can parrots eat too much?

Can Parrots Get Fat? How To Tell If A Parrot Is Overweight

Parrots can become overweight. The signs of obesity in parrots can be difficult to spot as fluffy feathers hide excess weight. Consequently, weight gain often goes unnoticed by owners.

Parrots get fat due to food consumption and a sedentary lifestyle. In the wild, parrots require fatty foods to fuel their active lifestyle. Pet parrots want high fat foods, despite not exercising as much. Feel the keel bone located across your parrot’s chest. If it is hidden under two layers of flesh, your parrot is obese.

A parrot’s weight should be monitored as obesity leads to health issues that can shorten a parrot’s lifespan. A planned diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of premature death. If your parrot is already prone to overeating, you’ll need to create a feeding schedule.

Can Parrots Eat Too Much?

Parrots rely on a diet that’s very fatty and calorie-heavy to support their active lifestyles. If your parrot is kept in a small cage and given limited exercise, it will start to get fat. The parrot will naturally want to eat the same amount of food. However, when it can’t later burn this off, it will start to gain weight.

Will Parrots Overeat?

Parrots are some of the most active birds in the world. Parrots need to be constantly entertained and stimulated to be happy and contented. In the wild, they’ll:

Of course, this requires a lot of energy, so parrots have a high metabolic rate and quickly burn through their fatty reserves. They are naturally drawn to foods that are high in fat. Between their active lifestyle and not always finding food to eat, wild parrots can keep their weight in check and avoid weight-related illnesses.

Wild parrots can’t always successfully forage for food. So, whenever they do find some, they’ll eat as much as they can. This will store those calories in their fatty reserves to be used for energy later.

Pet parrots are still inclined to have this attitude towards food. Of course, they don’t know that they have a consistent food source due to being in your care. They overeat as a way to survive.

Things only get worse if the parrot is fed a seed-based diet. Many parrots will only eat the seeds that contain the most fat and ignore the rest. Their brain still believes they need all that fuel, even though pet parrots don’t need to eat as much as wild parrots. Since parrots are picky with seeds, a seed-based diet is ill-advised.

Is It Bad To Have An Overweight Parrot?

If your parrot gains a little weight, this isn’t harmful. In fact, a small reserve of extra fat can be healthy.

Since parrots have such delicate immune systems, an illness can quickly overtax their bodies. If they lose too much weight during a recovery period, that can lead to more severe illnesses. Fat storage can prevent this problem. However, the issue comes when a fat store turns into obesity.

Obesity in Parrots

Obesity can negatively impact your parrot’s life and result in serious ailments that harm the lifestyle and lifespan of your parrot. According to Conservation Physiology, obesity in parrots is caused by three things:

  • Diet
  • Climate
  • Lifestyle

Diet

The most common diets for a parrot are:

  • Seed-based diets
  • Pellets
  • Formulated diets

What are the pros and cons of each for your parrot’s health?

Seed-Based Diet

As mentioned, seed-based diets are not ideal. Parrots will often choose to eat the fatty seeds and ignore the rest. It’s virtually impossible to prevent obesity in parrots with seeds. You can’t force-feed a parrot the other seeds.

Additionally, seeds will not provide a parrot with all the nutrients it needs to live a healthy life. Even if seeds are a primary part of the parrot’s diet, it also needs fruits, veggies, and nuts.

Pellets

Pellets are a common choice for new owners. Pellets are inexpensive and available everywhere. It’s the most convenient option and the most recommended by even avian vets.

However, it’s not the best for your parrot. Sure, many pellet brands market themselves as providing a complete diet. This isn’t true, though. It’s difficult to simulate the kind of diet that wild parrots have with processed food.

Pellets are high in protein but are also high in fat. They’re meant to supplement a parrot’s diet, not become the only food they consume. Many pellets contain artificial coloring, disrupting the parrot’s digestive system and leading to more issues with its metabolism. Combined with the high fat content, and it’s a recipe for obesity in parrots.

Formulated Diets

Formulated diets involve carefully planning a mix of nutritious foods for your parrot to eat, like:

  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds.

Of course, it’s not 100% faithful to a wild parrot’s diet. There are still differing aspects between what’s out in nature versus what you can provide. For example, the berries wild parrots eat are less sweet and contain more fiber.

