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For African greys what food is good and what is bad?


Staff member
African Greys in the wild eat a huge variety of different seeds, berries, nuts, vegetation (leaves, flowers and roots), and the fruits of the oil palm, also called palm nuts. These have an orange fibrous flesh around a kernel. Red palm oil is obtained from the orange flesh and makes a good addition to the diet because it is high in beta carotenes. The actual palm nuts can be obtained as well.

Seeds do contain valuable vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids but a diet consisting predominantly of sunflower seeds isn't healthy. Too many can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients such as calcium. Parrots usually love them and will pick them out in preference to everything else. Sprouted sunflower seeds are healthier.

A diet consisting predominantly of sunflower seeds is bad because it doesn’t supply everything they need. Sunflower seeds are high in fat so should be limited. Some “parrot mixes” are little more than sunflower seeds with a few peanuts and chillies and these mixes should be avoided. A good seed mix should contain a large variety of seeds, grains and pulses.

Seeds are a natural source of essential fatty acids. Nuts can be fed in moderation but almonds contain more calcium than other nuts so these are preferable. Peanuts in their shells can harbour aspergillus fungi which can cause aspergillosis, a respiratory infection which is difficult to treat.

Young birds and birds who are already ill are more at risk. Although aspergillus is naturally common in the environment, peanuts can be particularly susceptible because of the way they grow and if they are subsequently poorly stored.

Pellets are a way of trying to ensure that all the nutrients are supplied and prevent a bird from picking out favourite items as they are inclined to do otherwise but pellets are a highly processed food and some contain artificial colours and controversial preservatives. Research is ongoing with regard to the exact levels of nutrients they should contain and they vary from brand to brand.

Also, some Greys will eat one brand but not another, some won't eat them at all. There are African Grey specific ones available.

Foods they can have far outnumber those they can’t. It is important to provide a good variety of foods so they don’t fill up on one thing. Fruit and vegetables such as peppers, chilli peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, various squashes and pumpkin, cantaloupe melon, apricots, mango, papaya, greens such as kale, watercress, chard and broccoli are all particularly good for beta carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body.

Many other fruits and vegetables are also suitable; the ones to avoid are avocado (contain a toxin called persin), mushrooms, onions, (onions contain disulphides which cause Heinz Body hemolytic anaemia in animals, particularly dogs cats and cattle. The red blood cells rupture.

Birds have red blood cells with a nucleus which mammal red blood cells don't but it isn't certain whether this offers protection or not so onions cooked or raw should be avoided) rhubarb and raw potatoes. (Potatoes contain solanine, a glycoalkaloid which is mainly just under the skin but builds up if the potatoes have been exposed to light or are sprouting) The stones should be removed from fruits such as cherries, apricots, plums and peaches and the seeds from apples because they contain substances which release cyanide.

Generally speaking vegetables are better than fruit because they have more nutrients and less water. Grapes are very popular but are high in water and sugar so should be limited. Iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value but dark green lettuce can be fed. Spinach is high in oxalates which inhibit the absorption of the calcium it contains, so it is not a very good source of calcium.

Better greens are collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, broccoli. They can also have small amounts of animal protein (such as well cooked chicken, cooked egg, fish), especially during the molt when extra protein is needed. Animal protein is a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids.

As well as the previously mentioned fruit and vegetables to avoid, the other things which should not be fed are chocolate (which contains theobromine, an alkaloid in the same class as caffeine), alcohol and anything with caffeine. Salty foods, high fat foods, and carbonated drinks should be avoided.

Certain beans such as lima, kidney, black, navy, soy and pinto contain an enzyme which must be destroyed by cooking and they should not be fed raw. Dairy products contain lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Birds do not have the enzyme lactase which breaks this down, so dairy products, (apart from yoghurt and hard cheese which they can in fact have in small amounts because the lactose has been converted into lactic acid) are best avoided as the long term feeding of them can cause severe inflammation.

If you find this thread/post informative, feel free to share it with your family or friends as it might be helpful to them.
Stay safe! Cheers!