PET BIRD CARE

Daily Routine

 

The information in this section is for those who are committed to providing the very best for their pet birds and in return receive the full benefits associated with the remarkable intellect and personality of parrots.
 

We face three main challenges when keeping parrots as pets. Firstly, we must provide our birds with a variety of foods that closely resembles the food types and food value found in their natural diet. Secondly, we must offer them opportunities to fill in the time they would otherwise spend searching for food as wild birds - i.e. foraging and entertainment opportunities. Thirdly, we must spend time playing with our birds in a way that encourages learning and offers them flock security and friendship in a manner that does not promote a sexual bond or breeding behaviour.

The Daily Routine, Weekly Routine and Annual Health Check described in this article provide a complete system of care that ensures health and happiness in your pet bird. Click here to download Pet Bird Care - The Complete System Chart for the parrot species you keep.

Daily Routine for Pet Birds

 

For continuing health and happiness a daily routine for pet birds must be based upon the diet, foraging and social needs of parrots in the wild. Our daily routines rotate on a weekly cycle allowing them to blend easily into your own personal daily routine and life style. The time they take is not much more and probably less than you already spend on your bird.

The structured daily routine is based around at least two daily shared meal times. These meal times should be incorporated into the household routine, with a morning and evening feed being the most suitable times for most households. Establish a routine that fits in with your lifestyle and your bird will quickly learn the times of day for feeding, foraging, learning, entertainment, and rest. These are the key factors to maximizing your bird's happiness and cognitive intelligence and encompass our holistic approach to pet bird stewardship.

 

There are several parts to this section that can be read entirely or referenced according to your immediate needs.

 

1. Diet & Foraging Behaviour of Parrots in Nature

 

This section introduces you to the natural diet and foraging behaviour of wild parrots and how these relate to you and your pet bird.

 

2. Daily Routine for Pet Birds - Introduction

 

We have divided the commonly kept pet parrots into three groups based upon their diet and foraging behaviour in nature. Our recommended daily routine for each group is outlined in this section.

 

3. Daily Routine for Pet Birds - The Complete System

 

This section describes in detail a complete system of care for pet birds that is based upon the natural foods, foraging and social behaviour of each parrot type in the wild. Our thoughts regarding food types and preparation, foraging and play options, toys, training methods (cognitive, reward and clicker), health and hygiene, and multi-bird homes are also shared with you here. For the clients of Carlingford Animal Hospital, please click here to access our clients only section and download the Complete System of Care Guide for the parrot species you keep.

 

Diet & Foraging Behaviour of Parrots in Nature

 

Foraging behaviour refers to the way parrots discover and eat food in nature. Knowledge of the way Australian parrots search for food in the wild is important as it helps us understand the needs of these birds when kept in captivity. This understanding forms the basis of the daily routines developed by Dr Marshall and Tailai O'Brien for Australian parrots and also for parrots from other continents.

There are more than fifty parrot species native to Australia that inhabit many diverse environments and span several climatic zones. So when talking about the diets of Australian parrots it is helpful to separate them into groups based upon the food they eat in nature and their foraging behaviour. Parrots from other continents will also fall into one of these three groups.

All parrots - except the lorikeets - are essentially seed hunters. For a few decades now, seed diets for captive parrots have received extremely bad press but parrots in their natural environment rely upon seeds for their survival.

The true value of seeds has been misrepresented largely as a result of scant information regarding the different seed types available to parrots in their natural environment and incomplete knowledge regarding the beneficial effects of searching for these seeds. For Australian parrots the food value of a seed diet and skills associated with hunting for seed are fundamental to their life in the wild and their happiness in captivity.

There are a great variety of seeds types available to Australian parrots but Grass seeds provide most Australian parrots with their staple food. Australian parrots also eat seeds found inside the pulp of fruits, berries, hard nuts and pods of Australian plants, bush shrubs and trees.

 

The seeds of Australian flora are usually very small. Although highly nutritious, the many different forms of seeds available to Australian parrots do not by themselves provide a full range of nutrients and other foods are required to balance their nutrient needs. Any additional nutrient needs are often found during the process of foraging for seeds. At other times - especially when breeding - Australian parrots may search for nutrients that are lacking. Captive parrots must also eat seeds. In addition, they must receive food supplements because unlike wild birds they have no opportunity to balance their nutrient needs in a captive setting.

