Many of us start the day with cereal. Although parrots like cereals’ crunchy texture and sweet taste, many brands contain too much sugar and unhealthy additions to be eaten regularly.
The best cereals for parrots include bran flakes, oatmeal, and muesli, which are high in fiber. Plain (unsweetened) cornflakes and Cheerios, while not beneficial, won’t harm pet birds.
Most other breakfast cereals contain excessive sugar, especially “frosted” varieties.
Avoid cereal that contains chocolate in the recipe because it contains theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to parrots. The darker the chocolate, the more harmful the consequences.
Never add milk to cereal because parrots don’t produce the enzyme lactase, so they can’t digest lactose. Milk consumption leads to gastrointestinal distress, including gas, upset stomachs, and diarrhea.
Can Parrots Eat Breakfast Cereal?
Parrots love crunchy textures and sweet tastes, meaning cereal will appeal to their palette. However, no cereal is healthy for pet parrots, so it must only be offered as an occasional treat.
Some cereals are marketed based on taste and aesthetics, especially varieties for kids, while others promise health benefits. Not all cereals are equal, and not all are suitable for birds.
Some health boosts can be gained if you buy organic rice, wheat, or grain-based cereals.
What Cereals Can Birds Eat?
There are many different varieties of cereals. Deciding which cereal to buy isn’t easy, especially if you intend to share it with a pet parrot. Not all human foods are safe for parrots.
Let’s review the best-selling cereals and discuss their suitability for birds:
An oatmeal brand made from crushed, rolled, steel-cut oats is recommended. Purchase pure, organic oats rather than those with added flavorings intended to appeal to human taste buds.
Oatmeal is a good source of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that can aid frequent bowel movements. It’s also high in carbs, sustaining a parrot’s fast-paced metabolism.
Oats contain avenanthramides (antioxidants), which can reduce blood sugar levels. This raises nitric oxide production levels, widening blood vessels for superior blood flow.
Avoid added sugar brands (including sugar-free oats, which use artificial sweeteners as a substitute) or flavors. Instant oats are also less healthy than the traditional varieties.
Muesli is made from oats and grains mixed with seeds and nuts – all part of a parrot’s diet. It’s a good dietary protein source for muscle development and healthy feathers.
Due to the inclusion of nutritious nuts and seeds, muesli contains brain and heart-healthy fats (polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3).
If a parrot tends to overeat, consuming muesli can lead to a feeling of fullness. This is invaluable if you want a parrot to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight for health reasons.
Ensure it contains no added sugars or preservatives because it sells pure, organic muesli.
Bran flakes are made from the external layer of a wheat kernel (the bran).
Bran flakes are another comparatively healthy choice for parrots. This cereal is high in fiber, ensuring the bird has a well-functioning digestive tract, improved heart health, and lower cholesterol.
Raisin bran is better than bran flakes. Raisins make a good snack for parrots and contain more nutrients than cereal. Raisins add an interesting texture when snacking, which will appeal to parrots.
Corn flakes can be a generic term, but they’re toasted corn in their purest form.
A brand of cornflakes with no additives or preservatives is safe for a parrot in small servings. Sugar still makes its way into the recipe, so feed it to pet birds in moderation.
Special K and cornflakes look similar, but it’s made from puffed rice rather than corn.
It’s higher in nutrients than cornflakes (iron is the only mineral found in greater abundance in cornflakes). However, it’s unlikely that a parrot will eat enough Special K to benefit.
Special K comes in numerous forms, often topped with berries, fruits, honey, or dark chocolate.
Chocolate should always be avoided as it contains theobromine, which the New Zealand Veterinary Journal confirms can be life-threatening for parrots.
The fruits found in Special K are dehydrated, so they’re more calorie-dense and less hydrating.
Frosted Flakes (Frosties)
Many people find traditional cornflakes dull, so they opt for Kellogg’s frosted flakes.
This cereal comprises cornflakes coated in a thick layer of sugar. This may make frosted flakes tasty and appealing to humans and parrots alike, but they can cause weight gain and diabetes.
Crunchy Nut Cornflakes or Honey Bunches of Oats
Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Honey Bunches of Oats are high in sugar, sucralose, and other additives. While a parrot will enjoy the sweet taste and crunchy texture, they’re bad for birds.
Cheerios are a cornerstone of pantries, with Nestlé’s flagship cereal the best-selling choice.
