Papaya is a soft tropical fruit grown in South America, Mexico, and Hawaii that tastes sweet and has a rounded shape that parrots are known to love.
Also referred to as tree melon, pawpaw, and mamao, they start as a green color with white seeds. As they ripen, the color changes to a yellow-orange and the seeds darken. Parrots especially enjoy eating the seeds, which are crunchy and have a peppery taste.
According to the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease, Papaya has medicinal and nutritional properties, such as vitamins A, B, and C, and proteolytic enzymes, which have antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial benefits.
Why Parrots Should Eat Papaya
The American Federation of Aviculture stated that parrots’ beaks were designed for chewing and that chewing is one of the things parrots do best.
Parrots love using their beaks to explore different textures, tastes, and shapes. Parrots especially love tropical fruits and things that crunch.
Eating papaya fulfills both of those loves—with the tasty sweetness of the flesh and the peppery crunch of the seeds while reducing the risk of health problems and extending their longevity.
Reduces Egg Binding
Egg binding (dystocia) occurs when female parrots have difficulty laying their eggs due to irregular muscle contractions, which is a problem that ordinarily requires a veterinarian’s assistance.
However, papaya has a high potassium level, which helps regulate contractions and makes laying eggs easier. However, ensure that a gravid parrot gets enough calcium in its diet.
Boosts Immune System
The vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidant properties of papaya help ward off illnesses and diseases that parrots may otherwise contract. These properties keep their bones, feathers, and vision optimized.
Lowers Risk of Avian Renal Disease
Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice reports that vitamin A deficiency is common in captive psittacines who eat mostly seed-based diets.
This type of deficiency can lead to renal disease. To lower this risk, feed your parrot food high in vitamin A, such as papaya.
Cardiac Disease Prevention
A diet high in cholesterol and fatty foods, lack of exercise, and age can lead to heart disease.
Feeding a parrot a well-rounded diet of food with a high nutrition content, such as papaya, will help prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries).
Which Parts of Papaya Can Parrots Eat?
According to the American Federation of Aviculture, parrots can eat all parts of the papaya.
However, papaya skin contains latex, which could cause a parrot to experience an allergic reaction, so it might be wise to peel the skin before offering this fruit to a parrot.
When parrots were observed eating papaya, the papaya seeds appeared to be their favorite part of the whole fruit.
The seeds contain fatty acids, which are ideal for helping their feathers grow properly.
Papaya seeds contain enzymes that assist in breaking down food and improving digestion. However, eating too many seeds could lead to an upset stomach, so offers seeds to parrots in moderation.
Wild parrots have been observed munching on the skins, and pet parrots can eat them, but due to the latex they contain, a parrot may experience some adverse reactions.
Although the skin contains many similar nutrients as the flesh, avoid giving the skin to a parrot.
The flesh of the papaya is the main attraction for most people, but not so for parrots. It’s filled with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that benefit a parrot’s health.
To strike the right balance of vitamins and nutrients, cut up the papaya and mix it with other types of fruit pieces to give your parrot a well-rounded diet.
How To Offer Papaya To Parrots
The American Federation of Aviculture said that parrots grow bored when consuming the same foods, so they vary their diet to keep them interested.
Papaya is found in different forms, such as fresh, frozen, dried, canned, pickled, and juiced.
The best forms of papaya to feed a parrot are fresh, frozen, and dried because there aren’t additives or processed sugars usually found in the other forms.
For instance, pickled papaya contains vinegar and salt (sodium), which could harm a parrot.
Canned papaya contains added sugars, colorings, and preservatives, which are unhealthy for parrots. Their small bodies aren’t used to these additions, which could cause digestive problems.
Wild parrots nibble at whole papaya and thrive, but when considering how to offer papaya to a pet parrot, leaving the whole papaya in its cage isn’t the best option.
Here are some different ways to offer papaya to parrots:
- Cut into chunks or pieces
- Juiced with no added sugars
- Mashed into a puree
- Dried or frozen
- Give it the seeds
- Mix with other fruits
Ripe vs Unripe Papaya
The skin of unripe papaya is green, and the flesh and seeds are white.
Unripe papaya has almost no taste and is crunchy, while unripe papaya tastes like jicama or cucumber. Wild parrots eat unripe papaya, but you may not want to feed it to your pet parrot.
There are reasons why giving a parrot unripe papaya isn’t a good idea:
- Thins the blood – Unripe papaya contains salicylates, which thin the blood and could cause excessive bleeding if your parrot sustains a wound.
- Allergic reactions – Both ripe and unripe papaya skins contain a kind of latex, but the amount is higher in unripe papaya. Just as with humans who might have a latex allergy, a parrot could experience an allergic reaction to the latex in the unripe skin.
Ripe papaya is okay to feed a parrot but ensure it’s not too ripe. Overly ripe papaya can be just as unsafe to give a parrot as unripe papaya.
Ripe papaya contains histamine, which is a neurotransmitter of the immune system. As papaya continues to ripen, the histamine levels increase, and overly ripe papaya leads to elevated histamine levels.
High histamine levels can harm a parrot’s immune system and cause health problems, including:
- Itchy skin
- Difficulty breathing
If papaya is covered in bruises and has skin that tears when a small amount of pressure is applied, it’s more than likely overripe and unsafe for parrots.
How Much Papaya Can Parrots Eat?
There’s no set recommended amount of papaya you should feed your parrot daily. However, use your judgment and give papaya to your parrot in moderation.
According to PLOS One, wild parrots eat various food such as seeds, plants, bark, flowers, fruits, and insect larvae. However, most of their diet consists of seeds from various tropical trees in varying stages of ripeness.
Providing a parrot with vitamin and mineral-rich fruits with various tastes, textures, and ripeness levels will give them the same kind of dietary diversity they’d experience in the wild.