Last Updated on January 29, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
Parrots can be fed 1 or 2 slices of orange 2 to 3 times a week, alongside other nutritious fruits. They can also safely eat a small quantity of orange peel and orange pips (seeds).
The citric acid content of oranges can irritate the stomach lining if over-consumed.
Many parrots eat sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis) in the wild, as they’re native to the same tropical and subtropical territories. Parrots enjoy the sweet taste, juiciness, bright color, and texture.
The most popular varieties are Jaffa, Valencia, Care Cara, Clementines, Navel, and Blood Oranges. Parrots also like tangerines and mandarins, as they’re from the same family (Rutaceae) as oranges.
Bitter oranges, also called sour oranges and Seville oranges, are too sharp for a parrot’s palate.
Oranges contain vitamins B9 and C, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. They’re also an excellent source of antioxidants (hesperidin) and carotenoids (beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.)
Oranges are very hydrating and suitable for parrots that are reluctant to drink. If you want to give a parrot orange juice, ensure it’s freshly juiced (not store-bought) and diluted with water.
Why Oranges Are Good for Parrots
Oranges can be part of a parrot’s diet for the following reasons:
Captive parrots have a long lifespan, and age increases the risk of contracting diseases.
Oxidative stress occurs due to free radicals in the body. The most effective way to fight free radicals is by introducing antioxidants to a parrot’s diet, which feeding oranges can partially achieve.
As explained by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, oranges contain a wide array of health-boosting antioxidants, including:
With these antioxidants, a parrot stands a higher chance of reaching its maximum life potential.
Oranges are high in fiber, which is essential for producing regular waste. If a parrot doesn’t get sufficient fiber in its diet, it risks constipation.
The Journal of Chiropractic Medicine also links fiber and potassium to heart health.
Oranges comprise 86-87% water, so they’re hydrating on a hot summer’s day. As oranges are so good for parrots, you may wonder, “Can parrots drink orange juice?”
Parrots can be fussy about drinking water. They’re unlikely to survive without it for 24 to 72 hours, so orange juice may seem an effective way to encourage hydration.
With much of the fiber removed, the glycemic index is higher than it is from eating a few slices of orange. You can juice an orange for parrots, but it should be diluted with water.
Never offer a parrot store-bought orange juice due to the added sugars, flavorings, and preservatives. While these make the flavor appealing to the human palate, they’re unsuitable for birds.
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
An average-sized orange contains between 40 and 50 mcg of vitamin B9.
Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that promotes avian health, growth, and metabolism. Parrots need folates for breaking down and absorbing nutrients like protein.
Oranges have a high vitamin C (ascorbic acid) content, enhancing the immune system. This water-soluble vitamin is essential because respiratory infections can be life-threatening to all parrot species.
Vitamin C is needed for the hydroxylation of lysine and proline, which promotes collagen production. This assists with healing open wounds more quickly than usual.
Non-heme iron is captured by vitamin C and stored in a form the body can quickly absorb.
Vitamin C is needed for robust cardiovascular and immune systems. However, parrots (and many other birds) don’t need dietary vitamin C because it’s generated from glucose in the liver.
Risks of Oranges for Parrots
There are also some drawbacks to feeding parrots oranges, including the following:
Oranges are a type of citrus fruit. Alongside lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, and grapefruit, oranges are high in naturally occurring citric acid.
Depending on the variety of orange, citric acid can lead to a bitter, tangy taste that doesn’t appeal to parrots. More concerning is the impact of citric acid on a parrot’s digestion.
The Journal of Applied Poultry Research also explains how citric acid increases levels of lactic acid bacteria, campylobacter, and staphylococcus in poultry.
This research suggests the same fate could befall a parrot that eats too many oranges.
Cramps or Diarrhea
While parrots need fiber for digestive transit, too much can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea. Of course, this can be avoided if you only offer a parrot a few slices of orange.
If a parrot consumes too much sugar, its blood sugar levels will spike. Although oranges contain sugars (sucrose, fructose, etc.), they’re not as high as other fruits.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a large orange contains 17.2 grams of sugar. They have a relatively low glycemic index (GI), so the release of sugar into the bloodstream is more gradual.
How To Feed Oranges To Parrots
A parrot should never be offered a whole orange because they’re too acidic.
An orange has various components, each with varying benefits:
When we think about oranges, we immediately consider the fruit’s sweet, juicy, and tasty flesh. The easiest way to introduce oranges into a parrot’s diet is to peel the fruit and feed it a few slices.
Orange seeds are tiny and won’t pose a choking hazard. They’re also devoid of anything harmful. Unlike stone fruits, they don’t contain amygdalin (a compound that releases cyanide in the stomach).
If a parrot eats orange pips, it’ll benefit from more antioxidants and nutrients. If a parrot dislikes seeds, choose a seedless variety like a jaffa orange, clementine, or navel orange.
Orange peel is an alternative to orange pulp, as it has a lower sugar content.
Orange peel contains various nutrients. As an added benefit, most parrots will enjoy the challenge of tearing an orange peel to shreds. This can help wear down the beak and prevent overgrowth.
The main concern with orange peel is herbicides and pesticides. If you want to offer orange peel to a parrot, shop organic and wash the peel thoroughly before serving.
Freeze-drying slices of orange helps the fruit last longer. The process retains much of the nutrition found in fresh oranges. As expected, freeze-dried orange pieces won’t be juicy and hydrating.
How Often Parrots Can Eat Oranges
Due to the citric acid content, oranges must be offered in moderation.
1 to 2 slices of orange every other day is sufficient for a medium-sized parrot. This will provide the health benefits of oranges while negating the risk of digestive discomfort.
Add a few slices of orange to your parrot’s diet to keep it strong and healthy.