Last Updated on February 7, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
Tomatoes, with their vibrant color, pique the interest of parrots. According to Functional Ecology, parrots use color to gauge toxicity and determine whether a food contains antioxidants.
Parrots can tell when a tomato is ripe or unripe because they can see shades and hues vividly. They benefit from tomatoes because they’re high in vitamins C, K, potassium, and folate.
Unfortunately, the overconsumption of tomatoes can cause stomach problems due to their acidity. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, so the leaves and vines are toxic.
Sun-dried tomatoes are preferred because they’re less acidic due to the drying process.
Why Tomatoes Are Good for Parrots
While tomatoes are acidic, they have health benefits for these reasons:
Tomatoes contain lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants.
Lycopene protects against degenerative diseases and is found in the tomato’s skin. According to Oxford Academic, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains.
Lutein and zeaxanthin protect parrots’ eyesight from medical conditions like cataracts.
These antioxidants also improve a parrot’s feathers, making them more vivid and beautiful. Male parrots with more colorful plumage are more likely to attract mates in the breeding season.
On average, 100 grams of raw tomato contains 13.7 mg of vitamin C. Similar to oranges, tomatoes are a rich source of vitamin C, which is essential for the following:
- Boosting the immune system.
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Regulating cholesterol.
- Healing wounds.
- Regulating blood sugar.
- Preventing kidney problems.
Vitamin C is non-essential for birds because they can produce it in the liver from glucose.
Potassium helps a parrot’s cells, tissues, and vital organs maintain an optimal fluid balance.
- Controls muscle contractions.
- Regulates nerve signals and fluid balance.
- Reduces blood pressure.
- Reduces stress levels.
On average, 100 grams of tomato contains 237 mg of potassium.
Folate, the amino acid responsible for breaking down protein, is required to balance homocysteine levels. Parrots need folate to form uric acid, which is the waste product of protein metabolism.
Folate deficiencies can cause the following:
- Impaired cell division.
- Under-development of the reproductive tract.
- Weakened immune system.
According to ACS, 100 grams of fresh tomatoes contain between 4.1 to 35.3 μg of folates.
Vitamin K is essential for bone health and eggshell quality. Parrots low in vitamin K will likely experience delayed blood clotting and bleed profusely from minor cuts.
A lack of vitamin K causes internal hemorrhages and increased hatching mortality.
Avoid feeding a parrot canned tomatoes because the canning process involves adding acid to prevent the tomatoes from going moldy inside the can.
Canning prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that causes food poisoning.
Homemade canned tomatoes require lemon juice or powdered citric acid to be added to the jar to keep them fresh. Even canned tomatoes you’ve made at home can harm parrots.
Tomatoes are at their highest acidity when raw. They contain 10 different acids, including citric, malic, and ascorbic acids. Their pH level is between 4.3 and 4.9.
To explain, 7 on the pH scale is neutral, while anything below this figure is acidic.
Ripe tomatoes contain lower acidity levels and have a sweeter taste.
Because parrots instinctively understand ripeness in food, they’ll likely reject orange tomatoes but avoid offering pet birds under-ripe tomatoes anyway.
Due to their smaller, more manageable size, cherry tomatoes are much easier for parrots to eat. They also have a sweeter taste that parrots may prefer over larger tomatoes.
Cherry tomatoes have the same issues as raw tomatoes because they’re highly acidic.
It’s also easier to feed parrots too many cherry tomatoes. Limiting a parrot’s cherry tomato intake to 1-2 per week is a safe and nutritious addition to its diet.
Sun-dried tomatoes are among the safest tomato varieties for parrots to eat. Most of the acid is neutralized during drying, reducing them to safer levels.
They also have a sweeter taste, which many parrots enjoy more than raw, acidic tomatoes with a bitter flavor. Sun-dried tomatoes protect parrots from inflammation and markers of oxidative stress.
One thing to watch out for with sun-dried tomatoes is sulfur dioxide and salt levels. If this is a concern, you can create sun-dried tomatoes at home with these steps:
- Slice a batch of cherry tomatoes (or any other small variety) in half-length ways.
- Spread them out cut-side up on a baking tray lined with parchment.
- Slow roast them in the oven for around 2.5-3.5 minutes at 250°F, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn.
- Leave them to cool down and feed them to a parrot a couple at a time.
Parrots will love the sweet taste, but avoid seasoning them with salt (sodium).
Ketchup is high in refined sugar, which can lead to weight gain and obesity.
However, tomato products such as ketchup, sauces, paste, and juice are rich in the antioxidant lycopene.
Ketchup contains 10-14 mg of lycopene per 100 grams, whereas a small tomato weighing 100 grams contains 1-8 mg of lycopene.
Lycopene levels are higher in processed tomato foods than in raw tomatoes.
According to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, thermal treatments and food preparation, like boiling, cooking, chopping, and agitation, had little effect on the presence of lycopene.
Despite being part of the nightshade family, parrots can eat tomatoes. However, tomatoes are acidic, so you shouldn’t feed a parrot more than a few slices per week.
Sun-dried tomatoes are recommended as they’re the least acidic variety. Never feed a parrot the vines or leaves of tomato plants because they’re highly toxic with life-threatening consequences.