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Dear Parrots magazine,

Proper nutrition is essential

I really enjoyed Tony Silva’s two part series on avian nutrition. It was heartening to learn that we agree on a number of important points. Such as, there must be many items in a wild parrot’s diet that cannot be observed and documented by researchers in the field, that pellets alone do not make up a complete avian diet, likewise, seeds fed alone must not be the only food source, the value of feeding organic foods and that different parrot species have specific micronutrient nutritional needs.

For decades aviculturists have advised that we feed a variety of foods to our birds. That was where I began when I started raising Owl finches.  I had 37 breeding flights, my birds parent raised all their offspring and I was known for selling bonded pairs of second and third generation parent raised birds. This is an unheard of achievement for this species. Even with this success it seemed I was frequently taking a sick finch to the vet and treating the individual or an entire flight with medications.

When I was ready to start breeding parrots, I bought a pair of Scarlet Chested grasskeets. First the hen died of lymphoma and a few weeks later the male died right in front of me while at the vet during a blood draw.  A lack of vitamin K in his diet, that prevented his blood from clotting, caused his death. When this happened I was devastated with grief, but I knew I could not let his death be meaningless.

When I thought about the ongoing health problems that plagued my tiny birds and the death of my two grasskeets the first thing I reviewed was their diet. Yes, these birds were fed a huge variety of foods, as I had been taught, fresh fruit, raw and steamed vegetable mixes, homemade egg food, dry seeds and a sprouted seed blend. Then it jumped out at me. Their diet was completely lacking in complete protein.

This epiphany turned me away from breeding and towards learning about how to feed all my birds the most balanced and wholesome nutrition possible. With these experiences in mind I share the following thoughts.

Regarding Tony’s suggestion that seeds make up no more than 60 per cent of the diet. Instead of this percentage, what about having the bird’s activity level determine how much seed is fed? I understand that in the wild seeds make up a large portion of a parrot’s diet, and if we look at the activities of wild birds, they ‘fly for a living’. They burn a tremendous amount of calories and have huge energy requirements.  Most captive parrots are cage-bound, coming out only to flap their wings for a few minutes on a playpen. No captive parrot, even those in flight enclosures or those exercising in ‘free flying clubs’ would be able to generate the need for such a high level of calories. And, unused calories turn to fat in the body, creating potential health problems. Feed seeds?  Yes, but perhaps a lesser amount based on activity levels.

My research has also uncovered that parrots have the natural ability to self-medicate and self-nourish. Tony, too, has observed this as he noted that his birds gobble up their sprouts first. The other side of having these abilities is that some birds can also become addicted to certain foods, like seeds, resulting in them refusing to eat anything healthful.

When I look at the essential amino acid patterns of seeds it seems they most closely resemble rice. It doesn’t matter if we combine 20 different types of rice because rice, like seeds, is missing essential amino acids. Even if complementary essential amino acids are fed as sprouted legumes, in my work I’ve seen that, this may not be enough to provide the avian body the vast amount of complete protein needed for maintaining optimal health and keeping the immune system healthy, able to fight off disease pathogens. Complete protein intake is limited by the essential amino acid that is present in the smallest amount.

The above reasons are why I suggest that seeds make up no more than five per cent of a bird’s diet.

Since 2008 I have been feeding all my parrots and finches a sprouting blend formulated to provide complete protein. My birds are much healthier and I have not had to use any medications in years. I was pleased to see that two photos of mine, showing the complete protein sprouting blends I feed, accompanied Tony’s article in the April 2016 issue, page 37.

Tony, thank you for your work.

Leslie Moran



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