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why do parrots throw their food?

Why Do Parrots Drop Their Food?

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

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 is 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 dangerous 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 Parrots Throw Their Food

Parrots eat a small piece before dropping their food. This behavior is 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 these 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 as to why this happens:

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 because they’re specialist feeders, suggesting they 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 drop their food if it’s compromised in one of the following 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

Scientists are uncertain about why parrots drop and waste food, but 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.


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

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

Why 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 Parrots Put Food in Water

Some parrots put 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 swallow.

Seeds, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables can be tough, so parrots put them in water to soften them.

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

A parrot may accidentally drop its food into the water and be unable to fish it out. If so, you may consider moving the water bowl to reduce the chances of this happening.

why do parrots waste food?

How To Stop Parrots Throwing Food

We’ve determined that most parrots are messy eaters, and you can’t stop them. 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 a spill-proof feeder 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 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 past the cage sides by several inches.

Protective Barriers

Create small walls on the bottom of the 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 the cage, making the panels 3-4 inches high. Attach them with adhesives or drill small holes through the panels.

A parrot-dropping food is a normal behavior that likely serves a valuable purpose in the ecosystem. Chopping food into manageable pieces helps parrots maintain a better grip.