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Dear Parrots magazine,

Correct Diet?

Mention ‘correct diet’ in a parrot magazine and there are bound to be a host of conflicting opinions as to what our birds ought and ought not to be eating. Milk is a controversial food, I know - even for humans in these modern times. Time and again I have read or heard that parrots cannot properly digest milk but, on the other hand, I have read books and articles that state they can. (e.g. Wolfgang de Grahl’s “The Grey Parrot” and the avian vet Geo A. Smith in the May 1997 and March 1998 Parrot Society magazines.)

So which verdict is correct? All I can state categorically is that my 15 year old African Grey hen, Moshi, not only loves milk and milk products such as yoghurt, but can digest both with the greatest of ease and not a trace of diarrhoea, providing that these are offered in small amounts.

While we have learnt more about the variations in the dietary requirements and preferences among different parrot species, feeding them adequately in captivity is still a challenge. In the final analysis we cannot force our birds to eat what they do not like. Some would rather starve than do so.

Personally, I have nothing but praise for Pauline James’ December 2009 article (issue 143) on breeding budgerigars for pleasure. Her itemised diet for her birds were of special interest for me because many foods on her list were also acceptable to Moshi.

African Greys have a reputation for being fussy eaters, and this is certainly true in Moshi’s case. She will not eat greens or vegetables in general, barring the occasional boiled potato, and she does not have much time for fruit either. Aside from the occasional Granny Smith apple, grape or banana, she prefers the fattier foods - sunflower seeds/hemp/maize in her quality seed mix, along with freshly sprouted sunflower seeds, cereals, oats, almonds and Sun Maid raisins. Freshly scrambled egg is also enjoyed once or twice a week, as is the occasional treat of McVitie’s rich tea biscuit crumbs soaked in a tiny amount of warm milk. As for her all-time favourite food along with the seeds, it’s organic Greek yoghurt, offered on the tip of a small teaspoon.

Moshi has other problems but indigestion is not one of them, in spite of her preferences. As for Pauline James’ article and the stunning budgie photographs accompanying it, their beauty is surely visual proof that her recommended diet for them is neither old fashioned nor incorrect.

Kristin E. Shay, London




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