Parrots are omnivores, so they rely on a combination of plant and animal protein to remain healthy and strong. Insects can be a rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. In the wild, parrots don’t rely on insects as food, but will eat them to derive energy and nutrients. Much depends on how scarce other food is or how easy the bug is to catch.
Parrots can eat insects such as mealworms, caterpillars, waxworms, and termites. These are safe, easy to eat, and provide a range of nutrients. Parrots can also eat grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, but the barbs on their legs could cause damage when swallowed. Flies, like grasshoppers and crickets, will be difficult for your parrot to catch.
Spiders, moths, mosquitos, and ants should be avoided because they carry toxins. These insects may also be coated in pesticides that can harm parrots. Likewise, fly larvae are often coated in bacteria that can be deadly. Your parrot should only be fed store-bought bugs to ensure that they are sanitary and free of parasites.
Can Parrots Eat Bugs?
Parrots can eat bugs. In fact, bugs serve as a valuable source of protein, vitamins, and minerals for a parrot’s diet in the wild. Since these birds are omnivores, their digestive system will not be harmed by bugs. Parrots eat various kinds of meat and process the heavier proteins without stomach upset, insects included.
With that said, parrots do not depend on bugs as a main source of food. That’s partly because of how a parrot’s beak is shaped. Most insect-eating birds have thin and slender beaks with a pointed tip. This shape enables them to pick out insects from tree leaves and bark. Other insect-eating birds have flattened beaks to help them catch insects mid-air.
Parrot beaks are very different. They have a curved shape and powerful biting force. That makes parrots best suited to eating seeds, fruits, and cracking nuts. It’s more difficult to snatch up insects, so they don’t rely on it as their main source of protein. Instead, parrots devour bugs when they’re easy to catch or if better food sources are not around.
Since parrots are mostly from tropical regions, it’s rarely hard for them to find their main sources of food, such as:
The parrot’s hunger levels will also impact whether or not it hunts bugs. For example, if your pet parrot is well-fed, it may overlook a tasty bug in its cage. If it sees one scurry through your home, it may ignore it in favor of the seed in its food bowl.
Is It Healthy For Parrots To Eat Bugs?
By eating insects, parrots can derive many different health benefits. If you were to incorporate bugs into your parrot’s diet, depending on the type of insect, your bird could get:
Protein is the main building block for muscle tissue. It even improves brain health, which is important for your clever parrot. Insects have a remarkably high amount of protein. For example, the average mealworm consists of:
- 20% protein
- 13% fat
- 2% fiber
- 62% moisture
When partially dehydrated, this nutrient breakdown becomes:
- 53% protein
- 28% fat
- 6% fiber
- 5% moisture
Parrots usually meet their protein requirements by eating seeds and nuts. However, the protein content of insects can offer a decent health boost.
Fats are another essential part of a parrot’s diet. It helps to improve your parrot’s heart and sharpen its brain. Parrots in the wild get fat from nuts and seeds, but also raw meat or certain insects. In fact, it’s believed that most of the organs in a bug’s abdomen are made of fat.
Many bug varieties, such as caterpillars, are high in fat. According to NFS Journal, 100 grams of caterpillar meat contains between 8.6 grams and 15.2 grams of fat. That’s much higher than grasshoppers, whose meat contains only 3.8 grams to 5.3 grams per 100 grams.
However, while fat is a healthy nutrient, it should be given to your parrot in moderation. It’s not uncommon for parrots to suffer from high cholesterol or obesity because of a diet that is too high in fat. Be sure to limit seeds, nuts, and insects to no more than 20% of your parrot’s diet.
Parrots rely on fiber to keep their digestive system and bowel movements healthy. They gain their fiber content from vegetables and fruit. However, certain bug species are also high in fiber, rounding out your parrot’s ability to digest food and better absorb nutrients.
The most common fiber in bugs comes from chitin. This is present in their exoskeletons, which means insects with hard exoskeletons are likely to have higher fiber content. For example, 8% of a cricket’s weight is due to its exoskeleton’s fiber content.
Parrots require vitamins in their diet to help them combat disease and infections. These micronutrients are also important for promoting bone strength and healthy feathers.
- Insects, such as crickets, can be rich in Vitamin B.
- Vitamin C is found in insect eggs and larvae.
However, eggs are not believed to be an efficient source of this vitamin. The remaining vitamins are present in only trace amounts. In the wild, parrots will stock up on as many nutrients as they can get their beaks on.
