Seeds are considered to be a staple of the diet of parrots. But, with so many different types of seeds available, are they safe for parrots to eat?
Parrots can eat seeds as part of a healthy diet as they are a good source of healthy fats and protein. The most nutritious options include chia seeds, sesame seeds, and watermelon seeds. However, too many seeds can cause obesity, fatty liver disease, and vitamin deficiencies.
Parrots should mostly eat pellets, fruits, and vegetables. Feeding parrots an unsuitable diet from the outset can lead to a range of health problems, where parrots lack the essential nutrition that is needed to keep them healthy and strong.
Why Do Parrots Like Seeds?
Parrots like the taste of seeds. Many birds will even avoid a fresh food diet in favor of a seed-based one.
Parrots enjoy the act of hulling seeds and eating them. When eating, parrots remove the hulls from seeds and consume what’s inside. This instinct carries over to captive birds from their wild cousins, who forage for seeds and remove the shells.
Providing shelled seeds on a food tray inside your parrot’s cage allows them to carry out this natural behavior, and is something they’ll enjoy doing as part of their daily routine.
However, the problem with parrots liking seeds so much is that they can become addicted to eating them, refusing to eat all other foods provided. Similarly, parrots cherry-pick the seeds they like best, abandoning all others. This weakens their nutritional intake further.
Are Seeds Healthy for Parrots?
In moderation, seeds offer a range of health benefits. However, despite how much parrots love seeds, they’re not a particularly healthy option.
Seeds should only make up around 25% of your parrot’s diet. Pellets should make up the rest, along with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and greens.
Sprouted seeds are better for parrots than dry seeds. This is because they’re captured during the germination process. As a result, they have a higher level of nutrients and are easier to digest than dried seeds.
In the wild, parrots also forage for sprouted seeds that are growing in the ground, using their long, sharp beaks to pluck them out. That being said, dry seeds do offer a range of health benefits, such as:
- They’re a good source of energy as they contain fat
- They make a tasty treat and can be used for positive reinforcement
- They fill parrots up and can be safely stored in the crop
- They encourage parrots to forage
Therefore, it’s safe to provide seeds in small quantities alongside a healthy diet of pellets, fruits, and veggies. Keep an eye on your parrot’s seed intake and restrict it if necessary.
Are Seeds Bad For Parrots?
While seeds are viewed as essential, a diet that’s entirely made up of seeds can be harmful to your parrot’s health.
Seeds should be restricted as a treat food. Sometimes, this involves weaning your parrot off a seed-only diet. This isn’t an easy thing to do. The following health problems are caused by a diet that’s too high in seeds:
Seeds are high in calories and fat, so overconsumption can lead to obesity. When combined with a lack of exercise, which is common amongst captive parrots, parrots are prone to gaining weight quickly.
Obesity is defined as anything over 15% of a parrot’s ideal weight. Obesity is bad for a parrot’s:
- Joints: extra weight applies too much pressure to them
- Cardiovascular system: the heart has to work too hard to pump blood around the body
- Liver: parrots develop fatty deposits around their organs, leading to fatty liver disease
Obesity can lead to a range of health problems, such as cancer and heart disease. These issues are usually connected to old age, but all obese parrots are at risk. Signs that your parrot has gained too much weight include:
- Balding areas
- Refusal or inability to exercise
- Fatty chest
- Shortness of breath
- Widened stance
- Egg binding
Cut down on the number of seeds your parrot has access to, but don’t remove them entirely as your parrot may refuse to eat and starve.
Seeds are deficient in vitamins and minerals, including calcium. When seeds are provided for prolonged periods, your parrot will become deficient in these vitamins and minerals, too. They are essential for:
- Bone structure and strength
- Breathing capabilities
- Mucus production to lubricate the eyes, nose, and mouth
- Feather and skin quality
The most important vitamins and minerals are calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and B vitamins. Without these vitamins, parrots can develop:
- Painful lesions
- Ulcers in the passageways
- Dry, scaly feet
- Poor feather quality
- Swelling around the eyes and mouth
- Loss of hearing
Nutritional problems are one of the most common reasons parrots go to an avian vet.
Upper Respiratory Disease
As previously mentioned, vitamin A is essential for a parrot’s ability to breathe properly. A lack of vitamin A, which is often caused by an all-seed diet, is responsible for causing a range of respiratory problems. In particular, Amazon parrots are affected by upper respiratory diseases.
