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why do parrots throw their food?

Why Do Parrots Drop Their Food?

Things can get messy when your parrot throws food on the floor. However, before you start to worry that your 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 to them. They’ll also throw away rotten food or food low in nutrients to stay healthy.

Some 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?

Regardless of what foods you give them, pet parrots are prone to throwing just as much of what they eat on the floor.

Many wild parrots eat a small piece or two before dropping their food. This behavior’s confusing, considering that it takes time and effort to forage these valuable resources in their native habitats.

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

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

They discovered that the birds dropped the larger berries 79% of the time. These findings can also be applied to parrots. As described by Scientific Reports, scientists have come up with several theories why it happens:

Accidental Dropping

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

Smaller parrots are more likely 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. Owners can make it easier for their parrots keep hold of their food by chopping it into bite-sized pieces.

parrot throwing food out of bowl

Environmental Disturbance

If your parrot experiences some disturbance while eating, it will drop its food from being startled. This involuntary action is a response to factors beyond its control, such as:

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

If you didn’t keep your parrot in a cage, it may swoop down 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 your parrot’s not familiar with the foods you feed it, it’s more likely to drop them.

According to Emu – Austral Ornithology, the grey-headed parrot feeds on a specific range of trees throughout the breeding and non-breeding seasons, which provides certain nutrients the species needs to thrive. Food competition is low as they’re specialist feeders, suggesting grey-headed prefer familiar foods.

Parrots don’t like the taste of all foods, so they drop them to reject them. If your parrot does this more often with certain foods, feed it something else.

Parrots are more likely to drop exotic fruits than native ones because they’re not used to them.

Poor Food Quality

Parrots will drop their food if it’s compromised in some way. For example, fruit and vegetables may be:

  • Unripe
  • Rotten
  • Riddled with parasites or insects
  • Contaminated with toxins

Being picky enables parrots to save room for the vitamins and minerals they need the most. They’re also more likely to drop or throw food that serves no nutritional purpose, as eating it wastes the nutrients.

Benefits Other Animals

Because scientists and researchers 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 that remain on the ground to eat. Parrots act as secondary dispersers, increasing the methods of dispersal available for each plant involved.

Unfortunately, scientists don’t know how many animals consume the wasted food, so this is only a theory.


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

Parrots gain mental enrichment through toys and games, so throwing their food keeps their minds sharp and prevents boredom. You can minimize this by providing fun things for your parrot to play with.

Why Do Parrots Waste Food?

Parrots don’t intentionally waste food, but it occurs in the 103 parrot species that scientists have studied.

Parrots can adjust their behavior according to food availability in their native areas. If a particular food is abundant where they live, there’s little energy cost, so the food 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:

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

Researchers have found that captive parrots waste an average of 21.2 % of their food, while wild parrots waste 11.8% of fruits and 14.6% of the seeds. In the wild, most of these foods are found under the trees where parrots reside.

Tests haven’t conclusively determined whether wastage is deliberate or accidental.

Why Do Parrots Put Food in Water?

Some parrots put their food in their water bowl. 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 into the water to soften them up, making them easier to chew and swallow.

In particular, baby parrots need soft food because of their undeveloped beaks. They can’t break hard foods apart, so they need their meals to be soft and digestible. Doing so enables food to travel down the gastrointestinal tract.

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

It’s also vital that you keep your parrot’s water bowl clean to prevent it from growing bacteria. As soon as you notice food in the water bowl, discard it along with the water and rinse it with water.

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 your parrot creates.

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

Spill-Proof Feeders

Spill-proof feeders keep food contained, preventing birds from throwing their food. They have two 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 you can create your own by placing your parrot’s everyday dish inside a large food storage container or plastic bottle.

Seed-Catching Skirt

Seed-catching skirts are a popular choice to prevent food wastage. They’re 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 your parrot’s cage to keep food from spilling out. You can use acrylic sheeting or stainless steel to accomplish this, as your bird won’t be able to chew and 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 normal and natural behavior. However, check on your parrot during mealtimes to ensure that it has enough to eat.