Parrots also require a sufficient amount of minerals in their diet. Depending on the type of insect, bugs can help fill this out.
Insects, such as crickets, are a good source of dietary iron for birds. Iron helps to create hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen around the bloodstream. An iron deficiency can lead to your parrot developing anemia, so if iron-rich seeds or vegetables aren’t available, bugs will do.
Magnesium helps with cellular metabolism and bone development. It also helps draw calcium out of the blood and into bones. Insects such as mealworms are high in magnesium, providing a good dietary magnesium source for your pet parrot.
Like magnesium, phosphorus helps with cellular metabolism. This is mainly for the production of both soft and hard tissue. Insects such as mealworms contain a fair amount of phosphorus. However, nuts like cashews have a greater concentration, so they may be a better source of phosphorus.
What Kind of Insects Do Parrots Eat?
In the wild, parrots will often eat any insect they can find. If they are hungry, or it’s easy for the bugs to be snatched up, a parrot won’t pass up a chance to get extra protein in its diet.
The types of insects that a parrot eats will depend on the parrot’s environment. For example, a rainforest is likely to contain different bugs than woodlands. The main goal will be to pick insects that are:
- Easy to catch
- Unlikely to fight back or harm the parrot
- A source of nutrients
In fact, some parrots will prioritize eating nutrient-rich foods even if they might be toxic or hard to digest. According to the University of California, wild parrots in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest will eat plants without considering their digestibility or toxicity. As long as they’re high in nutrients, parrots take the risk. That may also apply to insects.
Nonetheless, most parrots know better than to eat toxic food. If there are safer ways to get proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, parrots will stick to their favorites. Knowing which foods are healthy is knowledge taught to birds by their parents. As such, a wild-caught parrot may be choosier about new foods or eating insects than your domestic parrot.
Can Parrots Eat Mealworms?
Parrots can and often do eat mealworms. These are the larval forms of mealworm beetles, which are found around North America. Mealworms are a rich source of protein, and can be served to your parrot either live or dried. You can purchase them at bird stores or bait shops.
These worms do not have any sharp parts that could harm your parrot, nor do they contain any dangerous toxins. In fact, it is believed that mealworms can break down toxins found in some plastics, such as styrofoam.
Can Parrots Eat Crickets?
Crickets are a popular meal choice for a lot of bird species. Your parrot can safely consume these insects if they are frozen or unconscious. If they’re alive and bouncing around, your parrot will struggle to catch them. You may also find the bugs escaping your birdcage.
Crickets have an average protein content of around 20%. They have an average fat content of 7%, which is lower than most worm varieties. They also have a relatively high fiber percentage, at around 3.2%. This is likely due to their high exoskeleton surface area.
Do Parrots Eat Grasshoppers?
Parrots don’t make a regular diet of grasshoppers, since they are difficult to catch. Nonetheless, these insects are native to many of the rainforests that parrots call home. Wild parrots may snack on them if no other food is available, or if a grasshopper is injured and easy to snatch up.
There is no significant danger from feeding your parrot grasshoppers. The protein content for these insects is between 36% and 40%. They are also fairly good sources of Vitamins A, B, and C.
Grasshoppers are not poisonous. However, they may regurgitate their stomach contents to discourage predators from consuming them. Like crickets, grasshoppers have spikes on their rear legs and wings. These features can interfere with your parrot’s eating process, so you should freeze any grasshoppers before feeding them to your pet.
Do Parrots Eat Flies?
Parrots do not usually eat flies, as they are too fast for them to catch. However, owners may be able to feed their parrot fly larvae.
With that said, it’s worth noting that flies often use feces as a breeding ground. Any fly larvae you find around your home may be contaminated with dangerous bacteria. You should avoid feeding that to your pet parrot, as it may cause illness.
Do Parrots Eat Ants?
Owners have reported seeing their pets eat ants. Black ants have a protein content of around 40% and are rich in:
However, most ant species produce formic acid as a defense mechanism. According to Chemoecology, this acid is toxic to birds. For this reason, you should avoid giving your parrot ants in its meals. You should also remove any food that is infested with ants from your birdcage, should they find their way in.
Do Parrots Eat Beetles?
Beetles are a distinct group of insects characterized by their front wings, hardened into wing cases. It is not known if wild parrots eat beetles. However, these insects are a good source of protein and essential minerals such as:
Be careful about the beetles you feed to your parrot. Some species, such as lady beetles and blister beetles, secrete poisonous compounds that are harmful. Other species, such as stag beetles, have strong pincers that are capable of hurting your pet. You should look up the beetle species you are feeding your parrot before adding them to the next meal.
