What To Feed


One of the most confusing issues facing beginning Aviculturists is the question of what diet to feed. To listen to some you would think that anything but a manufactured extruded diet is a death sentence, while others tout "whole foods" (whatever those are), "natural diet," cooked foods, sprouts, and a seemingly endless list of herbs and additives. Pretty soon you begin to feel like whatever you do, your birds are doomed to suffer and die at an early age. Nor does it help talking to other breeders. One will feed an all seed mix, while another feeds only cooked foods, a third feeds pellets and others feed every combination you can think of. Before long your head spins, your stomach turns and as one person put it to me at a recent club meeting (Central California Avian Society, Fresno, CA) "I almost wish I had never got a bird, no matter what, I am afraid I am killing it."

So, how to work through all that conflicting information and arrive at a diet that will assure a long, healthy, happy and productive life? The answer is not easy but it is simple. Get Educated! Learn as much as you can about the nutritional requirement of the individual species being kept and about the nutritional values of the foods you want to offer.

Getting educated is far from easy.

This is especially true when it comes to the nutritional needs of most bird species. Research flocks maintained by universities and by diet manufacturers tend to represent a few common species, with Cockatiels dominating most flocks. This is hardly surprising when you consider that there are over 9000 identified species of birds, some 3000 of which are occasionally to commonly kept in captivity, and second to the Budgerigar in captivity is the Cockatiel. Further, much of the information derived from captive research is either published in what for most of us obscure publications, such as "Zoo Biology" and various textbooks, or is cept as proprietary information by the manufacturers. Nor are ornithological studies and publications much help. In addition to being hard to locate, such studies often provide only vague data regarding diet, and no nutritional information. Typical of such studies and data ire statements similar to " ... observed feeding on grass seeds, flowers and other vegetative matter."

Fortunately there are some easily accessible sources of information on the nutritional needs of many species. This publication (AFA Watchbird) has contained many articles by experienced oreeders, keepers, and by such well mown researchers as Tom Roudybush Jn Avian Nutrition. Other periodic pub.ications, especially the newsletters of various specialty clubs and societies, also frequently contain useful informa:ion. Information on specialty clubs can oe found in this....