Vitamin A is needed for the normal development of skin cells lining the respiratory tract. Without vitamin A, parrots develop an abnormal amount of skin cells, which are easily invaded by bacteria and microorganisms. This causes breathing problems. Signs of a respiratory infection include:
- Watery eyes
- Nasal discharge
- Voice changes
- Difficulty breathing
- Failure to perch
- Eyes permanently closed
If your parrot displays any of these symptoms, take it to the vet for treatment. Once the parrot starts feeling better, you’ll need to incorporate some healthier foods into your parrot’s diet, such as pellets, fruits, and veggies. An all-seed diet must be gradually replaced.
What Type of Seeds Do Parrots Eat?
It’s easy to assume that all seeds are good for parrots. This isn’t necessarily the case. Similarly, there may be a range of seed varieties that parrots love that you haven’t yet considered.
Not all seeds are created equal – some are more nutritional than others. Here are some of the best seeds to feed parrots:
Can Parrots Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
Pumpkins are a favored food, and the good news is that pumpkin seeds are safe for them to eat alongside the pumpkin’s flesh.
While high in calories, pumpkin seeds provide many healthy vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. They’re also high in fiber and antioxidants that protect against diseases.
Each ounce of kernels contains 7 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat. To make pumpkin seeds suitable for parrots:
- Remove them from the pumpkin’s core. Remove the pulp and strings.
- Dry the seeds using a clean towel and place them onto a baking tray.
- Bake them for 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees and turn regularly.
- Once they’ve cooled, they can be safely fed to your parrot.
Instead of wasting the pumpkin flesh, cut it into bite-sized cubes and steam it for 35-40 minutes until it turns soft. For smaller parrots, mash the pumpkin and allow the birds to pick at it.
Can Parrots Eat Papaya Seeds?
Many parrots love papaya seeds more than the flesh. In the wild, birds eat the seeds from the fallen papaya, picking through the flesh.
Papaya seeds have a peppery taste and a high fiber content. They’re also a natural digestive enzyme, which helps parrots to break down food so that nutrients can be absorbed.
They also contain healthy fats, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, making them a superfood.
Papaya seeds should only be given to your parrot once the papaya is at the peak of ripeness. Green papaya that’s too ripe contains a higher number of salicylates, which is a blood-thinning agent.
Similarly, overly ripe papaya contains more histamines, which triggers feather destroyers. As a result, only ripe papaya is considered parrot-safe.
Can Parrots Eat Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are high in protein, which is essential for a parrot’s growth. However, in high quantities, they contain too much fat.
Chia seeds also have high levels of antioxidants and calcium, which parrots can easily become deficient in. Birds can’t digest dairy very well, so chia seeds are a good alternative.
They’re also a healthy raw food and contain no added ingredients. They provide an energy boost without the harmful additives, so they make a good addition to a parrot’s balanced diet. Chia seeds also contain:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Folic acid
Chia seeds are one of the healthiest seeds to feed your parrot, as long as you provide them in moderation as a treat.
Can Parrots Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Most parrots choose sunflower seeds over most other seeds. However, this doesn’t mean sunflower seeds are healthy for parrots.
Sunflower seeds are high in fat. They make parrots feel full, but this means that they will prioritize eating sunflower seeds to feel satiated as opposed to getting the right nutritional content. It can also lead to malnutrition.
Sunflower seeds do contain protein, but plant protein isn’t a complete form of protein. Therefore, sunflower seeds don’t have the full bank of amino acids necessary for your parrot’s health and wellbeing. Providing a range of other seeds will help to provide a broader range of amino acids. Fat intake from too many sunflower seeds can cause:
- Fertility issues
- Blood clotting
- Poor vitamin E levels
- Fatty liver disease
Restrict sunflower seeds to an occasional treat once your parrot has gotten used to a diet of pellets, fruits, and vegetables.
Can Parrots Eat Sesame Seeds?
According to Sciencing, birds are exceptionally fond of sesame seeds. They’re seeds of the sesame plant. The plant’s pink and white flowers fertilize, after which point, sesame seeds appear.
