Wild parrots eat nuts because they’re a good source of energy, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Pet parrots can eat unsalted and dry-roasted nuts without seasonings.
The best nuts for parrots are pine nuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts. You can feed parrots peanuts (monkey nuts) if they’re fresh, human-grade, and roasted.
Some nuts are more likely to harbor mold or trigger allergies. So, avoid feeding parrots unshelled nuts unless you’re certain they’re clean and mold-free.
Only get nuts from reputable sources and inspect any with cracked shells for signs of mold.
Are Nuts Healthy for Parrots?
Nuts are good for parrots and a natural part of their diet in the wild. Parrots are found in habitats across the southern hemisphere, from Central and South America to Australia.
Here, parrots forage for nuts, including the following:
- Brazil nuts.
- Pine nuts.
Since parrots aren’t hunters, they rely on these easy-to-find food supplies. A cache of nuts can provide a flock of parrots with the following:
- Vitamins B and E.
Parrots fly significant distances, so nuts are a valuable energy source.
Also, cracking the outer shells of nuts keeps parrots’ beaks filed down and provides enrichment.
Are Nuts Dangerous for Parrots?
Before you feed a parrot nuts, be aware of the following risks:
Additives and Flavorings
Parrots shouldn’t be fed nuts that are salted, roasted in oil, or have added flavorings. This includes:
- Salt (sodium).
Only give parrots dry-roasted, unsalted, and unseasoned nuts.
High in Fat
Nuts are nutrient-dense, but they’re also high in fat and calories. Parrots aren’t as active in captivity as in the wild, so pet birds can gain weight if they eat too many nuts.
Nuts can contain aspergillus, which is derived from mold. This can impact a parrot’s health by causing it to develop aspergillosis. This is a fungal infection that causes:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Difficulty breathing.
Unfortunately, mold can grow inside nuts. Due to the shell, it can be hard to determine whether a nut is moldy. Before offering nuts to a parrot, do the following:
- Crack open and check the nuts (especially peanuts) before feeding them to parrots.
- Wash the nuts under hot water to remove any invisible traces of mold.
- Get human-grade peanuts from reputable sources, such as grocery stores.
- Check the sell-by date on the packaging.
This will minimize the likelihood of nuts containing aspergillus.
Although rare, allergies can have negative effects on parrots. Allergic reactions include the following:
- Itchy skin.
- Swollen eyes.
- Eye discharge.
- Sneezing or wheezing.
If a parrot exhibits these symptoms, withdraw nuts and see if the situation improves.
What Nuts are Safe for Parrots?
If parrots consume nuts in the wild, it’s safe to assume they’re okay to feed a captive bird. However, some nuts are more suitable (and safer) for parrots than others.
Almonds (Prunus Dulcis)
Native to Mediterranean Europe, almonds aren’t technically nuts but the fruit seeds of the dupe tree. Almonds are available in 2 forms, but parrots should only be fed sweet almonds.
According to ISRN Toxicology, bitter almonds contain glycoside amygdalin, which converts to cyanide in the body. However, bitter almonds are verboten by law in the U.S., so any almonds you purchase from supermarkets and health food stores will be bird-safe.
Despite being high in fat, it’s mostly monounsaturated fat, which is good for the heart because it maintains density-lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) levels.
Like all nuts, almonds are a good source of fiber. This adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass waste, which keeps the digestive tract healthy and minimizes the risk of constipation.
Almonds are a good source of calcium essential for strong feathers, bones, and healthy eggs. If you have an egg-laying female, this reduces the risk of becoming egg-bound (dystocia).
The nutritional breakdown of 1 oz of almonds is as follows:
|Vitamin E||7.27 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.04 mg|
As with all nuts, a small percentage of parrots will develop allergies. Veterinary assistance should be sought if a parrot gets anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction to almonds).
Brazil Nuts (Bertholletia Excelsa)
The Brazil nut is the edible seed of the Brazil nut tree. They’re most commonly grown in South America before being shipped to America and other high-demand parts of the world.
Brazil nuts are widely considered a superfood because they’re high in selenium, a mineral with antioxidant qualities. Brazil nuts are also an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (healthy) fats.
Selenium is crucial for hormone production and preventing thyroid problems, resulting in superior sleep, an upbeat mood, and mental focus.
Selenium is broken down in the liver to create selenoprotein P (a type of protein), removing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress on the body.
According to Nuthealth, org, the nutritional breakdown of 1 oz of Brazil nuts is as follows:
|Vitamin E||1.6 mg|
Brazil nuts should always be purchased unshelled. The sale of shelled Brazil nuts is banned in many countries due to concerns over the carcinogenic properties of the shell.
Cashews (Anacardium Occidentale)
Cashews are grown in Brazil, which is where you’ll find the largest producers.
Cashews contribute to strong and healthy bones because they’re high in copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. Low bone mineral density increases the risk of degenerative joint conditions in parrots.
The high amount of iron and copper also keeps red blood cells and the immune system healthy.
The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cashews can reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing the likelihood of heart attacks and stroke.
More recently, cashew nuts have been used to produce dairy alternatives. As parrots lack the enzyme lactase, they find it hard to digest lactose, so cashew milk is a bird-safe option.
The nutritional breakdown of 1oz of cashews is as follows:
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg|
|Vitamin K||9.7 mcg|
Raw cashews contain a toxic organic compound called urushiol (found in the family of Anacardiaceae trees), so only roasted cashews should be fed to parrots.
The cashews marked as raw that you find in grocery stores will have been steamed, as this process removes urushiol to ensure they’re safe for humans and animals.
