterinarian Anneliese Strunk recommends never offering your African grey over 1 percent calcium out of his total nutritional intake for the day, as this can also reduce a bird's capabilities for taking in vital nutrients—think zinc and magnesium.
Apart from standard fruits and veggies, hazelnuts are another strong, quality calcium source, notes the parrot behavioral expert Kashmir K. Csaky. Although other nuts may contain more significant amounts of calcium—think almonds—hazelnuts contain decreased levels of oxalic acid, which is beneficial as these acids are capable of calcium absorption blockage. Beet greens and spinach, like almonds, also have a lot of oxalic acid.
Vitamin D3 helps your parrot's body make use of the calcium in his food, so a proper calcium balance means enough D3 as well. The best way for your grey to get this nutrient is through exposure to natural sunlight or full-spectrum artificial lighting. If you haven't given your lighting setup a lot of thought, now's the time to consult with your vet about making sure your parrot gets enough of the right kind of light to stay healthy.
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