Routine and reliability are important to parrots, so they need scheduled mealtimes. Parrots eat first thing in the morning at sunrise and again at sunset, about an hour before sleep.
Birds must eat regularly to sustain their fast metabolism. Despite parrots’ biological need for regular meals, they may stop eating due to unhappiness, sickness, injuries, and pickiness.
Unfortunately, parrots rarely survive for more than 72 hours without food.
Small parrots, like budgies and lovebirds, may die within 24 hours. Larger birds, like macaws and cockatoos, may survive for 48-72 hours. Many birds grow sick and malnourished much earlier.
Parrots must drink 5% of their body weight in water to replace fluid lost during the day. Some hydration can come via water-dense foods, with the rest coming from a direct water source.
How Long Can Parrots Survive Without Food?
Birds have quicker metabolisms than mammals, with limited fat reserves to sustain themselves when food is scarce. A parrot can usually survive missing a meal, but any more poses a significant health risk.
This table indicates how long different parrot species can survive without food. As can be seen, larger parrots survive for longer than smaller parrots.
|African gray||72 hours|
|Amazon parrot||72 hours|
|Indian ringneck||48 hours|
|Senegal parrot||48 hours|
The parrot’s age, health, weight, and genetics will also impact average survival times.
What Is Malnourishment in Parrots?
Malnourishment is an imbalance of essential nutrients in the body. Malnutrition is most commonly due to a poor diet or failure to provide sufficient food.
Parrots exclusively fed seeds or nuts are at the most risk of malnutrition. While many birds enjoy these foods, this diet will be unbalanced and lacking in vitamins and minerals.
For example, birds fed an exclusively seed-based diet are often vitamin A deficient (hypovitaminosis A).
Warning signs that a parrot is malnourished include the following:
- Sudden weight loss or unexplained weight gain.
- General lethargy.
- Dull, discolored feathers.
- Low-quality feathers that bend or snap.
- Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and nostrils.
- Swelling around the eyes.
- Overgrown claws.
- Flakiness on the beak and feet.
- Polyuria (excessive urine in the waste.)
If you suspect a parrot is malnourished, make vet-approved changes to its diet.
How Do I Know if My Parrot is Hungry?
The parrot will be hungry if you forget to provide a scheduled meal.
Most parrots aren’t shy about verbally announcing their hunger. A bird will make a range of noises, like a loud squawk or scream if it’s concerned that food won’t arrive.
Parrots prefer to follow the same feeding schedule in captivity as in the wild, feasting in the morning upon waking and before roosting at night.
Why Is My New Parrot Not Eating?
If you have a new parrot, you may need to encourage it to eat in its new environment.
In the wild, parrots will only eat if their surroundings are calm and serene. When a parrot is new to a home, ensure the cage is in a quiet, secure location.
Spend time with the parrot, talking to it regularly in a low, calming tone. Avoid handling the bird unless necessary. Give it time to settle into your home and follow a schedule.
A wholesale dietary change can upset a parrot’s digestion. It also won’t appeal to its desire for routine and familiarity. If necessary, gradually transition a new parrot to a more nutritious diet.
Why Has My Parrot Suddenly Stopped Eating?
Parrots usually have a hearty appetite, so veterinary intervention may be necessary if a bird suddenly stops eating. A parrot’s life is in danger if it doesn’t eat for 24-72 hours.
Here are the most common reasons for loss of appetite in parrots:
Dislikes Dietary Changes
Parrots can be stubborn and do whatever it takes to get their way. This can apply to a bird’s diet. If a parrot disapproves of a change you have made to its diet, it may refuse to eat.
If you need to transition a parrot from one food to another, do so gradually.
Start by filling a food dish with three-quarters of existing food and one-quarter of the new variety. After a few days, start moving toward a 50/50 ratio. After 1-2 weeks, the parrot should have adjusted.
Will a Bird Starve Itself?
As stubborn as parrots can be about food, most birds will eat before starving to death. Survival instincts usually supersede a parrot’s personal food preferences.
Even if a parrot won’t allow itself to starve, this doesn’t mean it’ll eat heartily. This bird may eat just enough to stay alive, leaving itself at risk of becoming malnourished.
