Parrots are omnivores, meaning they eat plant and animal matter. Parrots’ diets once consisted strictly of vegetation, but as environments changed, they made adjustments.
While meat is rarely a part of the parrots’ diet, some eat it as a source of animal protein. Kea parrots from Australia and Rainbow lorikeets from New Zealand eat meat often.
Other parrot species supplement their diets with lean red and white meats, like chicken and turkey.
Do Wild Parrots Eat Meat?
Meat makes up a small percentage of the diet of most wild parrots. Usually, wild parrots eat fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants, seeds, nuts, and insects.
Over time, parrots have adapted their eating habits to evolve with the ever-changing living environment. Parrots have developed slightly carnivorous taste buds, putting them in the omnivorous category.
Since wild parrots aren’t hunters, they don’t search for animals to kill for meat. They may consume the meat of dead animals (carrion) and fish they encounter.
Although wild parrots may eat meat, it’s more likely that captive birds will eat more meat than wild birds because wild parrots have more access to a diverse range of different foods.
Parrot Species That Eat Meat
Many parrot species eat meat, some more so than others. The main diet of parrot species consists of seeds, fruits, and vegetables. However, many parrots have developed a liking for meat.
Here are some of the parrot species that eat meat:
Kea parrots are native to New Zealand and are carnivorous birds.
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:
- Beetle larvae.
- Other birds, like shearwater chicks.
- Animals such as sheep and rabbits.
African Gray Parrots
African gray parrots largely consume plant matter but are omnivores, so eating meat occasionally isn’t unusual. Usually, African gray parrots in captivity eat more meat than wild birds.
African grays can be fed chicken, fish, and other types of meat in moderation.
According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, some African grays given to a carnivorous diet have developed iron storage disease.
Iron storage disease occurs excessive iron is consumed. Meat, especially red meats like beef and lamb, contains high amounts of iron and should be fed to parrots less frequently.
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.
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 enticed researchers to discover if this was a localized event or if lorikeets in other areas also ate meat. It was found that meat-eating among lorikeets is surprisingly common.
What Kind of Meat Do Parrots Eat?
Although it’s okay for parrots to eat meat occasionally, certain varieties are healthier than others.
Here are the types of meat that are healthy for parrots:
Chicken is lean, meaning it doesn’t contain a lot of fat, and it’s also a good source of protein (amino acids) and vitamin D. The chicken should be skinless and cooked without seasonings (like salt) or oils.
Turkey offers many of the same nutritional benefits to parrots as chicken. So, it’s a good alternative to chicken, especially if a parrot favors the flavor 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, such as anchovies, sardines, trout, and mackerel.
Most veterinarians and 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 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 occasionally give a parrot a small piece of beef. However, if you want to include meat in a parrot’s diet, offer poultry and fish options.
Pork is on parrots’ 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 (sodium), 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’re high in fat and contain seasonings, oils, and other additives.
Do Parrots Eat Bones?
Parrots enjoy breaking bones open with their strong beaks to eat the bone marrow.
Parrots can digest bones, but some types of bones splinter easily, so a parrot could choke if a fragment gets stuck in its throat. Bones okay to give to parrots include:
- Chicken (except wing bones).
Bone marrow contains various nutrients, such as:
- Collagen – Good for strong, healthy skin.
- Protein – Promotes muscle tissue and feather growth and repair.
- Fatty acids – Keep the heart healthy.
- 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 can be discarded.