Parrots really enjoy the taste of seeds. In fact, given the opportunity, many parrots will avoid eating all other foods in favor of a seed-based diet. But, with so many different types of seeds available, which seeds are safe for parrots to eat? Is there a limit to how many seeds birds should eat to stay healthy?
Seeds, such as chia seeds, sesame seeds, and watermelon seeds, are a good source of healthy fats and protein for parrots. However, consuming too many seeds can lead to obesity, fatty liver disease, and vitamin deficiencies.
Avoid only giving your parrot seeds, even if it loves eating them. Feeding parrots an unsuitable diet can lead to a range of health issues, where they’ll lack the essential nutrients needed to keep them healthy and strong.
Why Do Parrots Like Seeds?
Parrots remove the hulls with their beaks before consuming the tasty seed within. Providing seeds in their shells on a food tray inside your parrot’s cage allows them to carry out this natural behavior in captivity. It’s something that parrots will enjoy doing as part of their daily routine.
However, the problem with parrots liking seeds so much is that they can become addicted, refusing to eat all other foods. Seed addiction is a genuine problem in pet parrots. Also, parrots will cherry-pick the seeds that they like the most, abandoning all others.
Are Seeds Healthy for Parrots?
In moderation, seeds offer a range of health benefits. Your parrot’s diet should consist of certain flowers, fruits, cooked and raw vegetables, nuts, and high-quality pellets. If in doubt, provide your parrot with a formulated diet.
Sprouted seeds are better for parrots than dry seeds because they’re captured during the germination process. As a result, they contain more nutrients and are easier to digest than dried seeds.
In the wild, parrots forage for sprouted seeds growing in the ground, using their long, sharp beaks to pluck them out.
Are Seeds Bad For Parrots?
A diet that consists almost entirely of seeds can be extremely harmful to your parrot’s well-being. The following health problems are caused by a diet that’s too high in seeds:
Seeds are high in fat and calories, so their overconsumption can lead to obesity. Coupled with a lack of exercise, which is common amongst captive parrots, they’re prone to gaining weight quickly. Obesity is defined as anything over 15% of a parrot’s ideal weight. Obesity is harmful to a parrot’s:
- Joints: Extra weight places a greater strain on the joints
- Cardiovascular system: The heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body
- Liver: Parrots develop fatty deposits around their organs, leading to fatty liver disease
Signs that your parrot has gained too much weight include:
- Balding areas
- Refusal/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.
Seeds are deficient in vitamins and minerals, including calcium. When seeds are provided for prolonged periods, your parrot will become deficient in vitamins and minerals that 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 see an avian vet.
Upper Respiratory Disease
Vitamin A is essential for a parrot’s breathing. A lack of vitamin A, which is often caused by an all-seed diet, is responsible for many 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 can become infected by bacteria and microorganisms, leading to breathing problems. Signs of a respiratory infection include:
- Watery eyes
- Nasal discharge
- Voice changes
- Difficulty breathing
- Failure to perch
- Eyes permanently closed
What Type of Seeds Do Parrots Eat?
It’s easy to assume that all seeds are good for parrots, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Similarly, there may be a range of seed varieties that parrots love that you haven’t yet considered. Some seeds are more nutritional than others. Here are some of the best seeds to feed parrots:
Can Parrots Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
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, taking out 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.
There’s no need to waste the pumpkin flesh. Just 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 them to pick at it.
Can Parrots Eat Papaya Seeds?
Many parrots like papaya seeds more than the flesh. Papaya seeds have a peppery taste and a high fiber content. In the wild, birds eat the seeds from the fallen papaya, picking through the flesh.
They’re also a natural digestive enzyme, which helps parrots break down food so that the 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 contains a higher number of salicylates, which is a blood-thinning agent. Similarly, overly ripe papaya contains more histamines.
Can Parrots Eat Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is a member of the mint family.
Given that 50 grams of chia seeds contain around 18 grams of fiber, they’re of assistance to the digestive system, enabling your parrot to avoid constipation.
The high calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus content mean that they’re beneficial for bone health. This is important given that birds find the lactose in milk difficult to digest.
Their poly-unsaturated fats, fiber, and anti-inflammatory properties mean that they can reduce blood pressure (hypertension) and benefit heart health. Chia seeds contain the following vitamins, minerals, and nutrients:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Folic acid
Can Parrots Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Most parrots choose sunflower seeds over all other seeds. Unfortunately, sunflower seeds aren’t the healthiest seeds for parrots. Too many seeds can lead to weight gain and a range of health issues.
Sunflower seeds are high in fat, making parrots feel full. This means that they will prioritize eating sunflower seeds to feel satiated, which can lead to malnutrition. The fat intake from too many sunflower seeds can lead to:
- Fertility issues
- Blood clotting
- Poor vitamin E levels
- Fatty liver disease
- Atherosclerosis, leading to strokes and heart attacks
- Calcium defiency, resulting in weak bones and egg binding
You can feed your parrot sunflower seeds occasionally, but other types of seeds are much preferred.
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. 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.
Macaws can benefit from the oil and fat in their diet. So, they can be fed more sesame seeds than other parrots. Sesame seeds are tiny and difficult to forage, so mix them with other seeds.
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 a valuable 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 health benefits. Watermelon contains vitamin A and C, which boosts the immune system and skin health.
For captive parrots, watermelon seeds can be too hard for them to eat comfortably. To make them softer, you can soak them overnight before you feed them to your parrot.
Can Parrots Eat Pomegranate Seeds?
The seeds and arils of the pomegranate are highly nutritious. Pomegranate seeds are low in fat and calories, so your parrot is unlikely to gain weight. Pomegranates are a rich source of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Pomegranate juice is a rich source of antioxidants (polyphenols), notably tannins, flavonoids, and anthocyanin. These will protect your parrot from free radical damage and inflammation.
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 side of the cage for the parrot to forage for the seeds.
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.
Guava fruits are native to tropical America, so wild parrots 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 lesions and contains high levels of essential vitamin A.
Parrots can’t taste the pepper seeds’ heat because they’re immune to capsaicin. 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.
Can Parrots Eat Mustard Seeds?
Mustard seeds contain 36% fat. They have a zesty flavor, but they’re not the best seeds to feed parrots. Mustard seed sprouts are better than dry seeds.
When mustard seed sprouts come into contact with water, ally isothiocyanate is formed, which 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.
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 health hazards associated with tomatoes, feed tomato seeds in isolation without the flesh. Also, keep tomato vines and leaves away from parrots as they’re the most toxic part of the fruit.
Can Parrots Eat Flax Seeds?
Flax seeds are a superfood in the human world. 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 because they contain:
- B vitamins
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Flax seeds can also improve feather and skin quality, reducing the urge to pluck out feathers.
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 owners prefer to grind them before feeding.
Can Parrots Eat Milk Thistle Seeds?
Milk thistle is a flowering herb that’s used to treat liver issues in birds. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics explains that milk thistle seeds contain at least seven flavonolignans.
Milk thistle can have side effects, such as:
- Loose stools
- Mild tummy upsets
- Dark green to black stools
Milk thistle seeds are bitter-tasting, so many parrots won’t consume them. As a result, milk thistle extract is usually preferred and accepted by birds.
Owners must provide a healthy, well-balanced diet to their parrots. Seeds make a tasty treat, but they should only be fed in moderation. If you’re unsure how many seeds to feed a parrot, give them a formulated diet.