Nutrition, Health, and FAQ’s


Make sure you like us on facebook and find some great recipes for chop and bird bread under “pictures” and “albums”.  We also post great articles about nutrition, health, and training on our facebook page and in our newsletters.

We recommend that you have your bird already established with an avian veterinarian, not only for well check-ups, but also in case of emergency.  You can check the AAV website for a recommendation of a vet in your area. You should also have a first aid kit on hand just in case.

Learn all about bird biology with a new interactive series about birds through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Make sure you join The Parrot’s Pantry on facebook to share ideas with other bird lovers on feeding nutritious foods to your parrots.

Check out Michelle Elle’s blog at The Happy Cockatoo for healthy and easy recipes for your parrots.

You can also join The Parrot’s Workshop to exchange ideas on how to make toys and playstands for your parrots.

Holistic Bird Care discusses all natural, healthy ways to provide for your parrot.

Learn more about parrot nutrition and care at the Feathered Angels blog.

Learn more about chop from the original guru herself, Patricia Sund of Parrot Nation, and read some great antics that just run through her head from time to time.


Make sure you are aware of any toxic chemicals and plants that may be in your home.

Educate yourself on avian diseases.

Read about recommended foods for parrots by Scott Echols, Avian Specialist Veterinarian.

Read the article “Try It! You’ll like it! A Guide to Diet Conversion” by Emily Strong.

Read about Obesity in parrots by Dr. Becker.

Read about the importance of plants in a parrots life through this power point presentation on her blog by Lara Ford.

Parrot Enrichment Activity Book – by Kris Potter: This is free and full of lots of wonderful ideas and resources.


Parrots are intelligent, loving, affectionate, playful and curious creatures. They are also very long lived. Sometimes, these same reasons can be reasons for parrots being relinquished to rescues and sanctuaries. Often times, parrots can be in anywhere from 5-8 homes in their lifetime, which can be stressful for a bird. Due to this fact, please give your parrot time to adjust to your home, this can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 or 3 months or longer. Because of this fact, we here at Florida Parrot Rescue strive to find each parrot we care for, their last home.

Parakeets can live up to 10-12 years, lovebirds 15-20 years, conures and quakers 25-30 years, small cockatoos, mini macaws and amazons up to 40-60 years and large cockatoos and macaws 80 plus years. Because of the potential long lifespan, it is sometimes necessary that you account for your parrot in your will and in fact, Florida Parrot Rescue does require that you sign an adoption contract, if you are approved to adopt, that stipulates you do so.

Parrots stress more easily than other companion animals, household harmony is critical to birds and calm homes are best for your parrot. There are mannerisms common to all species, but there are also variations in temperament among species and individuals. Some are more laid-back, and some are more hyper; some are louder, and some are quieter. Some are more outgoing, and some are shy. Do your homework to see which species of parrot fits with your expectations and lifestyle.
In general though, calmer homes will usually create calmer parrots who when not stressed from noise or threats, will not vocalize as much (please remember that vocalization is normal and while constant vocalization is not normal, vocalization in the morning and evening, often referred to as flock calling, is normal and should not be discouraged). Depending on the species of bird you choose, vocalizations can also vary, for example, parakeets, lovebirds, cockatiels and green cheek conures are generally not as loud and can usually tolerate apartment and/or condominium living, whereas the larger conures (sun, jenday, cherry head) and the macaw and cockatoo species will vocalize loudly at certain times of the day, usually making them unsuitable for living in small spaces where walls are shared with a neighbor.

