Things can get messy when a parrot throws its 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. They’ll also throw away rotten food or food low in nutrients 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 or two 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, researchers observed Cedar Waxwings handling various berries in these 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.
According to Scientific Reports, scientists have several theories about why it happens:
1/ 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.
2/ Environmental Disturbance
If your 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 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.
3/ Unfamiliar Foods
If your parrot’s unfamiliar with the foods you feed it, 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 don’t like the taste of all foods, so they drop them on the floor to reject them. If your parrot does this more often with certain foods, feed it something else.
4/ Poor Food Quality
Parrots will drop their food if it’s compromised in one of these ways:
- 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.
5/ Benefits Animals And The Ecosystem
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 dispersal methods available for each plant.
However, scientists don’t know how many animals consume 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 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?
Parrots don’t intentionally waste food, but it occurred in the 103 parrot species 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 the following sources of food:
Researchers discovered that captive parrots waste an average of 21.2 % of their food.
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 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 because of their undeveloped beaks. They can’t break hard foods apart, so they need their meals to be soft and digestible.
There’s a chance that 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 your parrot’s water bowl clean is vital to prevent it from growing bacteria. If you notice food in the water bowl, discard it along with the water.
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 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 your parrot’s everyday dish inside a large food storage container or plastic bottle.
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.
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 your 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 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.