Avian Gourmet! - - - by Liz Davies (aka "Mom")


I started keeping parrots in the late 70's.  Back then there wasn't much information about proper diets and the common wisdom was "seed only".  We've sure come a long way!  

First, let me tell you about the nutrition information available on another website: The Parrot University.  Steve Hartman is a large-scale parrot breeder in Ohio.  He's got decades of experience and has amassed a huge amount of information.  His website is a great place for information and I encourage you to explore it.  Here's a direct link to his article about diet (it's excellent!).

I wasn't going to have a "nutrition" page, knowing that there are so many good sources out there (like Steve's website), but I keep getting asked (on bird forums and online discussion groups) what I feed my birds...  so here you go:

Large Macaw (B&G)


  • Pellet food (a specific formula designed for macaws).  Laka always has a bowl of dry pellets in her cage.  This is kept separate from other foods so that she doesn't smear or drip wet foods in the bowl.  We check her dry food and just top it up when it's getting low.

  • 1/2 c of "basic soft food" each morning. (recipe)  She often eats all this and wants more, but we've found that if we put too much in her bowl she wastes most of it.  So we give a "serve" in the morning and top it up later in the day if her bowl is empty in the afternoon.

  • 2 T or so of cooked/mashed sweet potato (about every other day).  Sweet potato is offered frequently to ensure she's getting plenty of vitamin "A".

  • fruit - what she gets varies, could be apples, grapes, pear, mango, rock melon (known as cantaloupe in the US), honeydew melon, kiwi.  I tend not to serve red fruits (cherries, strawberries, raspberries) simply because they stain.

  • Nuts - 3 per day most days.  Occasionally 4. (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias.  She won't eat brazil nuts, but the Catalina I had in Ohio loved them).  I don't give her peanuts, as I've heard that there is some evidence to suggest that macaws can become sensitive to peanuts and develop a food allergy reaction.  Almost all nuts are given to her in the shell - macadamias, however, we have to crack for her because she can't open them if there isn't a crack in the shell (macadamia shells are very round and smooth, impossible to open).

Treats (also daily, but not everything shown here every day):

  • Seeds (as treats), mostly sunflower seeds.

  • I buy frozen corn-on-the-cob (cobs cut into halves or thirds) and offer a cob every now and then (I microwave the cob, then let it set a good 20 minutes to make sure it's not too hot).  This the bird enjoys as a treat and also a toy.

  • green leafy goodies (lettuce, spinach, basil, cilantro, carrot tops, etc.)

  • cucumber, zucchini, celery stalks

  • fried rice (in my experience, all parrots adore fried rice)

  • chicken and other meats (but very small portions).  I never met a macaw who didn't appreciate a little nibble of cooked pork.  

  • cooked pasta and egg (boiled or scrambled/fried)

  • Then there's the occasional pretzel (I rub the salt off first).

We'll let her taste just about anything EXCEPT: avocado, alcohol, foods with sugar, coffee or other caffeinated beverages, and foods that have much salt.  She's an adventurous eater and will try anything, especially if she sees us eating it.

One thing I've noted:  except for apple slices, my macaws seemed to waste fruit and other foods if the size is too big.  So... a lot of fruits and treats get cut up into small diced sizes and served in small portions to reduce waste.

Red-Sided Eclectus

  • (still working on this ... please check back)

Conures (Green-cheek, Black Capped, Sun) and Cockatiels

  • (still working on this ... please check back)


  • (still working on this ... please check back)


Recipe for Basic Soft Food:

My basic "soft food" is half cooked legumes and half chopped veggies.  The veggies are there for vitamins and general nutrition.  The legumes add protein (which the birds would be getting from eating bugs and such if they were living in the wild). 

I cook up large quantities of beans (legumes) in my crock pot (rinse the beans then cook in water for 6-8 hours - and I usually throw in a couple of tablespoons of beef bouillon, having found the birds seem to like their beans better with this flavor added).  The beans I cook include chick peas (aka garbanzo beans), kidney beans, black beans, black eyed peas, broad beans, etc.  When I was living in the US I would buy "15-bean soup mix" at the grocer and used that.  I haven't seen 15-bean soup mix in Australia, so I make my own mix. 

Once the beans are cooked, I drain them and spoon them into small freezer tubs to cool (you want the beans to cool fast - be aware that cooked legumes can grow bad bacteria REALLY fast, so don't leave them sitting around).  I fill each tub with half beans and half frozen veggies (buy a good veggie mix - corn, peas, carrots, broccoli, etc.  I find that veggies sold as "stir fry" often have a great mix and the quality is excellent).  then freeze them in portions that will last about 2-3 days, thawing them in the frig as needed.