Still, a parrot won’t be as prone to weight gain on a formulated diet. You have to understand the nutritional needs of the parrot species you own and monitor its weight and health.

is my parrot overweight?

Climate

Climate may seem like an odd area of concern when your parrot is gaining weight. However, it directly impacts your parrot’s metabolism and ability to burn fat. Parrots have high body temperatures. As such, they need a fast metabolism to maintain that temperature. This consumes a lot of energy, which burns fat.

Parrots in warmer climates don’t need to burn that much fat to stay warm. After all, the environment keeps their body temperature where it needs to be. In contrast, parrots from colder climates will burn more fat.

So, if your parrot is a warm-weather species, it’s more likely to retain weight instead of burning through it. If your otherwise thin parrot starts getting fat after you move from cold-weather areas to a sunny locale, this could be why.

Lifestyle

To fight obesity, all living creatures need to burn more fat than they consume. Wild parrots manage this by living an active lifestyle. They forage for food, fly around for miles at a time, and eat little during their day.

In contrast, pet parrots are fed every day and usually can’t exercise away all the calories they consume. A sedentary lifestyle is usually the cause of obesity in parrots, even if they’re eating healthily.

That’s true even if you give your parrot ample room to exercise. Gliding from one place to the other can become boring, especially if the parrot is large. Boredom leads to disinterest in flying or moving around.

It’s even more difficult if the parrot feels lonely or stressed. It may lack the energy or will mope in its cage. To make sure your parrot stays active, exercise with it. You can try working out together by dancing and playing games.

Parrot Species Most Likely To Be Obese

As mentioned, parrots have a metabolism that fits their climate. If your parrot is biologically geared to have a slower metabolism to combat the heat, it’s more likely to gain weight when it overeats.

A hot climate may also discourage the parrot from moving around as much, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle. That’s why the parrot species most prone to obesity are:

  • Amazon parrots
  • Cockatiels
  • African grey parrots
  • Cockatoos

With that said, these parrots can remain fit and trim if they’re encouraged to exercise and fed a balanced diet.

How to Tell if Your Parrot Is Fat

It can be difficult to tell if a parrot is fat as parrots have a different weight distribution from other animals. Likewise, their feathers can hide extra weight. When it seems too large, you may attribute that to the parrot being fluffy or ruffled. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent the problem:

Keel Bone

The most immediate way to tell if a parrot is fat is by touching its chest. Parrots have a bone that runs vertically across the middle of their chest called the keel bone. To the sides of the keel bone are the parrot’s breast muscles.

Can you feel the keel bone protruding out more than the breast muscles? Then the parrot is underweight. A healthy parrot will have a nicely rounded chest. The keel bone will easily transition into the breast muscles.

An overweight parrot will have breast muscles that protrude past the keel bone. This makes the parrot look like there is a divide in the middle of its chest.

Lethargy

You can also tell if a parrot is fat by the way it acts. A fat parrot will:

  • Tire out more easily
  • Breathe heavily

Parrots are energetic and like to move. The excess weight may be making the parrot lethargic. Parrots use their breast muscles to fly. When those muscles are surrounded by fat, they find it more difficult to move around.

Weighing

The exact weight of your parrot can determine if it’s fat. A small scale can be used for weighing your parrot. If you’re concerned that your parrot is fat, you can perform weekly weigh-ins as a part of its diet and exercise routine.

Average Weight of Parrots

Every parrot has different healthy weight ranges. After you put your parrot on a scale, check the table below for comparison. Parrots are considered obese if they weigh 15% or more beyond their ideal weight.

Parrot SpeciesAverage Chick WeightAverage Adult Weight
Hyacinth macaw25 grams1200 to 1450 grams
Scarlet macaw21 grams900 to 1100 grams
Caninde macaw18 grams750 grams
Cuban Amazon10 grams240 grams
Yellow-crowned Amazon12 grams380 to 480 grams
Blue-fronted Amazon10 grams400 to 430 grams
Goffin’s cockatoo10 grams221 to 386 grams
Moluccan cockatoo20 grams850 grams
Palm cockatoo18 grams900 grams
Umbrella cockatoo18 grams600 to 700 grams
Greater Patagonian conure12 grams315 to 390 grams
Mitred conure11 grams200 grams
Black-headed caiques8 grams145 to 170 grams
White-bellied caiques7 grams165 grams
Dusky lories7 grams155 grams
Plum-headed parakeets5 grams90 grams

Obesity-Related Health Issues In Parrots

Once a parrot is obese, a string of health problems can occur. Some of these weight-related illnesses will cause your parrot pain and shorten its life. Once you notice a problem, look for other symptoms. Some may require a simple diet change or medical intervention. The most common weight-related health issues in parrots are:

Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease occurs when there is so much fat in a parrot’s body. It infiltrates the liver until it can’t function. This disease is most common in Amazon parrots.