Hazelnuts (Corylus Avellana)
Most parrots enjoy crunching through the tough shell of hazelnuts, so combined with the delicious taste, birds like incorporating them into their diet.
Hazelnuts contain phenolic compounds, which are beneficial for reducing blood cholesterol and inflammation. Most of the antioxidants are found in the skin of hazelnuts.
Hazelnut consumption can reduce blood sugar levels. Although uncommon in psittacines, lower blood sugar and insulin levels reduce the risk of getting Diabetes mellitus.
The nutritional breakdown of 1 oz of hazelnuts is as follows:
|Vitamin E||4.26 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.16 mg|
Hazelnuts contain tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid that produces serotonin. This can improve negative pet bird behavior and reduce the risk of depression.
Monkey Nuts and Peanuts (Arachis Hypogaea)
According to the Peanut Institute, peanuts aren’t technically nuts, but they’re often categorized as such. They’re a legume from the plant family Leguminosae, which is the same family as lentils, beans, and peas.
Consequently, as expected, the nutritional value of monkey nuts differs starkly from nuts.
Peanuts are a good source of B vitamins, especially thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, and folate. They also contain minerals like magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and manganese.
They’re a good source of antioxidants, like phenolic acids and flavonoids. Peanuts are also anti-inflammatory, minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Peanuts are a good energy source for birds engaging in out-of-cage exercise and flight.
The nutritional breakdown of 1 oz of raw, unsalted peanuts is as follows:
|Pantothenic acid||0.5 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg|
Peanuts grow below ground level, making them vulnerable to mold. If you observe moldy or discolored monkey nuts, avoid offering them to pet birds to avoid exposure to Aflatoxin.
If you buy human-grade peanuts, they must meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. However, it’s recommended that you inspect each peanut as a precaution.
Also, store them in a sealed container in a cool, dry location to avoid moisture.
Pine Nuts (Pinus Edulis)
Pine nuts (pignoli) are a flavorful addition to a parrot’s diet. Like many others, pine nuts are the seeds of pine cones and are often grown in Colorado and New Mexico.
Pine nuts can be beneficial if a parrot’s cholesterol levels are too high. They’re a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and pinolenic acid for improved cardiovascular health.
If a parrot’s energy levels have been a little low, the vitamin B5 (a water-soluble vitamin) found in pine nuts helps convert fat and carbohydrates into energy.
If a pet parrot sustains a cut, the vitamin K found in pine nuts aids in blood clotting.
The nutritional breakdown of 1oz of pine nuts is as follows.
|Vitamin E||2.6 mg|
|Vitamin K||15.3 mcg|
The journal Antioxidants stated that pine nuts improve blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive function. If you’re trying to teach a parrot to talk, consider offering pine nuts as a reward.
Pistachios (Pistacia Vera)
Pistachios are grown in the Middle East but can be found in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
The green and purple color gives pistachios their antioxidant properties (lutein and zeaxanthin), reducing the effects of oxidative stress. Only walnuts and pecans contain more antioxidants.
The fiber found in pistachios acts as a prebiotic, as good bacteria break them down. This helps dietary fiber to move fluidly through the digestive tract before being passed as waste.
The nutritional breakdown of 1 oz of pistachios is as follows:
|Vitamin E||0.62 mg|
Lutein, beta-carotene, and tocopherols can help reduce bodily inflammation.
Walnuts (Juglans Regia)
Larger parrots particularly enjoy walnuts, as they like cracking through the tough shell to reach the reward within. Walnuts are high in protein, so they make a nutritious treat.
Walnuts contain polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Walnut oil assists with endothelial function, reducing cholesterol and inflammation markers.
Walnuts contain phytochemicals, which are necessary for brain function and health. Also, omega-3 fatty acids reduce oxidative stress in the brain.
The nutritional breakdown of 1oz of walnuts is as follows:
|Vitamin B6||0.2 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.2 mg|
Avoid offering black walnuts because the shell can contain toxic tannins and mold.
Shelled vs. Unshelled Nuts for Birds
Deciding whether you should shell nuts depends on the parrot’s size.
Larger parrots with powerful beaks may enjoy the challenge of breaking open a nutshell, so the snack doubles up as food and enrichment.
Be mindful of offering shelled nuts to smaller parrots. If it can’t break open a shell, it may grow frustrated and swallow the nut whole. Birds can’t digest nutshells, and the shell may form an intestinal blockage.
To be extra cautious, shell all nuts before offering them to parrots. This will eliminate the prospect of a digestive blockage and reduce the risk of beak damage or choking.
Can Baby Parrots Eat Nuts?
A baby parrot’s beak may not yet be fully formed, so it’ll lack the strength to crack open a shell. Also, a nut as small as a peanut can be a choking hazard.
Baby parrots can eat nuts with appropriate care, but as a precaution, chop the nuts into smaller pieces.
How To Feed Nuts To Parrots
Nuts are best held back as a training reward or treat for your parrots.
Placing a selection of nuts in a food dish may encourage a parrot to become a picky eater, electing to eat nuts and forgoing more health-critical foods.
You can pass nuts through the cage bars, put some in its bowl, or wait for the parrot to fly to you.
How Often Can I Give My Parrot Nuts?
The less frequently parrots are fed nuts, the more interested they’ll be, as it’ll be more of a treat. So, only offer parrots a mixture of nuts 1-2 times per week.
If you want to feed parrots nuts daily, significantly reduce the number. Nuts shouldn’t be the cornerstone of a parrot’s diet, as this will lead to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.
The best nuts for parrots are Brazil nuts, pistachios, cashews, and walnuts. Only feed nuts to parrots in moderation due to their fat content and the risk of digestive discomfort.