Do Parrots Eat Caterpillars?
Parrots do eat caterpillars. As mentioned earlier, these insects offer a rich protein source, but they are also high in fats. For this reason, parrot owners should offer caterpillars only as a rare treat.
Certain caterpillar species are also poisonous. These are usually characterized by bright colors, and have large spines or hairs. Such caterpillars should not be fed to parrots unless you are certain they are not poisonous.
Can Parrots Eat Waxworms?
Waxworms are the larval form of wax moths. These worms are often sold in pet stores, as they are a suitable meal for many reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Waxworms offer lower protein content than crickets, and have approximately 4 times as much fat.
These worms aren’t harmful to parrots. However, they should not be your parrot’s main source of protein, due to the accompanying fat content.
Do Parrots Eat Mosquitos?
It is unknown whether or not parrots eat mosquitos. However, many different bird species, such as purple martins, geese, ducks, and swallows, consume mosquitoes and mosquito larvae.
Parrot owners should be aware that mosquitos may transmit avian malaria to their pets. According to the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, this disease was responsible for many parrot deaths in Europe in 2010. It’s difficult to tell if a particular mosquito is carrying a virus.
Can Parrots Eat Cockroaches?
It’s not uncommon for tiny cockroaches to end up in your parrot’s food bowl. These insects are naturally attracted to the fruits and pellets you offer your parrot. Nonetheless, you should avoid letting your parrot eat them. The average cockroach offers a nutritional breakdown of:
- 9% protein
- 21% fat
- 8% fiber
This means they aren’t very high in protein compared to crickets and grasshoppers. In addition to this, some cockroaches may have been exposed to pesticides. The chemicals from these poisons can be toxic to your parrot.
If you wish to feed your bird the occasional cockroach, ensure that it’s sourced from a pet store. It can’t be taken from the wild.
Can Parrots Eat Moths?
Parrots can eat certain types of moths, as long as they are not poisonous. These insects may offer some extra protein. However, owners should be careful about ignoring any live moths that get into their parrot’s cage.
Moths are known to multiply fast, especially when they are around edible items such as birdseed. For this reason, it’s best to avoid feeding your parrot moths. Instead, you can offer them wax worms, which are the larval stage of wax moths.
Can Parrots Eat Termites?
Birds commonly consume termites in the wild. Parrots may encounter these insects when searching for food on or inside trees. Termites are high in protein, with some species such as Sytermes Aculeosus consisting of up to 64% protein.
Should I Feed My Parrot Insects?
You can feed your parrot insects, but you should do so carefully. There are potential drawbacks of doing this, such as:
It’s no secret that certain types of bugs are toxic. These toxins can be subdivided into:
- Toxins intentionally emitted by the insect as a defense mechanism.
- Toxins present within the insect’s body itself.
- Toxins from pesticides that have been absorbed by the insect.
These toxins can harm your bird’s health, so be sure that any insects you feed your parrot are free of these dangers. You can avoid defense mechanism toxins or inherent toxins by researching the species of insect beforehand. It is believed that wild parrots can actually distinguish between toxic and non-toxic insects, while captive parrots cannot.
Owners can avoid pesticide toxins by avoiding wild insects. Instead, purchase any from a trustworthy pet store.
Spikes and Barbs
Many insects have strong exoskeletons with sharp or pointy edges. If you offer your parrot one of these insects, they may potentially damage the inside of the mouth or digestive system.
For example, crickets possess sharp barbs on their rear legs. These are evolutionary traits meant to enhance their defenses. Giving your parrot a live cricket can be dangerous, as the insect may poke or stab the bird’s interior organs while it is still alive.
Owners can avoid this problem by placing the cricket in the freezer for a few minutes. The cold temperatures should soften up the otherwise stiff leg barbs and also render the insect unconscious.
As mentioned earlier, the nutritional content of insects can vary greatly. For this reason, parrot owners should look up the nutritional value before feeding it to their pets. If your parrot already has an obesity problem or high cholesterol, you should avoid feeding them fat-rich bugs, such as caterpillars.
Certain insects may also carry parasites, which may get transferred to your parrot and make it sick. For example, some bugs harbor parasites that transform into tapeworms after being consumed by birds.
Parrots do eat insects. However, you should avoid giving your parrot too many insects due to the nutritional imbalance it may cause.