PELLETS: Parrots have specialized diets that for the most part (with a few exceptions such as Eclectus Parrots) should comprise a diet of about 50-60% pellets (please research and discuss with your avian veterinarian the type of diet best for the parrot you plan to adopt). Natural colored pellets are best (as they do not have the chemical dyes that will change the color of your birds fecal matter) and several options include Harrisons, Caitec Oven Fresh Bites, Roudybush, Lafeber, Mazuri, Zupreem Natural, and Totally Organics. Our veterinarian recommends a mix of at least three different types of pellets. If you have a bird that is currently on a seed diet and you will be performing a conversion to pellets, please consult with your veterinarian before doing so as this can be tricky with birds and you want to make sure your bird continues to eat and actually starts eating pellets before you stop offering seeds. This can take anywhere from 10 days to months and months, but it is very important that it be done. Seed diets are lacking in the essential nutrients needed for a parrot to functional normally, both inside and out. Seed diets lead to many different issues, including hardening of the arteries and Vitamin A deficiencies, both of which can compromise the birds immune system and eventually affect the outward appearance of the parrot and in time, shorten the birds life, sometimes up to half!
While performing a conversion from a seed to pelleted diet, make sure you weigh your bird every morning before feeding time to verify your bird is not loosing weight and continues to eat. Also monitor the output of fecal matter to make sure it stays the same as before. A weight loss of more than five to seven percent at any point should constitute a visit to your veterinarian’s office (as weight loss is also sometimes the first indicator of sickness in birds). If your bird is already converted to a pelleted diet, you should still weigh your bird twice weekly. A digital gram scale can be purchased at a place like Walmart for about $10-$15.

VEGETABLES: Vegetables should account for about 30-40% (more in species such as Eclectus and Amazons, again, consult with your avian veterinarian for specific diets regimes). The richest and most natural source of vitamin A is dark leafy greens. Dandelion greens, kale, beet tops, and other leafy greens contain the highest quality and most easily assimilated vitamin A. Vitamin K also is found in abundance in dark leafy greens and it is essential for blood clotting. Other foods to consider are bok choy, broccoli, arugula, sweet potatoes (cooked), carrots, collard greens, endive, mustard greens, parsley, squash, zucchini, peppers and swiss chard. Chop can be a good way to feed your bird a variety of these types of foods in one serving, you can consult the Florida Parrot Rescue website and/or facebook page for some great recipes to incorporate healthy foods into your birds diet, including chop. Beans are also a great source of protein and should be included in your birds diet (beans must be cooked, they are toxic when uncooked) as well as certain grains such as brown rice, barley and quinoa. These types of foods can be mixed into your “chop” and into other aspects of your birds diet. Remember to always wash vegetables (and fruits) before feeding them to your parrots!

FRUITS AND NUTS: Your birds diet should also include nutritious fruits (10% or less) and nuts (5%). Nuts provide very beneficial healthy fats to your birds diet (NOT PEANUTS! Peanuts can have aflotoxins which can be toxic to your bird and are also very high in “bad” fat). Nutritious nuts include almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, hazlenuts, chestnuts, hickory nuts, macadamias, pine nuts, pecans and pistachios. Make sure you supply unsalted human grade nuts for your birds. The larger birds enjoy nuts in the shell, some of the smaller birds will need sliced or crushed nuts. The amount of nuts you provide depend on the size and species of bird, but 1-2 nuts a day should suffice most.
Fresh fruits are also an important part of the birds diet. Supply nutritious fruits such as bananas and berries. Most birds will eat apples and grapes, but limit those types of fruits as they are not as nutritious as others and grapes especially, carry a lot of sugars. Other fruits to consider are mangos, papayas, guava, apricots, peaches, coconuts, kiwis and pomegranates.

SEEDS: Seeds can be given as treats only. Good seeds include pumpkin seeds and various types of sprouted seeds. Seeds can be purchased at health food stores for sprouting yourself or pre- determined sprout mixes can be purchased through avian supply stores which you can sprout at home.

Not all parrots should have the same diet, please understand these are generalities and you should always consult your avian veterinarian on diet and diet changes.

Foods to avoid that are toxic for your bird include caffeine, chocolate, onions, apple seeds, mushrooms, tomato leaves, salt, alcohol and avocado. White rice and foods with white flour and white grain bases should also be avoided.

As you can see, the diet of a parrot can be complicated and depends on the specific species of bird, and you must be willing to do a lot of research on your own. Checking the FPR newsletter for nutritious recipes as well as joining online forums (on facebook as well) can help you better feed your companion parrot.

The cage is a very important part of your birds life, as this is where your bird will sleep and spend his time when you are not at home. Different species require different sizes of cages, but the general rule is your bird should have the largest cage you can afford to purchase. Birds should be able to spread out their wings entirely without touching the sides of the cages and cages should also be safe. No protruding or broken parts that can hurt a bird and no rust (when ingested, rust or paint flecks can cause toxicity in your bird). The bird must also not be able to escape from the cage and bar space is also very important and depends on the size of the bird.

