Whether picking at our food, cleaning our plates, or hiding unwanted bites, we all have different behaviors that hint at our food preferences. But how do pet birds act toward different foods, and how can we recognize their eating behaviors to offer our feathered family members a nutritious diet they enjoy?
Traditional Foods Pet Birds Love
Pet birds instinctively know what foods are best suited to their nutritional needs, and their beaks have evolved to forage for specific foods successfully. For example, smaller birds such as budgies, cockatiels and canaries have smaller beaks ideally suited to cracking seeds and delicately picking grain from grasses. Larger parrots and macaws have more powerful beaks strong enough to rip through thick fruit husks and crack nutshells.
All pet birds need a varied diet that can provide adequate nutrition, including all the minerals and nutrients birds need to be strong and healthy. To meet this need, birds will instinctively nibble at many different foods, trying textures, tastes and shapes to find what they like and to consume a wider variety of foods. Offering birds pelleted food
that mimics the natural sizes, textures and tastes of their preferred foods can satisfy their nutritional needs while engaging their instinctive foraging behaviors. This is especially true if treats are tucked into foraging toys or offered in such a way that the birds have to work harder for their favorite tidbits.
Pet Birds' Eating Behaviors
How a bird behaves while eating can tell their owners a lot about their dietary preferences. At the same time, it is important to recognize these different behaviors to understand what foods to offer and how to tell if birds' eating behavior is off and may be a sign of concern.
When Birds Are Hungry
Just like babies, birds make fussy noises, including squawks and screeches, when they are hungry. This is similar to the behavior of young wild nestlings, which make noises to get their parents' attention and receive more food. A hungry bird will keep visiting its food bowl, hoping for tidbits to appear. The bird may also start nibbling at different items in the cage, searching for stray morsels or shredding newspaper or chewing on toys more aggressively as it seeks out a satisfying bite. As hunger increases, the bird may become aggressive and demanding, especially guarding its food bowl from other birds in the same cage.
When Birds' Love Their Food
It can be easy to tell what foods a pet bird loves most because these are the bites a bird will seek out first in its bowl. The bird may dig through the dish seeking its favorite foods and may even start to refuse other foods to manipulate its owner to offer more of the morsels it prefers. Unfortunately, this can lead to a pet bird overeating one favorite morsel and lead to nutritional deficiencies and associated health problems. Furthermore, when pet bird owners indulge their feathered friends with too many treats, the birds may develop behavior problems as they become more aggressive to get their way.
When Birds' Don't Like Their Food
When a pet bird doesn't like the food being offered, it may simply refuse to eat. But it may also react aggressively to unwanted foods by tossing them out of the bowl or cage, squawking or otherwise raising a mealtime fuss.
Birds that don't like their food may show more aggression and agitation, especially if they grow hungry because they aren't eating all their food. Mixing less preferred foods with foods they enjoy more can help encourage them to try new foods and may help reduce fussy eating behavior.
When Birds Refuse To Eat
A pet bird may refuse to eat when it is sick, if its bill or mouth is injured or if the bird is affected by a parasite. Stress can also impact pet birds' eating behaviors, such as being moved to a new environment, introducing a new pet or dramatic changes in the family dynamic. Missing one meal or snack isn't necessarily a cause for concern. Try offering more of a bird's favorite foods or mashing food up and warming it slightly to make it more enticing. If the bird refuses to eat, it is critical to seek veterinary help immediately for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
When Birds Overeat
Just like we will often overeat when bored or stressed, so will pet birds. If the bird does not get enough socialization, companionship or stimulation, it may turn to extra treats and nibbles to relieve the boredom. Controlling portion sizes offered to a pet bird is essential to prevent overeating. Instead of giving in to a bird's demands for more food, offer toys, games and training sessions to provide mental enrichment instead of unnecessary calories. Weighing the bird regularly can track any weight gain, so the bird's diet can be adjusted if needed. A healthy diet is part of any pet bird's healthy lifestyle. Understanding pet birds' eating behaviors and identifying and reacting to those behaviors appropriately can help you keep your bird well-fed and happy.
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