It’s caused by diets that are too high in fat, such as seed-based and pelleted diets. A parrot with fatty liver disease is unable to handle any stress. It may die suddenly due to organ malfunction.

Lipomas

Lipomas are balls of concentrated fat. They grow out of and hang from parrot’s bodies, but they aren’t fatal. The area around the growth is completely featherless. Once they develop, lipomas require surgery.

Pododermatitis

In parrots, this is called bumblefoot. The fatter the parrot, the more weight it has to carry on its legs. This strain on the feet is what causes pododermatitis.

You’ll notice that your parrot’s feet are swollen. As time goes on, some skin will begin to peel off until the feet are red and inflamed. Eventually, it will be too much, and the parrot will become lame.

average weight of parrot

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis targets the arteries. When fat lines up the walls of a parrot’s arteries, they become less elastic and narrow. This could end up rupturing and killing your parrot.

Parrots with atherosclerosis often bite at their feet due to the discomfort it brings to their legs. Arteries deliver blood from the heart to the tissues in the body. Narrower arteries could cause lameness in the legs of parrots because of the lack of blood traveling to those parts. This condition is most common in medium to large parrot species.

According to Veterinary Quarterly, one of the most common signs is sudden death. So, it’s important to keep your parrot’s weight in check long before it reaches this point.

Xanthomatosis

The symptoms of this condition appear at the tip of a parrot’s wings. Cholesterol crystals form under the skin and make the tip of the wings swell, sometimes until they bleed. In severe cases, the tips of the wings need to be amputated.

How To Make a Parrot Lose Weight

If you have a fat parrot, how can you reverse the problem? Here’s how to get a parrot to lose weight:

Dietary Change

Formulated diets balance out their metabolism and reduce their fat intake.

If you can’t afford a formulated diet, you can provide a mix of seeds, pellets, along with a formulated diet. Remember, pellets and seeds work best as supplements, not the main course.

Any drastic change to a parrot’s diet shouldn’t be done immediately as they don’t adjust well to sudden change. Sneak in the new food by mixing it with the regular one until your parrot gets used to it.

Feeding Times

Be strict about feeding times. Some parrots, especially those that have been hand-reared, are very needy. They will demand food more often than they should. Talk to the other household members and ensure that they aren’t giving the parrot treats outside of normal feeding hours.

Exercise

Along with a quality diet and strict feeding schedule, a healthy amount of exercise is necessary. Here are some ways to help your parrot lose weight:

Dancing

Parrots like to dance. Putting on some music and teaching them to groove (if they don’t know already) will not only keep them lean. It will also be a good bonding time.

Playing With Other Birds

Schedule play dates with other owners, so your parrot can get active with them. Parrots are very social animals. Yours could be more motivated to exercise with another parrot rather than alone.

Making The Room Colder

If it’s summer or you live in a hot climate, make the room cooler. This will encourage the parrot’s metabolism to work harder and burn some fat. The cold may even motivate a lethargic parrot to move more to keep warm.

Toys

Parrots have a destructive side, especially the larger species. They burn a lot of fat when biting and clawing into things. Ensure they always have something they can destroy nearby, such as cardboard.

If your parrot isn’t paying attention to its toys, get new ones. It might be bored of playing with the same things. Parrots can even play with old baby toys.

Baths

After bathing your parrot, it will often groom itself. Parrots preen their feathers to keep them healthy. By giving your parrot more baths, you can activate the preening process. This activity will burn off some fat. This is especially good for birds that are too fat to do anything more strenuous, like flying or dancing.

Outdoor Cages

Parrots need to fly to be healthy, and they need to do so often. If there’s no outdoor cage available, you could always bird-proof your house, so your parrot can fly about as much as it wants.

Parrots can get fat. As long as you evaluate and modify your bird’s diet and exercise routine, your overweight or obese parrot will be able to shed any excess weight.