Parrots have complex nutritional needs. If their owners don’t meet parrots’ dietary requirements, they’re at risk of developing diseases and health conditions that can affect their physical and mental wellbeing. That’s why they must consume the right vitamins in optimal quantities to remain healthy.
Parrots are most commonly deficient in vitamin A because they’re fed too many seeds. Vitamin A keeps their eyes healthy and their feathers bright and colorful. Vitamin C is another essential vitamin. It fights off infections and helps the body heal. Parrots also need vitamins D, K, and E and B vitamins, including B3, B5, B6, B9, B12. Alongside vitamins, parrots rely on minerals, like calcium, fiber, and potassium, to prevent health conditions.
Do Parrots Need Vitamins?
Parrots need vitamins to be strong and healthy. Unfortunately, many of them have vitamin deficiencies. As described by a journal from Vin, parrots are commonly fed nutritionally deficient diets. Most are given too many seeds, which don’t contain the vitamins or amino acids they need.
Unfortunately, parrots love seeds and will pick them over healthier, nutrient-dense foods. As a result, parrots offered too much choice in what they eat predominantly select an unbalanced, seed-rich diet, leaving them with health problems. For example, African greys choose to eat nothing but sunflower seeds. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t benefit them in the slightest.
Many vitamins are water-soluble, which means they get excreted out by parrots daily. Their bodies can’t replenish them, so they have to re-consume them every day to avoid getting sick or developing nutritional deficiencies.
Should I Give My Parrot Vitamins?
Parrots on a healthy, balanced, nutrient-dense diet get all the vitamins and minerals they need through their foods. Realistically, it’s not always easy to get parrots to eat the foods they should, and some owners are unsure of their dietary needs.
Similarly, fussy parrots that are picky about their food miss out on the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Luckily, supplementary vitamins and minerals for parrots are available to help prevent the most severe deficiencies.
However, while supplements can help boost your parrot’s nutrient levels, nothing beats consuming them through natural sources. Food also provides parrots with mental stimulation, preventing stress and boredom. Most enjoy trying new fruits and vegetables and won’t refuse them.
In the meantime, you should work on switching your parrot to a high-quality pellet diet that incorporates a selection of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for balance. As a rule of thumb, feed your parrot:
- 75-80% pellets
- 20-25% vegetables and fruits
- Seeds and nuts a couple of times a week
Your parrot won’t go hungry for long. If you need to switch it to a healthier diet, consistency and perseverance are vital to ensure your parrot eats better foods.
What Are the Essential Vitamins for Parrots?
As mentioned, most parrots get the vitamins they need through a healthy, balanced diet. Parrots with vitamin deficiencies develop noticeable health issues and experience changes in their appearance due to nutritional imbalances. That’s why you must ensure your parrot consumes the following nutrients. Here’s a closer look at the essential vitamins parrots need:
|Vitamin A:||Produces colorful feathers and keeps eyes healthy.|
|Vitamin C:||It fights off infections and speeds up healing.|
|Vitamin D:||It helps absorb calcium and prevents calcium deficiency symptoms.|
|Vitamin K:||It prevents anemia and keeps bones strong.|
|Vitamin B3:||Lowers cholesterol and improves brain function.|
|Vitamin B5:||It makes blood cells and converts food into energy.|
|Vitamin B6:||Metabolizes glucose and protein and strengthens immune system.|
|Vitamin B9:||It helps cells grow and creates DNA.|
|Vitamin B12:||Forms proteins, nucleic acid, carbohydrates, and fat.|
|Vitamin E:||Protects against free radical damage and maintains the body’s cells.|
The MSD Veterinary Manual describes how vitamin A plays an essential role in avian health and is critical for a parrot’s overall wellbeing. It keeps their immune systems functioning efficiently, and without it, they become very sick. It’s also one of the essential vitamins for parrots’ feathers, keeping them bright, strong, and healthy.
Unfortunately, it’s common for parrots to suffer from a vitamin A deficiency. Parrots on all-seed diets or those that eat an even mix of ½ seeds and ½ pellets are most at risk due to the lack of nutrients.
Hypovitaminosis A, which is a health condition trigger by a vitamin A deficiency, shows several clinical signs and causes:
- Nasal discharge
- Periorbital swelling
- Polyuria and polydipsia
- Poor feather quality and feather picking
- White plaques in and around the mouth, sinuses, and eyes
- Absent or blunted papilla of the choanal slit
Parrots lacking vitamin A from the diets need supplements to boost their levels. As a result, they must switch over to a good-quality diet consisting of healthy pellets, fruits, and vegetables. Foods rich in vitamin A include:
In particular, parrots form vitamin A by converting beta-carotene from a vegetable source. That’s why fresh, washed vegetables must feature in your parrot’s diet at least a couple of times a week.