Always buy standard Cheerios, not the flavored varieties, as these are unsuitable for parrots. Regular Cheerios still contain sugar but not as much as some alternatives.
Honey Nut Cheerios
Honey Nut Cheerios are made with the human palate in mind. This variety of cereal can appeal to tastebuds, but the sugar content makes it fattening for parrots.
Froot Loops and Apple Jacks
If you have children, you likely have these variations of Cheerios at home. Froot Loops and Apple Jacks are brightly colored, offering a different, sweeter taste sensation.
These additives are harmful to parrots. Even if a bird is unaffected by the additives, the exceptionally high sugar content is bad for a bird’s health.
Oreo cookies contain less cocoa than you may expect but are still chocolate-based. This means that Cheerio-shaped Oreo O’s should never be fed to a parrot due to the risk of theobromine toxicity.
Parrots will love the light and crunchy texture of Rice Krispies, but this cereal is just a crunchy treat.
It contains no vitamins that’ll benefit a parrot in any way. Rice Krispies have few calories, but those present are nutrient-neutral at best.
Weetabix is a popular breakfast cereal in Europe, especially the UK. Made of large sheets of wholegrain wheat, it’s low in sugar and salt and can be fed to parrots.
The manufacturer also produces Oatibix, made from equally parrot-safe rolled oats. The only snag with Weetabix is that it’s not widely available in the US.
As an alternative to Weetabix, you may consider Frosted Mini-Wheats. This is essentially Weetabix broken into smaller chunks, coated with a sweet frosting.
As with Frosted Flakes, the sugar content in the frosting more than cancels out the high fiber in the wheat, making this cereal unsuitable for parrots.
Arguably the world’s most popular novelty cereal, Lucky Charms, is popular due to the 7 different shapes of marshmallow treats alongside oat cereal.
The oats used in the cereal component of Lucky Charms are more processed than standard rolled oats, and the marshmallows are full of sugar and artificial colorings.
This cereal offers nothing of merit to parrots and should be avoided.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Cinnamon Toast Crunch brings the great taste of cinnamon toast to a solid, brittle cereal.
This lack of organic qualities is a blessing and curse. A parrot will gravitate to the scent of cinnamon in this cereal and love the crunchy texture, but the sugar content is a problem.
Made from oats and corn, this sounds like the perfect cereal to offer a parrot. Unfortunately, Cap’n Crunch contains a lot of sugar and corn syrup. Parrots will love the taste, but it’s unsuitable.
How to Feed Cereal to Parrots
When offering cereal to a parrot, don’t place a bowl in its cage and allow the bird to free-feed.
This will be too much food, especially given the sugar content of many conventional breakfast cereals. Also, a parrot will likely knock most of the cereal on the floor.
Measure out a tablespoon of cereal and hand-feed each morsel to the parrot. This can be a bonding exercise, or it could be used as a training reward if you want the bird to learn new tricks.
Can Birds Eat Cereal with Sugar?
Many supermarket breakfast cereals contain added sugars. While not good for a parrot, it won’t cause outright harm unless overeaten. Never apply additional sugar (or sweeteners) to cereal.
As per The Auk, many birds are sucrose intolerant and can’t digest sugar.
Parrots have a higher tolerance for naturally-occurring sugars. Over time, a parrot will gain weight if it eats too much sugar, which increases the risk of diabetes and other life-inhibiting diseases.
Can Birds Eat Cereal with Milk?
Milk contains lactose, a sugar commonly found in cow’s milk.
Most (not all) humans can consume lactose because the body creates lactase, an enzyme that breaks this sugar down for ease of digestion. Unfortunately, birds lack this enzyme and can’t digest lactose.
This means a parrot should never be offered cereal doused in milk. You could apply a lactose-free product like oat or soy milk, but birds prefer dry food anyway.
If a parrot consumes milk, it’ll likely experience gastric distress like diarrhea. Milk isn’t toxic to birds, but the inability to digest it means a bird will feel distressed and uncomfortable.
How Often Can Parrots Eat Cereal?
If you want to offer cereal to a parrot, do so as a special treat.
One small serving of cereal twice a week will suffice. Don’t allow a parrot to develop a taste for cereal, expecting to be fed this food over something more suitable to its dietary needs.
Breakfast cereal isn’t a core component of a wild parrot’s diet and should never be a foundation of a captive bird’s meal plans. Occasionally offering bran flakes, muesli, or oatmeal as a treat is fine.