Last Updated on: 1st July 2023, 01:03 pm
The signs of obesity in parrots can be difficult to see because their feathers conceal the excess weight. Unfortunately, many owners fail to notice that their parrots are getting fat.
Wild parrots require fatty foods to fuel their active lifestyle, but pet parrots still want to eat the same high-fat foods, despite not flying regularly or exercising as much.
Feel the keel bone across the chest. A parrot is fat if the keel bone is hidden beneath two layers of flesh.
A parrot’s weight should be monitored because obesity leads to health issues that result in a shorter lifespan. A controlled diet and physical activity reduce the risk of early death.
If you put too much food in a bird’s cage, it’ll keep eating beyond the point of fullness. Consequently, a parrot must follow a set feeding schedule if it’s prone to overeating.
Can Parrots Eat Too Much?
Wild parrots rely on a fatty and calorie-heavy diet to support their active lifestyle.
If a parrot is kept in a cage and doesn’t exercise much, it’ll become fat. The bird will want to eat the same quantity of food (perhaps more due to boredom), so it’ll gain weight it can’t burn off.
Will Parrots Overeat?
Parrots must be entertained and stimulated to remain happy. Wild parrots do the following:
- Flying over vast expanses of land.
- Foraging for nutritious food and water.
- Playing with members of their flock.
- Avoiding dangerous predators and threats.
Of course, this requires considerable energy, so parrots have a high metabolic rate, burning through their fat reserves. Consequently, birds are naturally drawn to high-calorie foods.
Between their active lifestyle and not always finding food, wild parrots eat what they can. Pet parrots have this attitude toward food, instinctively overeating to survive.
Is It Bad To Have An Overweight Parrot?
If a parrot gains some weight, this isn’t harmful. Sometimes, a small reserve of extra fat can be beneficial when ill. The implications can be life-threatening if a bird loses too much weight during recovery.
What Causes Obesity in Parrots?
The following factors cause obesity in parrots:
Seeds are inexpensive but unhealthy because parrots eat what they like (usually sunflower seeds) and ignore the rest. Seeds are very high in fat, often exceeding 50%, which is excessive.
Seeds don’t provide a parrot with all the nutrients it needs to thrive.
A vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) is common among birds fed all-seed diets. Also, seeds are low in calcium, leading to skeletal decalcification, weak eggshells, and fatigue.
Weak and tired birds are less likely to engage in physical activity, gaining weight.
Exercise And Lifestyle
All animals must burn their calories, or the excess will be stored as body fat. Wild parrots live an active lifestyle, flying tens of miles when exploring new areas and foraging for food.
In contrast, pet parrots are fed daily and don’t burn as many calories. A sedentary lifestyle is a common cause of obesity in parrots, especially if coupled with dietary excesses.
Climate directly impacts a parrot’s metabolism and ability to burn fat. Parrots need a fast metabolism to maintain their core body temperature, which requires many calories.
Parrots in warmer climates don’t need to burn as much fat to stay warm. After all, the environment keeps their body temperature consistent. In contrast, parrots from colder climates burn more calories.
If a parrot starts getting fat after you move from a cold-weather area to a sunny locale, this could be why.
It’s normal for female parrots to gain weight (or increase in size) during the breeding season, even if they aren’t eating more food or are exercising less than normal.
During the spring, when the number of daylight hours increases and food is plentiful, hormone levels increase, resulting in an enlarged cloaca, oviduct, ovaries, and other sexual organs.
Once the breeding season concludes, the reproductive organs shrink, making flight easier.
If a female parrot becomes gravid, she’ll start developing eggs. In captivity, a pet parrot can develop unfertilized eggs without the presence of a male. This doesn’t happen with wild parrots.
Parrot Species Most Likely To Be Obese
Parrots have a metabolism optimized for the local climate. If a parrot has a slower metabolism due to a hot native climate, it’s more likely to overeat and gain weight.
Hot climates discourage parrots from flying and moving around as much, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle. The parrot species most prone to weight gain include the following:
- Amazon parrots.
- African grey parrots.
These parrot species can remain healthy if encouraged to exercise and fed in moderation.
How To Tell if A Parrot Is Fat
It can be difficult to tell if a parrot is overweight due to their weight distribution. Also, when a parrot seems too large, you may attribute that to the feathers being fluffy or ruffled.
The easiest 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 breast muscles.