While all vitamins are essential, vitamin C is one of the most beneficial for parrots and can do wonders for their overall health and wellbeing. The vitamin fights off infections and speeds up the healing process in the event of accidents and injuries. It also:
- Keeps the immune system healthy
- Enhances the body’s ability to absorb iron
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Ensures the proper development of the muscles and bones
- Keeps cholesterol levels stable
- Prevents bad cells from forming
Fruits are a rich source of vitamin C, which you can find in:
Most parrots love the taste of these tropical fruits and enjoy them as an occasional treat.
Vitamin D and D3
Vitamin D deficiency is common in pet parrots. Parrots that don’t have enough vitamin D in their bodies struggle to absorb calcium. This means that no matter how much calcium parrots eat, they won’t get what they need without vitamin D.
Parrots also need vitamin D3,which helps prevent calcium deficiency symptoms and isn’t found in any fruits or vegetables. Instead, sources of it include:
- Unfiltered sunlight
- Specialized lighting
- Avian vitamin supplements
- Formulated diets
If your parrot can’t get vitamin D3 through their diet, you must supplement it so that your parrot doesn’t become weak and sick. Exposing it to natural sunlight for a short period every day also helps.
Parrots require vitamin K for strong, healthy bones. Vitamin K deficiencies cause weak, brittle bones and joints prone to injuries, fractures, and breakages, causing problems for parrots perching all day. Parrots even stand when they’re sleeping and sometimes stand on one leg, so leg and foot problems are significant.
Vitamin K deficiencies are responsible for anemia. All parrots suffer from broken blood feathers or bleeding claws from time to time. Vitamin K clots the blood and stems the flow, ensuring parrots don’t lose too much.
However, parrots that don’t get enough vitamin K in their diets bleed profusely, increasing the risk of significant blood loss. In the most severe cases, parrots bleed to death. Foods that contain vitamin K include:
- Cashew nuts
Parrots need B vitamins to break down food and absorb its nutrients. They also prevent stress during periods of mating and molting. Most B vitamins work alongside each other, so parrots need the full spectrum to stay as healthy as possible.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, is linked to lower cholesterol and improved brain function. B3 deficiencies cause poor growth and neurological symptoms. The vitamin converts nutrients like fat, carbs, and proteins into energy that parrots can use. As a water-soluble nutrient, it depletes quickly, so parrots need it frequently as part of their diet.
Also known as pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 is responsible for making blood cells and helps convert food into a source of energy. A vitamin B5 deficiency causes metabolic system disorders.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is responsible for metabolizing glucose and protein and keeps your parrot’s immune system strong. It’s also essential for creating hemoglobin, which the body needs to produce healthy red blood cells. Rice and blueberries are excellent sources of vitamin B6.
Vitamin B9 is also called folate or folic acid. It’s essential for cell growth and creating DNA. Low levels of this vitamin have been linked to:
- Heart disease
- Birth defects
As a water-soluble vitamin, parrots need it in their diets to be healthy. It also works alongside B12, so they’re both essential.
B12 is an essential nutrient for the formation of proteins, nucleic acid, carbohydrates, and fat. It also helps a range of metabolic processes function correctly. Without it, parrots experience metabolic disruption. In the most severe cases, they die.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient and an antioxidant. It protects against free radical damage and maintains the integrity of the body’s cells. It also works alongside other vitamins to improve the parrot’s entire metabolic process, so it’s a vital component.
That’s not all, as vitamin E regulates and protects vitamin A and prevents vitamin C and B vitamins from experiencing oxidation. Finally, it protects the parrot’s immune defenses, enabling them to fight diseases and infections more effectively. Sources of vitamin E include:
- Peanuts (roasted)
- Peanut butter
Unlike other vitamins, parrots on an all-seed diet rarely have vitamin E deficiencies. That’s why parrots must consume a balanced diet that contains a small amount of all parrot-safe foods.
What Minerals Do Parrots Need?
It’s not only vitamins that parrots need. They also require several nutrients that support a healthy body and immune system, preventing illnesses and diseases. These nutrients include:
|Calcium:||Ensures healthy bones and prevents stress-related disorders.|
|Fiber:||It keeps the gut regular and healthy.|
|Potassium:||Helps form strong, healthy bones and muscles.|
|Magnesium:||Maintains muscle and nerve function.|
|Selenium:||Protects parrots from diseases and harmful health conditions.|
|Zinc:||It forms insulin and allows the body to absorb vitamin A.|
|Copper:||Creates healthy blood vessels and enables heme synthesis.|
|Iron:||Creates hemoglobin and prevents anemia.|
|Manganese:||Benefits breeding parrots by producing healthy eggshells.|
|Phosphorous:||Improves bone formation and metabolizes carbs and fats.|
Calcium is responsible for keeping a parrot’s bones strong. However, many pet parrots have hypocalcemia because they are deficient in calcium. That’s because they eat pellets that are high in protein, fiber, fatty acids but are low in calcium.