A cage should also contain perches at several different heights and there should be at least 3 different types of perches with at least 3 different diameters (this exercises your birds feet, older birds can develop arthritis in their feet and when different diameters are not offered, this can lead to damaged feet in your parrot that may later require physical therapy or medication for pain). Consult with your veterinarian and do research on the different types of perches available and what woods are safe for your bird to have in his cage. The location of the perches should be changed often to allow diversity for your bird and to increase activity and exercise.

There should be enough toys in your parrots cage to keep your bird occupied when you are not at home, but not so many that your bird has to weave his way through the cage. Providing a variety of types of toys is also essential. There are chewing toys, wood toys, shredding toys, grooming toys, toys that make noise, foraging toys and puzzle toys. Make sure you choose toys appropriate for the size of bird you have. You must also check toys often to make sure they are not damaged and could hurt your bird. Toys should be changed out often. It is best to have 2-4 sets of toys that you rotate in and out for your bird.

Cages should also be kept cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. Using newspaper as the substrate for your cage is easiest and will allow you to monitor fecal output and consistency (for health purposes) and are also easy to change out. Papers should be changed daily and cages should be sanitized at least twice weekly. A white vinegar and water solution is a good sanitizer that is not only inexpensive, but safe to use in your birds cage (birds should be removed from the cage during cleaning).

Our recommended MINIMUM cage requirements are:
Parakeets, Lovebirds 25″w x 17″d

Cockatiels,  Quakers: 27”w x 24”d

Ringnecks, Conures, Pionus, Lories, Meyers, Senegals: 32”w X 23”d

African Greys, Small Cockatoos, Eclectus, Amazons, Small Macaws: 36”w x 28”d

Larger Cockatoos and Macaws: 48”w x 36”d

We recommend 64”w x 32”d or 80”w x 40”d cages for the larger birds (Moluccans and Greenwing Macaws).

Make sure bar spacing is appropriate for your bird.

Parrots are also prey animals, unlike cats and dogs (and humans), which are predator species, and so a bird will react differently and the set up in your home must accommodate for that difference. Cages must be in a safe place where other animals or small children can not harass the bird, yet in an area where the bird can feel included in daily activities even when inside of or on top of the cage. Some people also supply a “sleeping cage” away from the parrots day time cage. The sleeping cage is usually kept in a room away from activity where the bird can be placed after sunset with the cage covered in order for the bird to enjoy a ten to twelve hour restful nights sleep in the quiet and dark.
A separate play area (complete with toys and feeding/watering stations) away from the cage should also be set up for your parrot and if living in a large home, several in different areas would be best. Parrots should never be left alone in a room where they have free range, this is not safe for the bird or for your furniture!

Parrots are highly intelligent creatures that enjoy mental stimulation and will require playtime outside of the cage everyday (1-2 hours per day for smaller birds, up to 5-10 hours per day for larger birds like Moluccan Cockatoos and large macaws). Birds that are not supplied with the mental stimulation they crave through playtime, toys, socialization, out of cage time and exercise, can resort to plucking and/or excessive vocalization from boredom. This takes not only a daily time commitment from the owner, but also a monetary commitment, as toys can be expensive. This must be considered when deciding if a parrot is right for your family. Parrots should also have a play area away from their cage that is safe and enjoyable.  Most parrots also love to eat at the same time as the family members, this promotes bonding and flock behavior.

There are many other aspects you must consider when caring for your companion parrot. For example, natural sunlight is a must to keep your bird healthy. Every species on our planet has evolved under the sun, and every species requires it to sustain their lives, and this includes your parrot! Vitamin D is manufactured by the body through exposure to sunlight and the function of vitamin D is to absorb calcium and other vitamins and minerals and keep them at proper levels in the blood stream. The lack of sunlight is a nutritional deficiency and can affect your parrot in a myriad of ways. Remember that sunlight through a window in your home does not suffice as the glass used in windows prevents natural UVA/UVB rays, therefore your parrot must have natural sunlight, outside, in a safe (predator proof/escape proof) location. Your parrot requires, at minimum, one hour of natural sunlight per week, but one hour per day is suggested. Remember that your bird can be prone to heat exhaustion just like you, so your bird must have access to food and water while outside as well as shaded areas (no standing water such as pools without constant supervision, when birds get wet, they can not fly and can drown easily in standing water). If you are able, an aviary with a timed mister would be a great option and will also provide your bird with exercise and mental stimulation as well. During the winter months, when it is too cold for your bird to venture outside, special lights may be used to supply your birds needs, consult with your avian veterinarian on where to find these bulbs and what type to use, distance to be placed from the cage, etc..

