How Did They Get This Old?


Umbrella cockatoo
Umbrella cockatoo

I sometimes hear of incredibly elderly parrots. Like the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo I met from a couple. They got the bird from their parents, who got it from their parents. For 117 years, this bird has been a member of this family. Or consider the 75-year-old Amazon.

In a situation like this, my first inquiry is, “What did your grandparents, parents, and are you feeding this bird that it has become this old?”

Pellets are a very recent product, and the concept that seeds are beneficial to parrots is just around 50 years old. So, what did these “grandparents” eat? Food for humans! Vegetables, fruits, and sometimes some meat and bread People did not consume as much meat in the early half of the twentieth century because it was too costly to consume on a daily basis. And, until recently, most people cooked from scratch every day. Many people had kitchen gardens and grew their own food, or they obtained it from a neighbor or farmer around the corner, or even from the Saturday market where it was fresh from the fields. Not like nowadays, when produce is picked unripe, held in warehouses, gas ripened, and then transported for days or weeks.

The fruits and vegetables were gathered ripe and fresh – fresh enough to contain even more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, fatty acids, amino acids, and other nutrients than we find in grocery store food today. Aside from that, the usage of pesticides and fertilizers has skyrocketed since the good old days. As a result, traditional food was naturally cultivated. In a nutshell, fresh, complete, living food. A diet rich in nutrients and fibre offered these “oldies” a significant advantage in the age game.

People are becoming increasingly conscious, and even physicians, that it needs a range of nutrients, including enough of fresh raw veggies and fruits, to keep or become healthy. So, what makes us believe that a diet comprising entirely of pellets, seeds, and a few vitamins is beneficial for our birds? What about all the nutrients lost during storage and processing? What about the fiber in fresh green meals, as well as the trace minerals, micronutrients, cofactors, and so on? How do they get them? Fresh, raw, entire, and living foods. There are no supplements that may be used in place of fresh, raw, entire meals.

Some people want to improve their birds’ diets by cooking for them, and while I think it’s fine to give your bird pasta, rice, legumes, and other cooked foods every now and then, they need fresh food on a daily basis. And the more the diversity, the better; nevertheless, this does not imply that you must provide them with ten different types of veggies or fruits every day. It is OK to feed one kind one day and another the next. That still adds variety. A variety that seems rather natural to me, because we know that some parrot species eat the same thing for a long time. For example, in Mexico, there is a flock of scarlet macaws that comes every year when the almonds are ripe. They stay until the almonds are gone, and then they leave. Nobody is sure what they consume the rest of the year. However, they may only eat almonds for the next few weeks.

If you only have one bird, I’m sure he’ll want to eat everything you eat. That should make it very simple to change his diet; if you eat it and have the right attitude (which isn’t “Yuck, this needs more artificial flavor,” your bird will eat it. Your bird can tell whether you like it or not.

It’s also important to experiment with the recipe until you find what your bird prefers. Baby food in jars is an excellent flavor enhancer for bird food. After a while, you might find yourself “inventing” new recipes for fresh bird foods. Everyone knows how to make birdie bread, so why not healthy fresh birdie treats?

If you have more than one bird, it is even simpler because you only need one bird to eat it. The rest will follow. And the most important factors cannot be overstated: love and patience. My birds simply jumped into it and ate everything. They were most likely in desperate need of nutrition. But I had other birds that needed the nutrients just as much as these new ones and refused to look at it. And I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been putting fresh food in some cages for months without the birds even noticing. But they’ll go for it one fine day.

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