In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association explains how calcium deficiency is the most common mineral disorder in birds, so it’s a widespread problem.
Parrots also can’t digest lactose. This means they can’t eat dairy products, such as milk and cheese, to increase their calcium levels. The Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine describes how calcium prevents:
- Muscle pain and contractions
- Heart disorders
- Soft eggshells
Calcium also prevents parrots from self-mutilating and plucking out their feathers, which captive parrots are prone to. Larger birds, especially African greys, require more calcium because they have greater bone density. Some of the most common reasons for developing hypocalcemia include:
- Excessive fruit-eating
- Excessive egg-laying
- Metabolic problems
- Poor diet
To prevent deficiencies, you can get calcium supplements for parrots. Cuttlebones are also a good option due to their high mineral content. Other calcium-rich foods include spinach, cauliflower, and bamboo.
Fiber is another essential mineral for parrots. A high amount of dietary fiber in a parrot’s diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and lower the chances of respiratory diseases and cancer. However, parrots need fiber predominantly for digestion. A small serving helps birds:
- Digest food
- Absorb nutrients
- Maintain a clean colon
- Produce more regular bowel movements
Fiber keeps the gut regular and healthy by softening stools and preventing constipation. It also fills parrots up, preventing them from getting hungry too quickly. As a result, this stops them from overeating unhealthy foods. Brown or whole grain rice are excellent sources of fiber.
Potassium helps the muscles and bones form and grow properly, as well as aiding with the blood clotting process. In the event of an injury, such as a cut or graze, potassium stems the flow of blood and prevents too much from pouring out. Without it, parrots continuously bleed, risking anemia.
Potassium also works closely with sodium to regulate muscle contractions, nerve signals, and fluid balance. Fresh coconut and peppers are good sources of natural potassium, and many parrots enjoy the taste, so they are happy to eat them.
Magnesium ensures parrots have healthy muscles and nerves. Magnesium also has several other health benefits, including:
- Strong and healthy bones
- Regulated temperature
- Reduced risk of seizures
- Limited chance of rickets
- Prevents calcium deficiencies
Healthy sources of magnesium include:
As described by Environmental Contaminants in Biota, selenium is a chemical compound that parrots need in small increments to be healthy. It acts in the same way as an antioxidant, protecting parrots from diseases and other health conditions. It also boosts the immune system and helps ensure:
- Growth and development
- Thyroid hormone production
- Reproductive success
Cashew nuts are an excellent source of selenium – and most parrots love them.
Parrots need a small amount of zinc, as it forms insulin and allows the body to properly develop vitamin A, allowing it to function in the way the parrot needs as soon as it consumes it. Like most minerals, too much zinc is problematic. Nuts are a good source of zinc but only allow your parrot to have a few a week.
Parrots need copper for heme (iron compound) synthesis. It’s also responsible for creating healthy blood vessels, connective tissue, and bones – the latter of which copper gets stored. A little copper goes a long way, as parrots don’t need too much of it to be healthy. You can find copper in seeds, nuts, and whole-grain products.
Parrots need iron for similar reasons as us. Firstly, it creates hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to vital organs around the body. Iron prevents anemia, helping parrots feel awake and alert instead of tired, lethargic, and weak. Feeding parrots iron-rich foods, such as iron, cashews, and blueberries, is essential for their overall health and wellbeing.
However, be careful with iron, as too much can cause iron storage disease. This is a condition where excess iron accumulates around vital organs, preventing them from working properly. It can be fatal if you don’t monitor your parrot’s iron intake.
Manganese produces healthy, strong bones and eggshells, which benefits breeding parrots more than most, allowing them to reproduce healthy chicks. Without it, parrots are at risk of:
- Perosis, characterized by deformities
- Tarsometatarsal joint dislocation
- Poor muscle coordination
Manganese is found in:
- Whole grains
- Leafy green vegetables
Parrots store phosphorous in their tissue, bones, and teeth. It isn’t as well-known as some of the other minerals on our list, but parrots need it because it:
- Maintains healthy eggshells
- Improves bone formation
- Metabolizes carbohydrates and fats
- Enables the body to use lipids and proteins
- Filters waste
- Repairs cells and tissue
Parrots don’t need very much of the mineral. That’s because too much causes calcification of the soft tissue and organs and is responsible for diarrhea. It also interferes with the body’s ability to use iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. A small selection of phosphorous-rich foods, including cauliflower and coconut, is enough to keep them healthy.
One of the biggest problems with parrot ownership is understanding the vitamins and minerals your parrot needs to thrive both physically and mentally. Some owners neglect this, which makes life difficult for their birds. As long as you incorporate pellets, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts into your bird’s diet, you can’t go far wrong.