Tomatoes pique the interest of parrots due to their bright and vibrant color. According to Functional Ecology, parrots use color to gauge toxicity and determine whether a food contains beneficial antioxidants. Parrots can tell when a tomato is ripe or unripe as they can see shades and hues more vividly than humans.
Parrots can eat a small amount of tomato, benefitting from vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. The over-consumption of tomatoes can cause stomach problems due to their acidity. Sun-dried tomatoes are less acidic due to the drying process. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, so the leaves and vines are toxic.
Parrots show interest in tomato crops in the wild, picking the fruit off the vines to eat. Parrots have acute senses when it comes to harmful foods. So, these wild instincts show that parrots can safely eat tomatoes in moderation.
Are Tomatoes Good For Parrots?
While tomatoes are acidic, they have some positive health benefits due to:
Tomatoes contain lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants.
Lycopene is found in the tomato’s skin. As described by Oxford Academic, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains. Lycopene protects against heart conditions and diseases.
Lutein and zeaxanthin protect the eyesight of parrots from conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. These antioxidants also improve your parrot’s feathers, making them more vivid and beautiful. Male parrots with more colorful plumage are more likely to attract mates, which is important to them.
Like oranges, tomatoes are a rich source of vitamin C. The body doesn’t produce vitamin C, so it must come from your parrot’s diet. Vitamin C is essential for:
- Boosting the immune system
- Lowering blood pressure
- Regulating cholesterol
- Healing wounds
- Regulating blood sugar
- Preventing kidney problems
On average, 100 grams of raw tomato contains around 13.7 mg of vitamin C.
Potassium enables a parrot’s cells, tissues, and vital organs to maintain the right balance of fluids. It’s essential for strong bones and a well-functioning digestive system. Potassium also normalizes a parrot’s blood pressure, reducing the likelihood of heart disease and strokes. Potassium also:
- 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 is required to balance homocysteine levels. This is the amino acid that’s responsible for breaking down protein. Parrots need folate to form uric acid, which is the waste product of protein metabolism. Folate deficiencies can cause:
- Impaired cell division
- Under-development of the reproductive tract
- Weakened immune system
According to ACS, 100 grams of fresh tomatoes contains between 4.1 to 35.3 μg of folates.
Vitamin K is essential for bone health and eggshell quality. Parrots low in vitamin K are likely to experience delayed blood clotting, bleeding profusely from the smallest cuts. In the worst cases, a lack of vitamin K causes internal hemorrhages and increased hatching mortality.
Can Parrots Eat Raw Tomatoes?
A tomato’s acidity is at its highest when raw. Tomatoes contain more than ten types of acid, including citric acid, malic acid, and ascorbic acid. They also have a pH level of between 4.3-4.9. To put this into context, seven on the pH scale is neutral, while anything below this figure is considered acidic.
However, ripe tomatoes contain lower levels of acidity and have a sweeter taste. As a result, ripe tomatoes are OK to feed your parrot in moderation. Because parrots instinctively understand ripeness in food, they will likely reject orange tomatoes but avoid offering them under-ripe tomatoes anyway.
Can Parrots Eat Cherry Tomatoes?
Because of their smaller, more manageable size, cherry tomatoes are much easier for parrots to eat. Cherry tomatoes have a sweeter taste that parrots prefer over larger tomatoes.
However, cherry tomatoes have the same issues as raw tomatoes because they’re highly acidic. It’s also easier to overfeed parrots cherry tomatoes. If you’re able to limit your parrot’s cherry tomato intake to 1-2 per week, they’re a safe and nutritious addition to your parrot’s diet.
Can Parrots Eat Canned Tomatoes?
Avoid feeding your parrot canned tomatoes. The canning process involves adding acid to prevent the tomatoes from going moldy when inside the can. It also prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which is the bacteria responsible for food poisoning.
Homemade canned tomatoes require lemon juice or powdered citric acid to be added to the jar to keep them fresh. As a result, even canned tomatoes you’ve made at home can be harmful to parrots.
Can Parrots Eat Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Sun-dried tomatoes are one of the safest tomato varieties for parrots to eat. During the drying process, most of the acid is neutralized, reducing them to much safer levels.
They also have a sweeter taste, which many parrots enjoy more than raw, acidic tomatoes with a more bitter flavor. Sun-dried tomatoes are known to protect parrots from inflammation and markers of oxidative stress.
One thing to watch out for with sun-dried tomatoes is the level of sulfur dioxide and salt they contain, which they’re sometimes pre-treated with. Too much can be harmful to your parrot’s health.
If this is a concern, you can create your own sun-dried tomatoes at home by following these steps:
- Slice a batch of cherry tomatoes (or any other small tomato 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 in the oven at 250°F, keeping an eye on them, so that they don’t burn.
- Leave them to cool down and feed them to your parrot a couple at a time.
Your parrot will love the sweet taste, but avoid seasoning them with salt (sodium).
Can Parrots Eat Tomato Sauce?
Ketchup is high in refined sugar, which can lead to weight gain. However, tomato products such as ketchup, tomato sauces, tomato paste, and tomato 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 they are in raw tomatoes. According to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, thermal treatments and food preparation, such as 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 your parrot more than a few slices per week. Sun-dried tomatoes are recommended as they’re the least acidic variety. Never feed your parrot the vines or leaves of tomato plants because they’re highly toxic.