Letters


Dear Parrots magazine,

Further comments on Pyrrhuras’ diets

I would like to comment on a couple of points.  There are two broad areas to consider when reviewing the dietary provisions of captive parrots: nutritional content and ability of birds to express normal foraging behaviour.

There is a third vitally important aspect that must not be forgotten.  That is the suitability of the food for the species in question.  For example, you would not feed a Hyacinthine Macaw on millet!

Pyrrhura Conures and, indeed, many other parrots, feed primarily on soft foods in the wild.  Their diet consists of flowers, catkins, flower buds, tender young leaves, figs and soft juicy berries.  Of these, flowers and figs are the most important items for most species.  It is true that they eat the seeds as well as the pulp of figs, but the seeds are tiny. I feed a lot of figs (dried, briefly soaked) to my conures.

Hard food items are foreign to them.  This is why when Pyrrhuras are fed pellets, by far the greater part of the diet must be softened in water or they will starve.  

I do not see this activity as 'enriching',  but the only way the conures can deal with an unsuitable diet. I would be saddened at the thought of my Pyrrhuras being fed this way - they would be bewildered.  I offered them pellets once, but they did not recognise them as food.  They would not even touch them, which is unusual for such inquisitive birds.

"Formulated diets have been thoroughly analysed to ensure that they provide a balanced level of essential nutrients.”

There are approximately 200 species of parrots in captivity, and the nutrient levels necessary to keep them healthy vary according to their natural diet.  A Budgerigar, designed to live on small seeds in often impoverished and arid environments, can live and breed well on a diet on which most other parrots would be severely nutritionally deprived.

As another example, palm nuts eaten by the large macaws have an extremely high fat content and very high levels of Vitamin A.  So their nutritional requirements are totally different to those of most Amazon parrots that would not survive long in captivity, and often do not, on a diet with similar nutritional content.  In other words, until many studies are made of the nutritional components of the diet of very many species of wild parrots, resulting in species-specific pellets, we cannot know that this form of food provides 'a balanced level of essential nutrients'.  Even if they did, I would continue to provide my birds with foods that they eat with such obvious relish.

I am pleased that the Blue-throated Conures have bred this year and look forward to reading about that success.

Rosemary Low


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