Can you feel the keel bone protruding out more than the breast muscles?
If so, the parrot’s underweight. A healthy parrot will have a rounded chest, and the keel bone will transition into the breast muscles.
An overweight parrot will have breast muscles that protrude past the keel bone, making it appear to have a divide in the middle of its chest.
You can also tell when a parrot’s fat by how it acts and behaves. Inevitably, a fat parrot will:
- Tire out more easily.
- Breathe and pant heavily.
Parrots are energetic and like to move, but excess weight makes them lethargic. Parrots use their breast muscles to fly, and moving is more difficult when those muscles are covered in fat.
If you’re concerned that the parrot is getting fat, you can perform weekly weigh-ins as a part of its diet and exercise routine. Record its weight every 7 days to check if its body mass is rising.
Average Weight of Parrots
After putting the parrot on a scale, check the table below for a comparison:
|Parrot Species||Average Chick Weight||Average Adult Weight|
|Hyacinth macaw||25 grams||1200 to 1450 grams|
|Scarlet macaw||21 grams||900 to 1100 grams|
|Caninde macaw||18 grams||750 grams|
|Cuban Amazon||10 grams||240 grams|
|Yellow-crowned Amazon||12 grams||380 to 480 grams|
|Blue-fronted Amazon||10 grams||400 to 430 grams|
|Goffin’s cockatoo||10 grams||221 to 386 grams|
|Moluccan cockatoo||20 grams||850 grams|
|Palm cockatoo||18 grams||900 grams|
|Umbrella cockatoo||18 grams||600 to 700 grams|
|Greater Patagonian conure||12 grams||315 to 390 grams|
|Mitred conure||11 grams||200 grams|
|Black-headed caiques||8 grams||145 to 170 grams|
|White-bellied caiques||7 grams||165 grams|
|Dusky lories||7 grams||155 grams|
|Plum-headed parakeets||5 grams||90 grams|
Parrots are considered obese if they weigh 15% or more than their ideal weight.
Obesity-Related Health Issues in Parrots
The most common weight-related health problems in parrots include:
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) occurs when excessive fat cells accumulate around the liver. It’s caused by diets that contain too much fat. The condition can be reversed with a low-fat diet.
Lipomas are balls of concentrated fat that hang from the body. The area around the growth will be completely featherless. Once they develop, lipomas require surgical removal.
Cuts, scrapes, and abrasions can allow harmful bacteria to enter the body. This is most likely to happen when a parrot is obese, as additional pressure is exerted on the feet.
The signs of bumblefoot are red, scabby, ulcerated, and swollen feet. The discomfort will lead to a parrot becoming less active than normal, exacerbating its weight problem.
When fat lines the walls of the arteries, they become less elastic and narrow due to the accumulation of plaque, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Parrots with atherosclerosis often bite at their feet due to the discomfort it introduces 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 due to the lack of blood traveling to those body parts.
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
Here are some effective ways to get a parrot to lose weight:
Feed birds a diet high in protein and low in calories to create a feeling of fullness. Consider switching to a scientifically formulated diet because it’s more balanced and easier to portion control.
Any dietary modifications shouldn’t occur overnight, as parrots cope poorly with sudden changes. Not eating food (due to a protest) carries significantly more risk than not eating.
You should check with a vet if dietary changes are suitable, especially if a parrot has a health condition. For example, consuming more protein should be avoided if a bird has kidney problems.
Some parrots, especially those hand-reared, can be needy, so they’ll demand food more often.
Ensure that other household members aren’t giving the parrot food outside of normal feeding hours and there are no duplicated feeding schedules.
Consider putting food and water bowls at opposite ends of the cage to encourage movement.
Along with a nutritious diet and feeding schedule, a healthy level of exercise is essential for weight control. Here are some beneficial things you can do:
More living space gives birds room to explore. Over the weeks and months, parrots will expend more energy by exercising more frequently, which keeps their weight under control.
Parrots like to dance, so playing music and teaching them to groove will keep them lean.
Playing with Other Birds
Parrots are social animals, so a bird may be more inclined to exercise with a second parrot.
Parrots have a destructive side, especially larger species. They burn calories when biting and clawing easy-to-tear items. Ensure they have something challenging to destroy, like cardboard (no ink or staples).
If the parrot isn’t paying attention to its toys, get new ones just in case it’s bored of playing with the same things. Parrots can play with old baby toys if there are any in the attic.