Because sesame seeds are small, parrots enjoy foraging for them amongst a range of other seeds and nuts. They can be given to parrots as they come right out of the packet. However, raw sesame seeds are more nutritious than the roasted kind. Sesame seeds are rich in:
Sesame seeds also contain sesamin and sesamolin, which are unique fibers that increase levels of vitamin E. This can prevent high blood pressure. They are also high in healthy fats in the form of oil.
However, macaws can benefit from lots of oil and fat in their diet, so they can be fed a larger amount of sesame seeds than other parrots. Sesame seeds are tiny and difficult to forage, so mix them with other seeds to help your parrot grab hold of them.
Can Parrots Eat Watermelon Seeds?
Watermelon seeds are one of the safest seeds for parrots to eat. Parrots usually eat the seeds before the watermelon’s flesh. Watermelon seeds are an excellent source of:
These minerals are beneficial for heart health, metabolism, feather quality, and bone strength. Feeding watermelon seeds along with the rest of the watermelon provides a range of other benefits. Watermelon contains vitamin A and C, which boosts the immune system and skin health.
It’s also a good way to encourage your parrot to eat more fruit. For captive parrots, watermelon seeds can be too hard for them to eat comfortably. In rare cases, they can even be a choking hazard. To make them softer, soak them overnight before you feed them to parrots.
Can Parrots Eat Pomegranate Seeds?
Pomegranate seeds are lower in fat than other types of seeds. They’re also high in fiber and natural sugar, making it a tasty treat your parrot will love.
That being said, you shouldn’t feed pomegranate seeds too often in case your parrot wants to eat them for every meal. This can lead to malnutrition. Pomegranates are a rich source of:
- Vitamin C
A good natural way to provide your parrot with pomegranate seeds is to poke a hole through the middle and place a string through it. Hang it on the roof or the side of the cage for the parrot to forage for the seeds itself.
It’s also important to understand the downsides of pomegranate seeds, which includes:
- Diabetes: caused by too much sugar
- Upset stomach: this is another side effect of excess sugar
- Weight gain: if fed too often
Can Parrots Eat Guava Seeds?
Guava seeds have a sweeter taste than most other seeds. This makes them delicious and tempting for parrots. However, as they’re high in natural sugars, it’s best to limit the amount your parrot eats, in case of addition.
Guava fruits are native to tropical America, so wild parrots who reside there eat guava as part of their natural diet. Parrots eat all parts of the fruit, including the seeds. Therefore, guava seeds are safe for parrots to eat.
Providing both the flesh and seeds is a great way to encourage a healthy, nutritionally-balanced diet.
Can Parrots Eat Pepper Seeds?
Parrots enjoy all parts of the pepper, including the seeds. They enjoy the core, which is sweet and rougher than the rest of the pepper. Pepper seeds can heal intestinal legions and contains high levels of essential vitamin A.
Interestingly, parrots can’t taste the pepper seeds’ heat because they’re immune to capsaicin, which makes the pepper hot. In mammals, capsaicin creates an uncomfortable burning sensation once consumed. Both raw and cooked pepper seeds are safe for parrots to eat.
Instead of removing the seeds the next time you use peppers for cooking a meal, put them aside for your parrot to eat. Don’t add any oil or seasoning to the pepper seeds, as this can cause the parrot to be unwell.
Be careful how many pepper seeds you feed your bird. Too much can cause a vitamin C overload.
Can Parrots Eat Mustard Seeds?
Mustard seeds contain 36% fat. They have a zesty flavor, but they’re not one of the most common seeds fed to parrots.
Mustard seed sprouts are better than dry seeds. However, when mustard seed sprouts come into contact with water, ally isothiocyanate is formed, which is what gives mustard its spicy, pungent taste. Not all parrots enjoy it, as they prefer nuttier flavors.
Mustard seed sprouts are safe when they’ve been harvested after 4 to 5 days. Some owners prefer to soak them first.
Because there are many other seeds available that are suitable for parrots, mustard seeds aren’t the best option.
Can Parrots Eat Tomato Seeds?
While the seeds are less of a problem, tomatoes are highly acidic. When given to parrots too often, stomach ulcers and upsets can occur. Dried tomatoes and seeds are less acidic.
Because of the potential health hazards associated with tomatoes, feed tomato seeds in isolation without the flesh. Keep tomato vines and leaves away from parrots, too, as they’re the most toxic part of the fruit.
Can Parrots Eat Flax Seeds?