If a parrot is refusing to eat, don’t play the bird at its own game and refuse to offer something more palatable. There are no guarantees the parrot will eat, so gradually transition to a new diet.
Stress and Anxiety
Parrots that feel uneasy and stressed will likely refuse to eat. If a parrot suddenly refuses food, consider whether something in the bird’s environment has changed. Possibilities include:
- Significant increases or decreases in ambient temperature.
- Changes to routine and schedule, including unreliable meal times.
- Presence of other pets in the home, especially cats.
- New objects in and around the cage, as parrots are neophobes (fear the unfamiliar.)
- Loud noises surround the cage, especially at night when visibility its visibility is obscured.
- Pain caused by an accident. Not eating after an injury is common in parrots.
Check for behaviors and vocalizations that suggest the parrot is feeling uncomfortable.
Blocked Access to Food
If several birds share a cage, ensure they enjoy equal access to food. Some birds can grow territorial over food and ‘gatekeep’ resources, especially when experiencing sudden hormonal changes.
Keeping several food dishes in a cage is recommended to minimize the chances of food guarding. Parrots are most likely to guard resources that are in short supply.
Even if birds usually get along well, there’s the possibility that things can change due to a dispute.
If you use different food bowls and dishes, vary the colors and shapes. As per the Journal of Experimental Biology, parrots can distinguish different shades. Avoid bright colors like red, as they can provoke fear.
Problems with a parrot’s break, like misalignment, malocclusion, or scissor beak, can result in a bird losing its appetite. Similarly, not eating after beak trim is common because the parrot needs time to recover.
Eating will be difficult and painful if the break is misaligned.
A healthy parrot’s beak will be in 2 parts, with the larger upper beak curving over the top of the smaller, lower beak. This shape earns parrots the nickname ‘hookbills.’
Keep the parrot’s beak in good condition with chew toys and abrasive materials within the cage. Also, check for fractures of the parrot’s beak, seeking veterinary advice if necessary.
As per Zoo and Wild Animal Dentistry, beakistry is a comparatively new and niche component in avian veterinary medicine. Check the vet understands and has experience with beak-related issues.
Intestinal or Gizzard Blockage
If a parrot refuses to eat, it may have a blockage of the intestines or gizzard. Blockages mean something is trapped in a bird’s crop or digestive tract, preventing it from consuming anything new.
Aside from refusing to eat, warning signs that a parrot has a blockage include the following:
- Drinking to excess to flush out a blockage.
- Fluffing the feathers in pain.
- Lethargy and depression.
- Struggling to defecate, with stools almost exclusively comprised of water.
Food isn’t the only cause of blocked gizzards or intestinal tracts. The parrot may have swallowed part of a toy or other inanimate object, which has become lodged.
Vets can remove blockages with an esophageal stent or surgery.
Potential health problems include:
- Weakness due to parasites.
- Respiratory illness.
- Consumption of toxins.
- Internal organs, like the kidneys or liver, are underperforming.
- Yeast or fungal infections.
A parrot declining food always merits investigation.
How To Get A Parrot to Eat
Understanding what to do if a bird is a picky eater can be critical to keeping them happy and healthy. If a pet bird declines food, you must convince them to start eating again.
Ways to encourage a reluctant parrot to eat include:
- Eat in front of the parrot because birds learn through repetition.
- Tell the bird they can’t share your meal, then turn your back. Many parrots relish the opportunity to ‘steal’ food from a human. Just make sure that the food is parrot-safe.
- Skewer and hang food in the side of the cage instead of chopping it and leaving it in a bowl.
- Sprinkle the food on a newly cleaned cage floor to appeal to a parrot’s foraging instincts.
- Mash the food and apply a tempting scent. Biological Sciences confirms that parrots have a stronger sense of smell than previously believed.
Once the parrot shows an inclination to eat, make a fuss of it, encouraging it to continue eating.
How To Get A Parrot To Gain Weight
If a parrot hasn’t been eating and is underweight, you may need to help them gain weight.
Millet spray can help parrots gain mass as it’s a high-calorie snack but lacks nutrients.
Parrots enjoy their food and understand its importance, so it’s rare for birds to refuse to eat. Always ensure the parrot is fed at sunrise and sunset with mid-day snack treats.