Cart Is Empty


Dear Parrots magazine,

Blue-throated Conures fed pellets

The March 2014 (194) issue of Parrots magazine included an article on the Blue-throated Conure (Pyrrhura cruentata), written by myself.  This article focussed on my own approach to the care of this species.  Having been busy passing my final exams, I have only just been directed to the article in the June 2014 issue where some comments were made by Rosemary Low about my use of a formulated diet (specifically Harrison’s High Potency Fine) for my birds.

Rosemary publicly accused me of “totally misunderstanding the dietary requirements” of the species and I was surprised to see some particularly emotive rhetoric used, with Rosemary proclaiming to be “dismayed” and “saddened” at my husbandry methods.  Whilst Rosemary is no doubt far more experienced than me when it comes to the care of parrots and is someone I hugely respect, I must stand my ground and suggest that these loaded comments are completely uncalled for.  A discussion and a review of the current scientific evidence with regards to psittacine nutrition perhaps is.

There are two broad areas to consider when reviewing the dietary provisions of captive parrots: nutritional content and the ability of birds to express normal foraging behaviour.  Thus the ideal diet is one that satisfies all of the bird’s nutritional needs and also provides a satisfactory level of behavioural enrichment.  Indeed, malnutrition is the most common underlying disease in all pet parrots presented to avian vets.

It is a fact that most owners of parrots are unable to provide an accurate nutritionally balanced diet without feeding a pelleted diet.  Rosemary correctly points out that a vitamin A deficiency is seen in all parrots fed on a predominantly seed based diet, but what about all of the other deficiencies that can occur with a diet?  There are a plethora of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, pigments, amino acids, vitamin precursors, fatty acids etc that are all required in a birds diet to some degree.  To accurately calculate that a bird’s requirement for each of these nutrients is being met with a variable diet is impossible and to achieve a satisfactory level of each nutrient consistently throughout the bird’s life is incredibly difficult.  This is true whether seed is fed or not.

Formulated diets on the other hand have been thoroughly analysed to ensure that they provide a balanced level of essential nutrients.  In a nut shell (pardon the pun!) formulated diets are specifically designed to be nutritionally balanced and birds fed on them ought to be well nourished.

Now the enrichment issue.  It is certainly true that Pyrrhura prefer softer foods.  My birds spend hours picking up pellets, carrying them to the water dish, dunking them in to soften them and then chewing them up.  I actually think that this activity is quite enriching for the birds.  The manufacturers of Harrison’s recommend that supplemental food stuffs only make up 10 per cent of the diet.  The risk is that overdoses of certain nutrients will occur otherwise.  Hypervitaminosis A (too much of it) for example can be a very severe condition.

I provide my birds with daily fruits and vegetables (carrot, broccoli, papaya and a range of others), on a skewer suspended from the roof of the aviary.  The birds must hang upside down to obtain the food before returning to a perch to chew it up.  This is how my birds “forage” and it occupies them for much of the day.  The small amount of eggfood and parakeet mix provided daily adds to the variety of the diet.  This system works well for me and seems to work well for the birds too.  I fully support the inclusion of fresh foods into the diet and have taken several ideas from Rosemary to further complement the formulated diet I provide.

As a final note, Rosemary was quite keen to point out that the birds in question had not yet bred.  I am delighted to announce that 2014 was the first year for me and I am hoping to write an article in the near future documenting my experience with the breeding process for this species.

Tariq Abou-Zahr BVSc MRCVS, email



Our Address

Parrots magazine is published by
Imax Visual Ltd, West Building,
Elm Grove Lane, Steyning BN44 3SA

Telephone +44 (0)1273 464777
© Parrots magazine 2023