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why do parrots throw their food?

Why Do Parrots Drop Their Food?

(Last Updated On: May 13, 2023)

Things can get messy when a parrot throws its food on the floor. However, before you start to worry that the parrot isn’t enjoying its food, rest assured that this behavior’s normal.

Parrots drop their food accidentally when they can’t grip it, are suddenly startled, or it’s unfamiliar. They’ll also throw away rotten or toxic food to stay safe.

Scientists believe that all species of birds drop food to allow ground-dwelling animals to eat and sow plant and tree seeds, creating new growth.

Why Do Parrots Throw Their Food?

Parrots eat a small piece before dropping their food. This behavior’s confusing because it takes time and effort to forage these valuable resources in their native habitats.

According to Safring News, Cedar Waxwings were observed handling berries in the following sizes:

  • 7.5 mm.
  • 11 mm.
  • 12.8 mm.
  • 14 mm.
  • 17.6 mm.
  • 20.5 mm.

They discovered that birds dropped the larger berries 79% of the time. According to Scientific Reports, scientists have several theories why this happens, including the following:

Accidental Dropping

It’s easy for parrots to drop large fruits and vegetables because they can’t get enough grip on their food.

Smaller parrots are likelier to make a mess than larger parrots with bigger claws. Also, tiny seeds and nuts are more difficult to hold.

Accidental waste occurs more often in the wild when individuals forage in larger groups.

parrot throwing food out of bowl

Environmental Disturbance

If a parrot experiences disturbance while eating, it’ll drop its food due to being startled. This involuntary action is a response to factors like:

  • Loud noises.
  • Aggressive cage mates.
  • Unfamiliar sights and sounds.
  • A sudden movement from a person.
  • Bright lights.
  • TV or radio turned on.

If you don’t keep a parrot in a cage, it may swoop and pick the food back up. However, it’s up to owners to hand the parrots any food that they’ve dropped in captivity.

Unfamiliar Foods

If a parrot’s unfamiliar with the foods you offer, it’s more likely to drop them.

According to Emu–Austral Ornithology, grey-headed parrots feed on specific trees. Food competition is low as they’re specialist feeders, suggesting grey-headed parrots prefer familiar foods.

Parrots dislike the taste of all foods, so they drop them on the floor to reject them. If a parrot does this more often with certain foods, try feeding it something else.

Poor Food Quality

Parrots will drop their food if it’s compromised in one of these ways:

  • Unripe.
  • Rotten.
  • Infested with parasites or insects.
  • Contaminated.
  • Harmful or toxic.

Being picky enables parrots to save room for the most nutritious foods. Birds are also more likely to drop or throw food that serves no nutritional purpose.

Benefits Animals And The Ecosystem

Because scientists are uncertain about why parrots drop and waste food, it’s theorized that doing so benefits other animals in the ecosystem.

Dropped fruits and seeds become available for animals on the ground to eat. Parrots act as secondary dispersers, increasing the dispersal methods available for each plant.

However, we don’t know how many animals consume wasted food, so this is only a theory.


Some parrots enjoy flinging their food into the air, treating this behavior as a fun game.

Parrots gain mental enrichment from toys and games, so throwing their food keeps their minds sharp and prevents boredom. You can minimize this by providing fun and entertaining things for parrots.

Why Do Parrots Waste Food?

Food waste occurred in the 103 parrot species scientists have studied.

Parrots can adjust their behavior according to food availability in their native areas. There’s little energy cost if a particular food is abundant where they live, so it doesn’t count as waste.

Parrot food wastage is a widespread behavior that researchers have observed throughout the year in non-breeding and breeding seasons.

Food wastage occurs less frequently when parrots raise hungry chicks.

Parrots commonly waste the following sources of food:

  • Fruits.
  • Seeds.
  • Flowers.
  • Leaves.
  • Twigs.
  • Stems.
  • Sprouts.
  • Parasites.
  • Bark.

Researchers discovered that captive parrots waste an average of 21.2 % of their food. Most of these foods are found in the wild under the trees where parrots reside.

Why Do Parrots Put Food in Water?

Some parrots put their food in their water bowls. Many birds do this for fun and because they like the taste of wet food, while others do it to make their food easier to eat.

Seeds, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables can be quite tough, so parrots put them in water to soften them up, making them easier to swallow.

Baby parrots need soft food due to their undeveloped beaks. They can’t break hard foods apart, so they need their meals to be soft and digestible.

There’s a chance the parrot accidentally drops its food into the water and can’t fish it back out. If so, you may consider moving your parrot’s water bowl to reduce the chances of this happening.

Keeping a parrot’s water bowl clean is vital to prevent bacterial growth.

why do parrots waste food?

How To Stop Parrots Throwing Food

We’ve determined that most parrots are messy eaters, which you can’t stop. However, there are things you can do to limit the amount of mess a parrot creates.

Use some of the following items when you next feed a parrot:

Spill-Proof Feeders

Spill-proof feeders keep food contained, preventing birds from throwing their food. They have two separate chambers:

  • A large open chamber that the parrot enters.
  • A small inner chamber where you place the food.

You can purchase one from any pet store or create your own by placing the parrot’s everyday dish inside a large food storage container or plastic bottle.

Seed-Catching Skirt

Seed-catching skirts are large funnels that you hang under the cage.

You install the device underneath to catch seeds and other foods before they reach the floor. Most are made from plastic. Ensure that the skirt extends pasts the cage sides by several inches to be effective.

Protective Barriers

Create small walls on the bottom of the parrot’s cage to keep food from spilling. You can use acrylic sheeting or stainless steel to accomplish this, as the parrot won’t be able to break it.

Apply it to the inside walls of your cage, making them 3-4 inches high. Use adhesives to attach them or drill small holes through the panels.

A parrot dropping its food is a normal and natural behavior. Owners can make it easier for their parrots to keep hold of their food by chopping it into bite-sized pieces.