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A diet consisting mostly of pelleted food supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and a good seed mix that does not include sunflower seeds, is your parrot’s best choice.
It’s not easy for some birds to make the conversion, but quite often that’s because their owner is too easily swayed by their demands and fear that the bird isn’t going to eat at all if they don’t get their junk food.
When I take in rescues, one of the most common problems is nutrition. The birds are either terribly underweight or obese. Changing their diet is often a matter of life or death and I haven’t lost anyone to date.
I’ll try every type of pellet out there, whether fruity or plain, spicy or a combination – just be sure to get the size & type appropriate for your individual bird.
Offer a pellet from your fingers as a treat (if your bird is used to taking treats from your fingers that is) and go ahead and try one yourself so the bird can see. I’m serious – try it yourself. Your bird shouldn’t be expected to eat anything that you wouldn’t eat yourself.
I’ve mixed pellets in with cereal too, especially a good, healthy, low sugar type. Try crushing them into an all natural yogurt or baby food of mixed vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash or the like. One of our macaws started to love them when she found them in with her blueberries and other cut up fruit.
I’ve found it’s not a good idea to mix the pellets in with the seeds, but be creative otherwise.
One warning is that if you mix the pellets in with anything wet or even make a ‘mush’ out of the pellets using plain water, a natural, low sugar fruit juice – you must remove the dish (must!) after an hour or two, tops. There’s too much chance for bacterial growth in wet foods and this only makes a problem worse.
Sprouting fresh seed for vitamin and enzyme loaded greens for your bird is easy. The rumors about it being dangerous, often referring to fungal contamination or bacteria, are greatly exaggerated and not a concern when sprouting is done right.
Soaking seeds in an even cleaner environment can be effected by adding 1 tablespoon of GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) to a gallon of plain water and then using that water to soak the seeds.
When rinsing the sprouts, use a fresh batch of treated water.
One of the very best and most comprehensive guides I’ve seen on sprouting, including detailed instructions and explanations of the different kinds of seeds and nuts is here
For overall feeding and nutrition for your bird, this is a pretty extensive resource that includes homemade recipes that are for both birds and their owners to share
The other news is that a bird may be a chronic carrier, living with one or multiple symptoms; however, many birds that are infected with this bacteria progress rapidly with a high mortality rate.
Symptoms include (but not all need to be present): Lethargy, going off food/water, discharge from the mouth (often described as salivating or drooling), rapid breathing, fever (feet will be extremely warm), conjunctivitis (red, swollen, itchy eyes) and localized infections.
When the middle ear, cranial bones or meninges are infected, ‘wry neck’ (Torticollis) is seen.
Treatments include antibiotics such as Sulfonamides or in some cases, Penicillin. Be sure you have an experienced vet since Sulfas have toxic levels.
Other bacterial infections that may cause similar symptoms are:
When a bird seems to be falling off perches, showing symptoms of spasms, difficulty or inability to grasp or control their feet, it is frequently the result of hypocalcemia. Of course there are other conditions this could also be, but one of the more frequently seen is hypocalcemia.
If your companion has convinced you to feed him a predominantly seed diet over the years and most especially if he's getting sunflower seeds out of you, the chances are even greater that this is the problem.
Your vet (if not an avian vet) may not be aware that blood calcium levels are deceptive. They will often fall within the normal range (8.0 - 13.0 mg/dl), so an ionized calcium level needs to be done.
Treatment will vary, but usually include calcium supplementation of some form and full spectrum lighting exposure (Vitamin D is necessary to properly use the calcium intake in both our birds and in us).
You can offer your bird a regular spoon of cottage cheese, yogurt or even a Tums (I'd limit it to 1/2 tab every other day) and try to use nothing but all natural products/foods.
Calcium supplementation is helpful, but only if this is the problem to begin with. That's why a hands on vet exam is necessary in each and every case.
Other causations might be liver/kidney problems or tumors - and caught early they are far more successfully treated, as is the hypocalcemia.
--- It's very important to get him off the junk food. I'll be glad to stick with you on this after he gets home, although I'm willing to wager that this event makes you more determined than ever before and he'll be eating healthy (and liking it) no matter what.
Especially since it's not a matter of just eating some fruit. He can have a piece of string cheese, yogurt, many cereals, calcium enriched juices, tons of vegetables and even (cooked) chicken legs with a bit of meat left on them.
----- Video of macaw eating chicken leg -------
Let's go for a lot more than 20 years