Unless you give your parrot nutritional supplements, it needs a diet high in calcium. If your parrot becomes calcium deficient, it’ll develop hypocalcemia.
The best calcium-rich foods include leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, mustard greens, and collards. You’ll also find calcium in fresh fruits, like kiwis and apricots.
Oats, beans, and legumes are popular snacks high in calcium. Many parrots also enjoy nuts; almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts contain calcium. Crushed eggshells are also a good dietary source.
Many of us associate dairy with calcium, but parrots are lactose intolerant. You can introduce calcium to a parrot’s diet through cheese, but only if it’s lactose-free.
Why Should Parrots Eat Foods with Calcium?
Calcium is a building block for healthy bones within the body. Parrots, in particular, need a steady supply of calcium in their diet. Without this mineral, companion birds develop numerous health problems.
Some owners add calcium supplements to their parrot’s diets to avoid calcium deficiencies. A preferable approach is offering a balanced diet with calcium and vitamin D.
Why Do Parrots Need Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D ensures that calcium is metabolized and processed. If your parrot eats foods rich in calcium but doesn’t get enough (or any) Vitamin D, the calcium won’t fulfill its intended function.
The calcium in food or supplements is processed by introducing Vitamin D. Calcium is then absorbed into the bones, ensuring a healthy skeleton.
Parrots don’t generate Vitamin D, so it must be absorbed into the skin through the sun’s UV rays, or if your parrot cannot safely spend time outside, ingested through food. Fatty fish (especially salmon), eggs, and liver are parrot-safe foods high in Vitamin D.
If a parrot is deficient in Vitamin D, it can’t utilize the calcium it consumes, leading to hypocalcemia.
What is Hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia is a condition caused by calcium deficiency.
Parrots display many symptoms of hypocalcemia, which can become serious over time. Female parrots suffer the most, often becoming infertile if calcium deficiency isn’t resolved.
The first warning is feather picking, but parrots that lack calcium will also become withdrawn, lethargic, and depressed. Parrots will experience muscle issues that culminate in tremors and seizures.
Hypocalcemia can be resolved by adjusting a parrot’s diet to include more calcium. Veterinaria explains how an all-seed diet can lead to the issue.
What are the Best Calcium Rich Foods for Parrots?
If you have reason to believe your parrot has hypocalcemia, you’ll need to adjust your bird’s diet. Here are some good dietary sources of calcium for parrots:
1/ Dark, Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are the finest source of calcium available to parrots.
Be careful of lighter greens, like lettuce – iceberg lettuce, in particular, offers limited nutrition. Darker greens are perfect for a parrot. The best examples include the following:
- Brussel sprouts
- Mustard greens
Most parrots will relish the opportunity to eat leafy greens.
2/ Nuts and Seeds
While nuts and seeds contain some essential nutrients, they won’t satisfy all of a parrot’s dietary needs alone. The following are good treats for parrots due to their high calcium content:
|Macadamia nuts||Poppy seeds|
Keep these foods as complementary snacks, treats, and rewards for your parrot.
While they contain lots of calcium, they’re also fatty and can lead to weight gain. As per Avian Pathology, parrots can develop diabetes.
3/ Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are widely regarded as a source of protein for people and animals that don’t consume meat and fish. As well as protein, lentils and the following beans are high in calcium and will help your parrot meet its needs for this mineral.
- Black beans
- Goa beans (winged beans)
- Kidney beans
- Navy beans
- White beans
If feeding beans to a parrot, they must be cooked first. Raw beans contain hemagglutinin, which Future Virology explains is linked to severe respiratory infection in birds.
Cooked beans can be fed whole or mashed and offered in a bowl.
4/ Fresh and Dried Fruits
Whether fresh or dried, fruit plays a significant role in many parrot diets. Most parrots have a sweet tooth, and fruit can be a great way to satisfy this. Some of the fruits highest in calcium include:
If your bird develops a taste for sweet treats, it can suffer from stomach upsets and refuse to eat anything else, leading to a nutritional imbalance.
Oatmeal is high in calcium. A 100g serving of oatmeal contains around 80mg of calcium. Half a cup of oats offers more calcium than an 8oz glass of milk.
Oatmeal doesn’t need to be cooked for parrots to eat and gain benefits, and raw oats are arguably the healthiest way for parrots to enjoy this food.
Eggs are a good source of calcium for parrots, in addition to protein and other essential nutrients.
If you do not mind cleaning up a little mess afterward, offer your parrot a boiled egg. Your parrot will enjoy nibbling its way through the eggshell, which contains the most calcium.
You can also grind eggshells and sprinkle them over other foods.
Limit feeding of eggs to once per week. While there are health benefits to feeding eggs to parrots, they’re also high in fat and cholesterol, which can lead to weight gain.
7/ Lactose-Free Cheese
We’re taught milk is vital for healthy bones due to its high calcium content. Parrots can’t take advantage of this due to the presence of lactose in cow’s milk and associated dairy products like cheese.
Lactose is a sugar found in most dairy products broken down by lactase, an enzyme in the body. Birds, including parrots, don’t generate lactase, which means lactose won’t be digested and sits in the stomach until expelled, often in the form of diarrhea.
Lactose-free cheese is a safe parrot snack, as it won’t cause a stomach upset but still contains all the calcium found in traditional dairy. Ensure you pick up lactose-free cheese, not dairy-free. Cheese alternatives created for a vegan diet rarely contain calcium.