Olives (Olea europaea) are small stone fruits (drupes) related to mangoes and peaches.
Green and black olives have similar nutritional profiles. However, green olives are healthier because they contain more polyphenols, which reduce the effects of oxidative stress on the body.
Parrots are likelier to prefer the flavor of black olives. Green olives haven’t yet ripened, so they taste bitter, while black olives are less tart and fattier, so they’re more appealing.
If a parrot enjoys olives, they can be consumed as an occasional treat. No part of olives, including the stone/seed, is toxic to parrots. Olives are a good source of calcium, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.
Do Parrots Like Olives?
Parrots have just 350-400 tastebuds on the tongue and at the back of the throat. However, these limited tastebuds can detect bitterness, a defense mechanism for avoiding toxic foods in the wild.
Some parrots dislike olives because they associate bitterness with danger. If a parrot dislikes the taste of olives, it’ll make this clear through its body language and vocalizations.
Can You Give Parrots Olives?
Nothing about olives is toxic to birds. However, the small stones may be a choking hazard, and harmful additives, like salt, can be damaging if consumed excessively.
You can safely offer 1-2 olives as a snack or reward once or twice weekly if the parrot enjoys them. However, avoid feeding parrots olives preserved in brine because it’s salty.
A parrot with a calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia) won’t have strong bones, feathers, or eggshells. Also, calcium-deficient birds can experience emotional distress, leading to feather-destructive behavior.
Parrots struggle to digest lactose. They don’t produce lactase, an enzyme needed to break down lactose. Unfortunately, birds can’t eat milk, cheese, or dairy products to get much-needed calcium.
The good news is that 100 grams of olives contain 88 mg of calcium carbonate. Also, the polyphenols found in olives can improve bone mineral density and strength.
100 grams of olives contains 1.6 g of fiber, which birds need for healthy digestive transit. Dietary fiber adds more bulk and water to the stool, preventing constipation.
Fiber also regulates blood sugar levels and keeps parrots full for longer. This works in tandem with oleic acid, which inhibits glucose production, so it’s beneficial if a parrot has diabetes mellitus.
Parrots have voracious appetites, especially for human foods that aren’t bird-healthy. Fiber is essential for preventing weight gain and obesity in pet parrots.
Olives contain antioxidants like hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleanolic acid, quercetin, and oleanolic acid.
Olives are a good source of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E is also essential for healthy skin and eyes.
These antioxidants can also reduce inflammation in the body and prevent joint deterioration. This is important as parrots age because arthritis increases, making perching difficult.
Reduced Food Cravings
Both black and green olives are calorie dense (the calorie density is around 1-1.5), which measures foods’ calories relative to their weight.
It takes the body significantly longer to break down fats than carbohydrates and protein. Fat increases feelings of fullness in birds, resulting in reduced food consumption.
Black olives contain twice as much fat as green olives. Understandably, many owners are concerned about their parrots overeating, gaining weight, and experiencing poor health.
Avian Pathology warns that parrots are susceptible to fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). This happens when fat deposits accumulate in and around the liver, reducing the organ’s performance.
However, olives contain oleanolic acid, which protects against kidney damage and inflammation.
While olives are high in fat (100 grams of olives contain 11 g), many of these fats are monounsaturated, which are good fats. These are much healthier than saturated or trans fats.
Monounsaturated fats increase HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. This reduces inflammation and the incidence of stroke and heart disease in parrots.
Scientific studies have revealed that diets high in monounsaturated fat reduce obesity levels.
The monounsaturated fatty acids in olives may improve memory and focus in parrots. The consumption of olives minimizes the risk of memory-related diseases like dementia.
Extra virgin olive oil contains oleuropein aglycone, which scientific studies show reduces the incidence of amyloid deposits, which characterize Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Many store-bought olives are preserved in brine, increasing sodium chloride levels. This raises the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) in birds, increasing the incidence of stroke.
The more sodium a parrot consumes, the thirstier it’ll become.
This leads to polydipsia, an abnormally high water consumption, which the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association explains is often confused with diabetes in animals.
Polyuria is often mistaken for diarrhea in parrots because their droppings become watery. However, parrots that consume too much salt drink more water to flush the excess sodium from the body.
Excessive salt in a parrot’s diet can also lead to hypernatremia. This musculoskeletal concern leads to muscle twitching and spasms, loss of balance, and seizures.
How To Feed Olives To Parrots
Feed olives by hand as a bonding exercise, and consider cutting them in half to reduce the size if you have a small parrot species, like a budgie, parrotlet, or lovebird.
If the parrot declines the olive, it should be removed from its cage. Uneaten food will become a bacterial hazard if exposed to humidity and warm temperatures for more than 24 hours.
Moldy food dries and releases mycotoxins, causing severe respiratory problems in birds.
You can feed 1-2 olives to parrots once or twice weekly as a special treat or training reward.
Are Olive Pits Toxic to Parrots?
The stone is the seed of an olive, but unlike many stone fruits (drupes), it doesn’t contain cyanide. The pits of olives largely comprise lignin, an organic polymer found in the tissue of most plants.
The seed poses minimal risk, as many birds eat olives (with stone) directly from olive trees. If you’re concerned about the choking risk, remove the stone before offering a parrot an olive.
Is Olive Oil Good for Parrots?
If you want a parrot to enjoy the health benefits of olives, including improved heart health, you can drizzle some cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil over its food.
While this is an option if the parrot dislikes olives, you could dice up some olives and add them to a chop. Although some parrots pick out their favorite foods, many will eat what’s available.
Offer the parrot some green olives initially because they contain more polyphenols. If the parrot refuses green olives, the fatty, less tart flavor of black olives may be more palatable.