Wild parrots rely on nuts for sustenance. One such nut is cashews, which are native to Brazil, India, and Southeast Asia. However, for slow-paced captive parrots, you might be concerned about the fat and calorie content. Before you add cashews to your parrot’s diet, it’s vital to understand whether they’re safe.
Cashews are good for parrots, as long as they’re raw and unsalted. They contain several nutrients parrots need, including selenium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin K, and vitamin B-6. Cashew nuts have also been linked to lower levels of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and strokes. However, cashews are high in fat, calories, and sometimes salt.
As with all nuts, you should only feed your parrot cashews a couple of times a week. Any more can cause your parrot to gain weight and become obese.
Can Parrots Eat Cashews?
Cashews are one of the safest nuts for parrots to eat. Out of all parrot-safe nuts, they have the highest levels of copper and zinc, which helps parrots create blood, absorb nutrients, and enjoy good eye health. As mentioned, they also contain high levels of:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B-6
While cashew nuts are oily, they contain healthy oils instead of the greasy additives found on roasted or fried foods. These oils are a product of the cashew’s vitamins and minerals. However, you should still restrict the amount of cashew nuts your parrot eats. Similarly, avoid salted nuts and feed them raw. When giving parrots cashews:
- Soak them in water to reduce the amount of phytic acid.
- Feed them to your parrot whole so that it can break the cashews open.
- Hang them on your parrot’s cage with a piece of string, allowing the bird to pick at them when it’s hungry.
Do Parrots Like Cashews?
Parrots from sub-tropical regions eat cashews more often than other birds. Parrot species that love cashews include:
- African greys
However, if you feed your parrot cashew nuts too often, it will get a taste for them and refuse to eat anything else. While they’re an excellent energy source for wild parrots that exercise and fly regularly, they don’t have the same health benefits for slow-moving parrots who don’t move as often.
Cashew Nuts Nutritional Information
As per the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, a standard portion (28.35 g) of unsalted cashew nuts contain the following nutrients:
|Nutritional Content||Amount Per Serving|
|Vitamin C||0.142 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.118 mg|
|Vitamin K||9.67 µg|
|Fatty acids||2.21 g|
Are Cashews Safe for Parrots?
If you’re wondering whether cashews are okay for parrots to eat, the good news is that they’re completely safe. However, they can be harmful in high quantities, as mentioned. Cashew nuts contain the following nutrients:
Cashew nuts are an excellent source of copper, which parrots need for heme (iron compound) synthesis. Copper also helps create healthy blood vessels, bones, and connective tissue. Parrots store copper in their bone. While they don’t need too much to be healthy, a little goes a long way.
Even though parrots only need a small amount of zinc in their bodies, it helps form insulin. It also allows vitamin A to function properly as soon as the parrot consumes it. Too much zinc isn’t a good thing, though, which is another reason why parrots should only have a few nuts a week.
According to Environmental Contaminants in Biota, selenium’s a chemical compound that parrots need in small amounts to stay healthy. While it’s not an antioxidant, it acts in the same way, protecting against several health conditions and diseases. Selenium is also essential in boosting the immune system and helps with the parrots:
- Reproductive success
- Production of thyroid hormones
Parrots need iron because they use it to create hemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body. Cashew nuts help minimize the risk of anemia, preventing parrots from feeling weak, tired, and lethargic.
However, iron’s a tricky mineral for parrots as too much causes iron storage disease. This is a condition that causes excess iron to accumulate around the vital organs. Sadly, iron storage disease can be fatal.
- Bones grow
- Temperature to regulate
- Prevent seizures
Magnesium deficiencies are partly responsible for calcium deficiencies, so you must feed your parrot foods rich in the mineral to keep it healthy. Without it, their bones can become brittle and soft, increasing the risk of rickets.
Manganese helps produce normal bones and eggshells, making them healthy and strong. Breeding birds need more of it than others, as it allows them to grow and reproduce. Without it, parrots are at risk of:
- Perosis, commonly characterized by deformities
- Poor muscle coordination
- Tarsometatarsal joint dislocation
Manganese is also found in bamboo, tea, seeds, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and other nuts.
Phosphorus can be found in a parrot’s bones, tissue, and teeth. It maintains healthy eggshells and improves bone formation. It also:
- Filters waste
- Repairs tissue and cells
- Metabolizes fats and carbohydrates
- Allows the body to use lipids and proteins
Parrots don’t need too much phosphorus, but providing a small handful of cashew nuts every now and then keeps their levels adequately topped up.
Vitamin K is one of the most vital vitamins for parrots. It keeps the bones healthy and strong, preventing:
- Weak, brittle bones
- Breaks and fractures
Vitamin K is crucial because they spend most of their days perching, so weak bones make this very difficult for parrots. Not getting enough vitamin K is also indirectly responsible for anemia. The vitamin stems the flow of blood, preventing heavy bleeding.
