Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 06:07 am
Most parrots are omnivores, meaning they eat plant and animal matter in the wild. While meat is rarely a part of parrots’ natural diet, some birds eat carrion if they encounter any while foraging.
Kea parrots from Australia and Rainbow lorikeets from New Zealand regularly eat meat.
Pet parrots can eat cooked lean red and white meats, like chicken and turkey. Depending on the type and cut of meat, it can provide protein, fatty acids, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
The over-consumption of red meat is connected to weight gain, inflammation, and heart disease. Parrots shouldn’t eat meat daily, but a small quantity once or twice a week can be beneficial.
Do Wild Parrots Eat Meat?
Meat makes up a small percentage of the diet of most parrots. Usually, wild parrots eat fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants, seeds, nuts, and insects.
Over time, parrots have adapted their eating habits to evolve with their ever-changing living environment. Parrots started eating meat occasionally, shifting them to the omnivorous category.
Since parrots aren’t hunters, they don’t search for animals to kill for meat. They may consume the flesh of dead animals (carrion) and fish they encounter while foraging.
Although wild parrots may sometimes eat carrion, pet birds are more likely to eat meat. Wild birds can access diverse foods, while owners share foods they eat, like meat, with pet parrots.
What Happens If You Feed A parrot Meat?
Meat-eaters have a negative perception, while herbivores are perceived more positively. This is most likely because they’re perceived as a threat to humans. However, this isn’t the case with parrots.
A parrot that eats meat won’t suddenly experience a change of character. Unlike birds of prey like hawks, vultures, and eagles, which are apex predators, parrots are vulnerable prey animals.
If a parrot has always had a gentle and loving nature, meat consumption won’t change its personality. If it gets sick from eating meat, it won’t act the same until it’s well again. It’s the same with humans.
Parrot Species That Eat Meat
Kea parrots are native to New Zealand and are omnivorous birds, eating more meat than others.
According to Nature, the natural diet of keas was thought to be vegetation, and it’s only been in the last 30 years keas have become meat eaters, but that’s not the case.
It has been discovered that kea parrots have attacked and eaten sheep for over a century. To this day, keas continue to eat many types of meat.
The diet of kea parrots comprises the following foods:
- Beetle larvae.
- Other birds, like shearwater chicks.
- Animals like sheep and rabbits.
Kea parrots eat various foods but consume more meat than most birds.
African Grey Parrots
African grey parrots consume primarily plant matter but are omnivores, so eating meat occasionally is normal. Usually, captive African grey parrots eat more meat than their wild counterparts.
African greys can be fed chicken, fish, and other types of meat in moderation.
However, the excess consumption of meat has its drawbacks. According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, some African greys fed a lot of meat have developed Iron Storage Disease (ISD).
Iron Storage Disease occurs when excessive iron is consumed through their diets. Meat, especially red meats like beef and lamb, contains high amounts of iron and should be offered infrequently.
The best meat for Quaker parrots is chicken, turkey, duck, and fish.
The main diet of Quakers consists of fruits, vegetables, and seeds, but supplementing an occasional meal with some lean meat can be beneficial to their growth and development.
Rainbow lorikeets are an Australian parrot species that usually consume fruits, seeds, nectar, and pollen. However, recently it’s been discovered that lorikeets like eating meat.
According to the Suburban Wildlife Research Group, Rainbow lorikeets were considered herbivores but have been observed eating meat from bird feeders in backyards across Australia.
This encouraged researchers to discover if this was a localized event or if lorikeets in other areas also ate meat. It was found that meat-eating lorikeets are surprisingly common.
Wild Alexandrine parakeets enjoy a diet of grains, leafy greens, berries, insects, tree nuts, flowers, flower buds, and seeds. As Alexandrines are omnivorous birds, some lean meat can be added to their diet.
What Kind of Meat Do Parrots Eat?
Although it’s okay for parrots to eat meat occasionally, certain varieties are much healthier than others.
Here are the types of meat and poultry that are healthy for parrots:
Chicken is lean, meaning it doesn’t contain much fat. It’s also a good source of protein and vitamin D. The chicken should be skinless and cooked without seasonings (like salt) or oils.
