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Dear Parrots magazine,

Pine nut warning

The experiences of one parrot owner demonstrate just how important it is to crack open a few nuts when obtaining a new batch of shelled nuts or a new bag of parrot food containing nuts, to examine their condition.

The lady concerned became very alarmed when one of her Scarlet Macaw’s showed signs of fatigue, became unsteady on its feet, its breathing became laboured and it began “rasping for breath.” Then, three African Grey Parrots also became affected, with symptoms lasting up to four hours.

When the problem occurred a few days later she suspected they had ingested some mould and examined their parrot mixture. On cracking open the pine nuts, using a little toffee hammer, a puff of mould was expelled from each one. Some of the pine nuts had small holes in the shell, like small drill holes, presumably made by some insect.

On contacting the overseas supplier - a very well known company - they denied all responsibility. She then had samples from three bags of this parrot food (including one unopened bag (sample 1) and one sample from the bag with the mouldy pine nuts (sample 2) tested at a veterinary diagnostic laboratory.

The subsequent report stated that high levels of moulds and yeasts had been found - with very high levels in sample 2. The overseas supplier then admitted liability and reimbursed the cost of the laboratory tests. The seed was returned to the UK distributor, but was replaced with more seed, stamped with the same batch number, and was therefore rejected.

Had the owner of these four birds not been vigilant and determined to find the source of the problem, the result could easily have been the death of her beloved companions. My advice would be to feed only pine nut kernels deemed fit for human consumption and obtainable from health food stores. They may seem very expensive, but with no shells to discard and no danger from moulds, they are not so expensive after all.

Rosemary Low by email




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