Cashew nuts contain trace amounts of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine). While it’s not a huge amount, it can help parrots remain healthy. It turns carbs and proteins into energy, assisting birds in functioning properly throughout the day.
Vitamin B-6 can also prevent mood swings and promote good development. Because the vitamin’s water-soluble, parrots must eat foods containing it every day to get it in their bodies.
A 28.35 g serving of cashew nuts contains 5.16 g of protein. Parrots are omnivores, so they need protein to stay healthy. Protein is the body’s building block – it forms muscles and feathers. They need around 10-20% of their diet to be made of protein for optimum health, so cashews can help boost their levels.
Lowers Cardiovascular Diseases
Cashew nuts have been linked to lowering the likelihood of cardiovascular disorders, including strokes and heart disease. BMC Medicine explains how cashews can reduce cancer and improve survival rates amongst parrots with:
- Respiratory diseases
Are Cashews Dangerous for Parrots?
Cashews aren’t dangerous or toxic, but they can cause problems in high quantities. These problems include:
Phytic acid is a natural substance found in plant seeds, including cashew nuts. Unfortunately, it binds to several essential minerals and hinders the absorption of:
Unfortunately, once this binding process occurs, the body doesn’t have access to the nutrients, contributing to mineral deficiencies. This makes it difficult for the parrot to utilize the minerals effectively. The more cashew nuts your parrot eats, the more minerals are blocked from the parrot’s body.
As discussed, cashew nuts are high in fat, containing as much as 12.4 g per 28.35 g. Conservation Physiology explains how diet plays a significant part in obesity. Obesity can negatively affect your parrot’s life, causing joint pain and fatty liver disease. It also increases the possibility of your parrot developing weight-related diseases.
Excess weight also puts too much pressure on the legs and feet, making injuries much more likely.
Salted cashew nuts are a problem because they contain too much sodium. Parrots can’t excrete sodium in the same way as we can, negatively affecting the body. Excess sodium causes:
Polydipsia is when a parrot develops an excessive, abnormal thirst after consuming too much salt. Parrots that regularly eat salty foods are most susceptible. You’ll notice that after eating them, your parrot drinks more water to flush out the sodium. This is because the body needs to thin the blood to dilute the salt.
If your parrot has polydipsia, it likely has polyuria. This is where too much salt appears in the parrot’s urine once it gets flushed out from the body. It’s normal for your parrot to have some salt in its urine, but too much will eventually cause your parrot to stop going to the toilet often as it should, affecting its kidney function.
Nuts can be infected with aspergillus, which is a toxin derived from certain molds and fungi. This can cause parrots to develop aspergillosis, an infection characterized by:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
Raw cashew nuts are prone to harboring the toxin. Our immune systems can handle the mold and its effects on our bodies, but smaller parrots struggle. That means high quantities of cashew nuts are dangerous, as a lethal amount of mold can grow inside them. If your parrot eats moldy nuts, it will go into a rapid decline. To check whether your cashew nuts are moldy and remove it:
- Cut them in half before feeding them to your parrot
- Wash them under hot water with soap to remove any mold
- Buy cashews from reputable sources, such as grocery stores, and make sure they’re FDA-approved and safe.
Can Parrots Eat Raw Cashews?
Raw cashews are nutritionally the best kind for parrots to eat, as long as they haven’t been coated in additives, oils, and other harmful ingredients. As we’ve mentioned, raw cashews carry the risk of mold. That’s why you should check inside each nut before feeding them to your parrot or soak them in water first. Otherwise, raw cashews make a healthy and delicious snack a few times a week.
Can Parrots Eat Salted Cashews?
Parrots shouldn’t eat salted cashew nuts. As explained, too much sodium is bad for parrots. It also makes them excessively thirsty. Parrots seem to be more sensitive to salt than we are, so don’t make the mistake of sharing your salted cashews with your bird.
Can Parrots Eat Chocolate Cashews?
Cashews and chocolate are a tasty combination, but they’re not suitable for birds. Chocolate is one of the most toxic foods for parrots, as it contains a compound called theobromine. It stimulates the nervous system and heart, making it dangerous for parrots. Chocolate is also harmful because it has:
All of these things are unhealthy for birds to eat.
What Are Safe Nuts for Parrots?
Alongside raw cashews, the following nuts are safe for parrots as an occasional treat, as long as they’re plain and without any additives or preservatives:
- Sweet almonds
- Macadamia nuts
- Monkey nuts
- Peanuts (roasted, not raw)
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
Most parrots love nuts, but feeding them 2-3 nuts 3-4 times a week is ample. Cashews contain a wealth of health benefits, but they can have adverse effects in high quantities, potentially making your parrot fat.