Parrot nutrition and health

Parrots and, specifically, parrot nutrition and health, were the focus of the research for which Isabella Kalmar recently earned her PhD at the University of Gent (Belgium).
Insufficient nutrition and overweight are, according to Kalmar, the most important causes of clinical problems in parrots. The health and welfare of these birds improves with better nutrition. This also has positive effects on the fertility and life expectancy of parrots in captivity.

The study looked at the use of seed mixtures. These mixtures can segregate and/or be eaten selectively, which can lead to a imbalance in nutrient absorption and result in too high a caloric intake. The smallest particles in the seed mixtures are often the mineral, vitamin and amino acid supplements; these are not digested as well. Pressed pellets are preferable, but the correct particle size for the nutrients in the pellets is important: the size influences the consistency of the excreta (small particles cause the excreta to be loose and thin.)

Feeding parrots fresh fruit (seed eaters) or diluted nectar (nectar eaters) leads to lower caloric intake without affecting the uptake of nutrients. The composition of commercially available parrot feeds is very diverse. There seems to be no consensus on the correct nutrition for parrots. Kalmar makes a case for more research on parrots’ needs.

Parrots are also used as laboratory animals. The dissertation devotes attention to the issue of caution in caring for the animals in lab environments. A previously published article on this topic can be found elsewhere in this newsletter.

The title of the dissertation is, “Features of psittacine birds in captivity: focus on diet selection and digestive characteristics”.