Last Updated on: 1st October 2023, 04:30 pm
After a meal, you may have leftover chicken, turkey, pork, or fish bones. Rather than waste them, you want to offer them to a pet parrot for nutrition, enrichment, and to wear down the beak.
Parrot species don’t eat bones and rarely encounter carrion (animal carcasses) when foraging for food. However, kea parrots eat dead animals’ flesh and may devour the bone marrow.
Animal bones are high in calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. Bone marrows are an excellent source of omega-3, calcium, copper, iron, selenium, zinc, and vitamins A, B2, B12, D, E, and K.
Parrots have tough beaks with a strong bite force, causing bones to splinter. The splintered bone fragments can lead to a perforated esophagus, digestive tract blockage, or be a choking hazard.
Cooked bones are likelier to splinter than raw bones, so we shouldn’t offer them our leftovers.
Is It Natural for Parrots To Eat Bones?
According to Science Direct, some psittacines (parrot species) are granivores or frugivore-granivores. This means that their diet comprises the following foods:
However, most parrots are classed as omnivores, which means they eat the above, as well as insects, larvae, and animal matter. This animal matter is a small part of their diet.
What Animal Matter Do Parrots Eat?
Animal matter comprises insects, invertebrates (e.g., butterflies, snails, worms), and larvae. If a parrot finds a carcass (carrion), it may scavenge the flesh from the bone and extract the bone marrow.
So, bone marrow is somewhat natural for omnivorous parrots to eat. However, a parrot would rarely consume bone marrow in its natural environment.
Are Bones And Bone Marrow Healthy for Parrots
Bones contain the following nutrients:
Bone marrow contains the following nutrients:
- Vitamin A.
- Vitamin B2 and B12.
- Vitamin D.
- Vitamin E.
- Vitamin K.
While these vitamins and minerals are essential to avian health, eating bones can be perilous.
Scientific research suggests that the bone marrow’s linoleic acid (omega 6) may harm African grey parrots, especially when consumed in large quantities.
Alpha-linoleic acid (omega 3) is healthy for parrots, but omega 6 in bone marrow likely isn’t.
Bone marrow is high in fat and calories, which can lead to weight gain in captive birds. According to CABI, high-fat diets increase the risk of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) in all species of birds.
Can Parrots Crack Bones?
Most large adult parrots have strong beaks that enable them to crack open shelled nuts. This means most parrots can break open bones to reach the bone marrow.
Smaller parrot species (like lovebirds, parrotlets, and budgies) will likely be unable to breach bones.
Some owners who give bones to their parrots will slice the bone in half so the bone marrow is readily accessible. This is safer if you’re worried about a parrot damaging its beak.
According to The Royal Society, chewing harsh and abrasive materials is a natural behavior that controls beak overgrowth and misalignment. It’s also a good source of enrichment for captive birds.
Are Cooked or Raw Bones Safer?
Giving a parrot cooked bones makes removing the meat and retrieving the bone marrow much easier.
Unfortunately, cooked bones are likelier to splinter than raw bones, becoming a choking hazard. Many owners give their parrots cooked bones (like chicken and turkey), but it can be dangerous.
Different Types of Bones for Parrots
Let’s explore the suitability of chicken, pork, and fish bones for pet birds:
Chicken and turkey bones are given to parrots because they’re small and easy to break open. They’re low in LDL cholesterol, and many parrots like the flavor, so the bone marrow is quickly devoured.
Pork bones are more rigid than poultry bones, so the risk of injury to a parrot’s beak is higher. Also, red meat is fattier, higher in calories, and contains more bad (LDL) cholesterol than white meat.
Excessive LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins) causes an accumulation of plaque in the arteries, increasing the risk of life-threatening conditions like stroke and heart disease.
Some bird species, like ospreys, golden eagles, seagulls, and herons, eat fish and digest their bones.
They have 2 stomachs called the proventriculus and the ventriculus. The proventriculus exposes food to gastric enzymes, while the ventriculus deals with difficult-to-digest items (like animal bones).
The flesh on fish bones is harder for parrots to remove. Cooked or uncooked fish bones are a significant choking hazard, and the sharp, pointy bones may cause internal injury.
Can Parrots Have Bone Broth?
A collagen and gelatin-rich “soup” is derived from simmering meaty joints in water. If you go to a local butcher’s shop, they’ll likely keep bones (you can ask for) for their pet-owning customers.
The following bones can be used to make bone broth for pet parrots:
The skin, tendons, ligaments, marrow, gizzards, and feet/hooves can also be added to the broth. Just simmer the ingredients in a slow cooker for 24 hours before extracting the thick, nutritious liquid.
Make a bone broth if you want a parrot to benefit from all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essentials (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine).
Bone broth can benefit parrots’ digestive health, immune system, and skeleton. It can also detoxify the liver. If a parrot hasn’t drunk for 24+ hours, the high water content can be a lifesaver.
Points To Remember
Most parrots are omnivorous (eat plants and meat), consuming some animal matter (like insects). However, despite being rich in vitamins and minerals, wild parrots don’t eat animal animals’ bones.
The kea parrot is often observed eating carrion or breaking open the bones to access the nutritious bone marrow within. The consumption of bone fragments is an unintended consequence.
Pecking or chewing at a bone can be fun and prevent unwanted beak overgrowth. Giving parrots bones carries risk, but raw bones are less likely to fragment than cooked bones.