Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
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 their biological need for regular meals, parrots may stop eating due to unhappiness, sickness, injuries, and pickiness.
Parrots rarely survive for more than 72 hours without food.
Small parrots, like budgies and lovebirds, may die within 24 hours. Large birds, like macaws and cockatoos, may survive for 48-72 hours. Most birds grow sick and malnourished 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 Parrots Can Survive Without Food
Birds have quicker metabolisms than mammals, with limited fat reserves to sustain themselves when food is scarce. A healthy parrot can survive missing a single meal, but any more poses a health risk.
This table indicates how long different parrot species may survive without food:
Large parrots survive longer without eating than small parrots. The parrot’s age, health, weight, and genetics also impact its average survival time.
New Parrot Not Eating
If you have a new parrot, you may need to encourage it to eat in its new home.
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 and safe location.
Spend time with the parrot, talking to it regularly in a calming tone. Avoid handling the bird unless necessary. Give it time to settle in and follow a schedule.
A wholesale dietary change can upset a parrot’s digestion and not appeal to its desire for routine. If necessary, gradually transition a new parrot to a more nutritious diet.
Parrot Suddenly Stopped Eating
Parrots usually have a hearty appetite, so veterinary intervention is essential if a bird suddenly stops eating. A parrot’s life is in danger if it doesn’t eat for 24-72 hours.
Here are some causes of appetite loss in parrots:
Parrots can be stubborn and do whatever it takes to get their way. If a parrot disapproves of a change you’ve 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 will eat before starving to death.
Survival instincts usually supersede a parrot’s food preferences, but exceptions exist. Even if a parrot won’t allow itself to starve, this doesn’t mean it’ll eat heartily.
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 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 because parrots are neophobes.
- 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 uncomfortable.
Blocked Access to Food
If several birds share a cage, ensure they have equal access to food. Some birds can grow territorial over food and ‘gatekeep’ resources, especially when experiencing 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 change due to a dispute.
If you use different food bowls and dishes, vary the colors and shapes.
Problems with a parrot’s break, like misalignment, malocclusion, or scissor beak, can result in appetite loss. Not eating after beak trim is common because the parrot needs time to recover.
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 beak in good condition with chew toys and abrasive materials within the cage. Also, check for beak fractures and seek veterinary advice if necessary.
As per Zoo and Wild Animal Dentistry, beakistry is a niche component in avian veterinary medicine.
Intestinal or Gizzard Blockage
If a parrot refuses to eat, it may have a blockage of the intestines or gizzard. A blockage means something is lodged in the crop or digestive tract, preventing it from eating.
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’s declining food always merits investigation.
Signs of A Hungry Parrot
The parrot will be hungry if you fail to provide a scheduled meal.
Parrots aren’t shy about letting you know about their hunger. If they’re concerned they won’t be fed, they’ll make various noises, like loud squawks or screams.
Parrots prefer to follow the same feeding schedule in captivity as in the wild, eating in the morning upon waking and before roosting at night.
How To Get A Parrot To Eat
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 stated that parrots have a stronger sense of smell than previously believed.
Once the parrot shows an inclination to eat, make a fuss of it and encourage it to continue.
Parrots enjoy their food and understand its importance, so it’s rare for birds to refuse to eat. Ensure the parrot is fed at sunrise and sunset. Also, offer it nutritious mid-day snacks.