Parrots are omnivores, consuming both plant and animal matter. Insects are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Parrots will eat insects to derive energy and nutrients.
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 covered 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 parrots are omnivores, their digestive system will not be harmed by eating bugs. Parrots eat various kinds of meat and process the heavier proteins without stomach upset, insects included.
With that said, parrots don’t 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 a 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.
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
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.
Parrots eat mealworms. These are the larval forms of mealworm beetles that are found around North America. Mealworms are a rich source of protein and can be offered to your parrot either live or dead (dried). They can be purchased at bird stores or bait shops.
Mealworms don’t have any sharp parts that could harm your parrot, nor do they contain any dangerous toxins. It’s believed that mealworms can break down toxins found in some plastics, such as styrofoam.
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.
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.
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.
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 infested with ants from your birdcage, should they find their way in.
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. Look up the beetle species you are feeding your parrot before adding them to the next meal.
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 only offer caterpillars 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.
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 four 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.
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.
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 provides 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.
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.
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.