Kids' Animal Station

For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals

A Lesson in Malnourishment and Healthy Eating for Birds


This is Nina, a cockatoo who was rescued by the Exotic Bird Emporium on December 18th, 2018. 

An issue that many people often do not realize before (or even after) they buy a bird is how important nutrition is, and how deadly and disruptive malnourishment can be.

The picture above is a cockatoo named Nina, as said in the caption. One thing that is immediately noticeable about Nina is that most of her feathers have either fallen out or been pulled out by her. Most people do not realize this, but poor diet is most likely the main cause of this. Nina was living on a Walmart parrot seed diet, which contains large amounts of sunflower and other types of seeds that are not completely nutritional as a full time diet. A struggle that many bird owners have is that they do not have access to good nutrition–whether the obstacle be economic, educational, or simply that there are not any avian-specific stores close to them. These can all be motivators for people to feed their birds diets from chain stores that may not have the nutrition needed to be used as a full time diet.

Poor diet and malnutrition can cause all sorts of negative affects in birds, but one very prominent one that most do not know about is plumage loss/abnormalities. If you want to read on other issues poor diets can cause, click here:

In an earlier post on the Exotic Bird Emporium facebook page, we discussed what foods are not safe or healthy for most types of birds—Avocado, Chocolate, Rhubarb, Onions, Meats/Shellfish, Caffeinated beverages, and Alcohol—to name a few, but many people, when left with that, do not know what they should be feeding to their feathered friends.

Some recommended forms of diets are: a sustainable pellet diet (our preferred choice for affordability is Roudybush). In 1 single pellet, there is a range of nutrition, including dehydrated fruits/veggies, grains, alfalfa and more! These pellets alone are enough to sustain a healthy life.

However, fresh fruits/veggies are highly recommended on a daily basis. Super foods may include: Kale, Spinach, Quinoa, Oats and carrots. But the variety of fruits/veggies a bird can have is so incredibly large! This fresh diet can not only stop plumage abnormalities, but maintain skin and feather health for the bird. It also helps regulate organ and digestive health, giving your bird a healthier/longer life! With any parts of a diet missing long term, can be detrimental to your bird’s health. Feathers can begin to show signs of distress by either losing their color or falling out completely! If a long term malnourishment is involved, the basins for the feathers can actually close completely, never allowing fresh growth again!

In addition, poor diet can shorten a birds life significantly. For instance, Nina can live up 60-70 years as a cockatoo, but her life will most likely be shortened by up to 20% because of malnutrition and the negative affects that it causes.

You shouldn’t buy food products from major retailers without knowing EXACTLY where they receive their products. If it is not from a local vendor, it probably is not a recommended diet. And remember– more expensive pellets aren’t necessarily “better” as many of the ingredients are the same. Some birds require a strict pellet diet, in which these higher quality pellets may be necessary.


One fact that may be surprising for many bird owners is that seed mixes, especially from major retailers, should not be the main source of food for any type of bird, as they cause stress on the organs as fat builds up — especially sunflowers! Malnourishment is a high reason for cause of death, prematurely. The temporary issues can become permanent and slowly cause long term issues for your bird, not only causing pain, and shortened life, but also causing their owners a lot of financial stress due to vet bills.

So, what can you do if you find yourself with a bird that has been malnourished? Stop any and all “junk food” eating. Any outside foods need to be eliminated completely. Put the bird on a quality pellet diet right away. Mix the pellets with a high amount of fruit/veggie mix (dehydrated works best with pellets). The bird will most likely detest the pellets at first. So adding in “healthy fat” sources can help ease them into the new diet. These can include: tree nuts, pumpkin seeds, millet/barley or Safflower seeds. Tree nuts are the absolute best source of fats you can give your bird. Almonds being the healthiest. Introduce a fresh food diet daily, twice daily at the beginning. The Exotic Bird Emporium also recommends veggies first, as fruits are naturally sweeter, and birds can begin to detest veggies. Adding vitamins to your birds food/water can help transition the detests that may occur.

A bird that has a poor diet, will need more vet care, etc., for obvious reasons, and the process of trying to regrow feathers can be uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) for your bird. So maintaining their diets keeps them not only healthy but comfortable! And every bird owner should want that for their bird!



Kima, another bird who suffered from poor plumage 

One comment on “A Lesson in Malnourishment and Healthy Eating for Birds

  1. Pingback: Some Fun Facts About Our Friend the Rainbow Lorikeet | Kids' Animal Station

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This entry was posted on January 21, 2019 by in Advice/Reviews, Animal Facts and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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