Parrots are busy birds who enjoy a challenging project. Breaking into the solid shell of a nut to get to the "prize" inside is a favorite pastime. You might wonder, though, if it's OK to feed specific kinds of nuts to your bird or if they're toxic to him.
In general, nuts—specifically the common types that are readily available—are safe to feed your parrot and are a good source of protein. This includes almonds, peanuts, walnuts and hazelnuts, all of which are usually available year round, but are especially abundant during the holiday season.
Things to Keep in Mind
Although nuts are considered safe to feed to your bird, veterinarian Crystal Shropshire cautions that, just as with any food or drink, moderation is essential, especially considering your feathered friend's size. Dr. Shropshire points out that one grape to a cockatiel is equal to something like 365 grapes to a human. That puts the issue of how many nuts are OK to feed your bird into perspective. Just a few each week, depending on how big your parrot is, should be plenty. Dr. Shropshire also recommends feeding unsalted varieties of nuts. A minimal amount of salt is OK, but opting for the salt-free nuts will assure that your bird doesn't get too much. And look for natural nuts, ones that haven't been exposed to insecticides or had their shells treated with chemicals.
Nuts as Part of a Recommended Diet
Each variety of bird has some basic nutritional needs in common, but you'll want to consult your avian vet to find out the specifics for your parrot. Dr. Shropshire tells clients that an average-sized hookbill bird has the same nutritional needs as a five-year-old child. Healthy, natural foods like fruits, vegetables and grains are a good base for your parrot's diet. Adding occasional treats like nuts will keep things interesting and help supplement his nutrition. In Dr. Peter J. Snyder's "Pet Parrot Book" he writes that parrots are omnivorous and enjoy variety in their diets, recommending pellets purchased from a pet supply store as a base for your parrot's diet and supplementing it with fruit, nuts and seeds.
The Seed Issue
Seeds are a beneficial addition to your parrot's diet, but be careful what types of seeds you feed him. Seeds like apple, apricot, peach, avocado and acorn are not recommended, as they can be toxic, especially in large amounts. Yet many seeds are safe for your parrot and are fine to feed him regularly—ones like safflower, pumpkin, sunflower and fennel seeds. Also, seeds that have been sprouted, such as beans, lentils, wheat, rye, and alfalfa, will add to your bird's nutrition, giving him vegetable protein, minerals, vitamins and chlorophyll.
- Crystal Shropshire, DVM; Alameda Pet Hospital; Pocatello, Idaho
- Avian Web: Bird Nutrition
- Avian Web: Foods & Plants That Can Be Toxic for Birds
- The Pet Parrot Book; Dr. Peter J. Snyder
- Avian Web: Optimum Nutrition for Your Macaws
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images