Household dangers are also an important topic when considering adding a parrot to your family. Parrots have extremely sensitive respiratory systems and when a parrot lives in your home, you can not use candles or incense (not just in the room where the bird stays, but they should not be used at all). Smoking around your bird is also a no-no for many medical reasons (many of which are the same in humans). Even if you do not smoke around your bird, nicotine which has soaked into your skin and clothing while you smoke (not always removed by handwashing or clothes washing!) can be transferred to your bird when you touch and hold your bird. Cooking with teflon is also not suggested when you share your home with birds. Teflon is a poisonous substance that can be emitted from your cookware that can kill your bird quickly and quietly; it is best to rid your home of all teflon cookware. Strong cleaning products also can not be used around your birds. It is best to use a white vinegar and water solution for cleaning around your home, this is a very effective cleaning and sanitizing agent for all of the rooms in your house (and can even be used to clean your birds cage – remember that your bird should never be in the cage during cleaning!). Just remember that if you can smell it, your bird can smell it sooner and more strongly, all strong smelling items should be avoided around your parrots!

Vetting your bird on a regular basis is also essential to the well being of your companion bird. Birds are very good at hiding illnesses until it is often times too late. Taking your bird to a qualified avian veterinarian yearly is an excellent way to prevent illness in your bird. Not only will your avian vet be able to educate you on proper diet, exercise and mental stimulation techniques, but she can provide some very simple tests to make sure your bird is healthy. A physical goes a long way in checking the outward appearance and health of your bird (your veterinarian will check the birds nares, feet, skin, feather condition and ears) and a yearly gram stain should also be performed. This simple in house test will check for bacterial and fungal infections which can over time, deteriorate your birds immune system, making her vulnerable to other diseases and viruses.

When you first acquire your companion parrot through Florida Parrot Rescue, you should have your new family member established with your avian veterinarian. Bloodwork is suggested in order to obtain a baseline of health for your bird and bloodwork should be repeated approximately every other year. Tests performed include liver and kidney function, which are key indicators to disease in your parrot. It is also recommended that you perform avian disease testing on your adopted bird. All of the birds that come into Florida Parrot Rescue are seen by a vet with, at minimum, a physical and fecal gram stain performed – most birds do also have bloodwork completed if recommended by one of our avian veterinarians. While birds which have been adopted through Florida Parrot Rescue have been through a quarantine period in their foster home, it is still recommended that you quarantine your new bird for a minimum of 30 days, preferably 90 days, once you bring your new parrot home.

When you visit with your parrots vet, be sure to ask questions about diet, behavior, socialization, cages, toys, perches, towel training your bird, toweling your bird in emergency, first aid, etc… This is also an excellent time to speak with your vet about wing trimming and safety issues tied to that practice. Also, please remember that beaks should not need to be trimmed if your bird is on the proper diet and supplied with the right amount of toys and perches. Should your birds beak ever need to be trimmed, only have a qualified avian veterinarian perform this procedure. Beaks are very sensitive and have many nerve endings and they can be damaged very easily, causing great pain for your feathered friend.

Your avian vet is one of the best resources you will have to keeping your bird healthy! You can research the best avian veterinarians in your area by going to

Monitoring your birds weight is a good way to make sure your parrot is healthy. Take your parrot to your avian vet immediately if he/she stops eating, stops moving, can not climb, walk or stand, has trouble breathing or losses 5-7% of his normal body weight. Prolonged periods of time on the bottom of the cage while “fluffed” and/or anything out of the ordinary for your bird can also mean that something is wrong and your parrot should see a veterinarian immediately. You should also become familiar with the feel of your parrot, check your birds body over with your bare hands weekly to monitor for weight loss, growths, injuries, etc…