Flax seeds are considered a superfood in the human world. They also make a healthy addition to a parrot’s balanced diet. Like most seeds, flax seeds have a high-fat content, so they can only be given in moderation. They have a nutty flavor that is popular with many parrot species.
There are two kinds of flax seeds: brown and golden. Both can be consumed safely by parrots. They’re packed with:
- B vitamins
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Flax seeds can also improve feather and skin quality and reduce the urge to pluck out feathers. However, because of the high-fat content, too many flax seeds can cause:
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease
Flax seeds tend to have hard shells and are very small, making it hard for parrots to eat them as they come. As a result, some parrot owners prefer to grind them before feeding.
Can Parrots Eat Milk Thistle Seeds?
Milk thistle seeds are an underrated seed. Milk thistle is a flowering herb that’s used to treat liver issues in birds. An unhealthy, fatty diet causes most liver problems.
As described by The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, milk thistle seeds for parrots contain at least seven flavonolignans.
Milk thistle seeds are commonly used in addition to your bird’s regular diet to treat liver issues. Every now and then, milk thistle produces a few side effects, such as:
- Loose stools
- Mild tummy upsets
- Dark green to black stools
However, milk thistle seeds are bitter with an unpleasant taste, so many parrots won’t touch them. As a result, milk thistle extract is usually preferred and accepted by birds.
If giving milk thistle extract, make sure your formula hasn’t been mixed with alcohol, as this is toxic to parrots.
Seeds vs. Pellets for Parrots
Seeds and pellets are often confused. However, pellets are more commonly used as the bulk of a parrot’s diet.
Too many seeds or pellets (or both) don’t offer the comprehensive range of vitamins and minerals your parrot needs, leaving it vulnerable to avoidable health problems.
We’ve already established that parrots love seeds, but seeds are considered junk food in high quantities. Many parrots are happy to consume an all-seed diet, but this is the worst thing you can allow your parrot to do.
Also, unless sprouted, seed quality can be poor. They contain artificial colors and other unhealthy ingredients. Malnutrition is commonly associated with seeds, so they’re not suitable as a main part of the diet.
Pellets are formulated to cater to a parrot’s specific needs. They contain a mixture of fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds, providing high levels of essential nutrients, including fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
They’re also designed to be flavorsome to encourage parrots to eat them. Parrots are notorious for picking out their favorite seeds and leaving the rest. Pellets are both blended and baked, so they all taste and feel the same.
To ensure your parrot adapts to a pellet diet, feed them while the bird is a chick. If you leave it too late, the parrot may reject them in favor of seeds.
For the optimum diet, provide both pellets and seeds, giving your parrot a mix of textures and flavors that are healthy and nutritious when combined. If your parrot is on an all-seed diet, it’s wise to try to wean them onto pellets to ensure a varied diet.
VCA Hospitals suggests that conures should be weaned off seeds during a period of 4-8 weeks. This rule can also go for all other parrots. Some parrots refuse to eat pellets, so mixing them amongst seeds is the only way to get parrots to eat them.
However, parrots don’t accidentally eat pellets, so it’ll take a lot of time and effort to wean parrots off seeds. Don’t withdraw the seeds until you are sure your parrot is beginning to eat pellets, or the bird is at risk of starvation.
When Do Baby Parrots Eat Seeds?
Baby parrots can eat seeds once they’ve been weaned off formula. This should be when the parrot is around 8 weeks old. Experts agree that any time before this is too early.
Before you begin to wean your baby parrot onto solid foods, check that the bird has developed a full complement of feathers, as this is a sign that the bird is ready. Most parrots begin to learn how to hold onto solid foods at around 12 weeks old.
Seeds are one of the last solid foods to be fed to baby parrots. Because they’re hard, they’re tricky for baby parrots to eat at first. As a result, they should be weaned using soft fruits and vegetables. You can also soak monkey biscuits to make them soft and mix them with peanut butter. Eventually, move on to pellets.
Once the parrot gets to grips with these foods, you can start to incorporate seeds and nuts as a treat. Don’t allow your bird to get too hooked.
We’ve already established that weaning parrots off an all-seed diet is difficult, and it’s a problem that can be avoided if the right food is given from the start. If it’s not, the baby parrot could starve.
Owners have a responsibility to provide a healthy, well-balanced diet. Seeds make a tasty treat for parrots, but they should only be fed in moderation.