Turkey offers similar nutritional benefits to parrots as chicken. So, it’s a viable alternative to chicken, especially if a parrot favors the flavor and texture of turkey over chicken.
Duck has half the fat content of meats like beef and pork. So, duck is lean and a good protein source.
Fish contains healthy fats that aren’t usually found in plant-based diets. Only feed parrots types of fish with low amounts of mercury, like anchovies, sardines, trout, and mackerel.
Most scientists consider red meats bad for parrots due to their high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol content, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
However, red meat is a good protein source, promoting muscle and feather growth and repair. Also, red meat is high in vitamin B12 and iron, which are needed for energy and red blood cell production.
Red meats contain all 9 essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), so they’re a complete protein.
Also, red meat contains natural antioxidants like zinc and selenium. However, pet parrots can get these vital nutrients from other food sources like fish, eggs, nuts, and poultry.
It’s okay to feed a parrot a small piece of beef occasionally. However, if you want to include meat in a parrot’s diet, offer poultry and fish options.
Pork is on the list of unhealthy meats due to its high saturated fat content. If you feed pork to a parrot, ensure the pieces are small and only offer it on rare occasions.
While ham is the same as pork, it has already been processed and cooked, so it’s ready to eat.
This makes it a quick and easy meat choice for parrots, but ham and other cold cuts (lunch meats) are high in saturated fats, salt, and preservatives.
Lamb falls into the red meat category, which means it’s high in saturated fat, so it isn’t recommended to give lamb to parrots. If you do offer some lamb to a parrot, do so sparingly.
Processed meats such as sausage, bacon, meatballs, burgers, and chicken dippers shouldn’t be fed to parrots. They contain a lot of fat, seasonings, and other additives.
Raw vs. Cooked Meat for Parrots
Only cooked meat and poultry should be fed to parrots to minimize the risk of severe illness.
While some wild birds (like Kea parrots) regularly eat raw meat, captive parrots are more vulnerable to food poisoning from harmful bacteria like Listeria, Campylobacter E. coli, and salmonella.
Raw meat can contain parasites, but cooking kills tapeworms and their eggs (larvae).
The bones from cooked meat should be removed because they’re more likely to splinter.
Health Risks of Meat Consumption
While parrots can eat some cooked meat, it can introduce certain health risks. These include:
- Red meats are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Some meats are high in calories, leading to fatty liver disease and weight gain.
- Small and fragmented bones present a choking risk.
- Uncooked meat contains harmful bacteria and parasites.
- Meats like pork and beef are high in iron, which can cause Iron Storage Disease (ISD).
Parrots may refuse more nutritious foods like pellets because they taste comparatively bland.
Do Parrots Eat Bones?
Large parrots like breaking bones open to devour the nutritious bone marrow. Parrots don’t eat bones but may unwittingly swallow a sharp or jagged piece.
Some owners give bones to parrots so they can access the bone marrow. Animal bones (especially when cooked) splinter easily, so a parrot could choke if a fragment gets stuck.
Bone marrow has many nutrients that benefit the health of birds. These include:
- Collagen – Good for robust and healthy skin.
- Protein – Promotes muscle tissue and feather growth and repair.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Keeps the heart healthy and reduces stroke risk.
- Vitamin A – Good for ocular health and boosts reproductive health.
- Iron – The creation of healthy red blood cells needed for carrying oxygenated blood.
- Calcium – Keeps parrots’ bones and eggs strong and healthy.
- Zinc – The creation and replacement of cells and a healthy immune system.
Normally, parrots will open the bones to reach the bone marrow and leave the bone. Once a parrot has consumed the bone marrow, the bone should be immediately discarded.
How Much Meat Can Parrots Eat?
While all parrots need protein, few wild parrots eat carrion (animal carcasses). Most parrots get the protein their muscles, organs, and tissues need from eating insects, legumes, and sprouting seeds.
However, meat is a complete protein source that contains all 20 amino acids. Captive parrots can benefit from eating a small quantity of lean red and white meat 2-3 times a week.