Under ideal conditions, nature provides wild parrots with a wide variety of wholesome foods that balance their nutritional requirements throughout the different phases of life (i.e. survival, moult and breeding). The nutrient component of these foods is important to know but not within the scope of this article. Knowledge of the way Australian parrots search for seeds in the wild is required to help us understand the needs of these birds when kept in captivity.

 

Foraging is the word used to describe the act of searching for food. Some parrots feed mostly on the ground whilst others spend most of their time searching for food in trees.

Above all else, parrots survive in nature because of their ability to forage. This is a learnt skill that is nurtured first in the nest and then develops explosively between the ages of weaning and adolescence. Foraging skills continue to be learnt throughout life and memorized. For birds they are an integral part of their intelligence i.e. an ability to understand and learn quickly. Foraging skills are also essential for the mental development of captive birds.

 

The foraging skills of wild parrots are further refined by the use of their special senses. For example, in the search for food parrots use their keen eyesight and ultraviolet vision to locate ripe fruit. Physical dexterity is crucial for finding and eating food. Parrots remove the outer lining of seeds using their specialized mobile hard palate, muscular tongue and beak. Parrots other than grass parrots often use their foot to hold food items whilst eating. Physical dexterity is a by-product of foraging activity and improves mental capacity. Encouraging physical dexterity from a young age - for example, teaching pet birds to use their foot as a hand by providing diced up food stuffs or giving tiny seeds to improve tongue beak co-ordination - will improve learning ability in pet birds.

Pet birds that are deprived of natural foraging activities from a young age remain intellectually retarded, are slow learners and unable to develop cognitive skills (e.g. learn a language and use words in context).

 

In order to find food, a strong flying ability is required by some parrots whilst for others it is a less important part of finding food. Captive birds must also be allowed free flight as part of their foraging activities.

 

The time spent foraging varies amongst the different parrot species. The large Australian parrots combine intense concentration, enduring patience, a muscular tongue, powerful beak and visual acuity to extricate tiny seeds from nuts with microscopic precision. They spend far more time foraging than smaller parrots as they must eat more to support their larger body mass. In captivity they must also be provided with far greater foraging opportunities than smaller parrots if they are to avoid foraging-related behavioural problems.

The proportion of foraging time spent flying, on the ground or in trees varies between parrot species. The numbers of hours and time of day spent foraging also varies between species. All Australian parrots forage early morning followed by a rest period when they retreat to the cover and safety of trees. Rain may delay ground foraging. Parrots that live in a hot climate remain in trees during the heat of the day. Here they keep occupied by chewing on branches and leaves. Many parrots continue to forage during the middle of the day. The final foraging period extends for an hour or more before sunset. By dusk all Australian parrots have returned to a roosting tree.

The intellectual capacity of our pet birds is grossly underestimated because we have not provided them with the opportunities to extend their mental adroitness. We can extend their mental capacity and realise their full potential as companion pets by providing food types and following a daily foraging routine that is closely aligned to that of their wild cousins. Knowledge of the daily routines and the way parrots behave in nature is the key to the health and happiness of these birds in captivity.

 

Pelleted food has no role to play for those totally committed to the welfare and happiness of their pet birds. Pelleted food has been produced based upon their convenience value for humans. This type of food is harmful to parrots because it denies the early development of inquisitiveness and retards the learning processes associated with foraging experiences. In addition, pelleted food is not recommended when used in association with seeds, as it is formulated as a whole food and not as a food supplement.

Daily Routine for Pet Birds – Introduction

 

Not only do pet parrots share the same daily routines as their wild counterparts but they also share them with humans. The daily routine for humans is the same as birds centering on meal times, occupation and leisure. This is very convenient as we can organize a daily routine for pet birds by resolving the same questions we ask ourselves every day. What to eat? When to eat? When to rest? How to keep occupied? When to exercise? How to fill in idle or leisure time?

Summary of the Additional Needs of Pet Birds

Because the type of foods and foraging behaviour of parrots are so diverse it is not possible to recommend a single diet and method of feeding that suits every parrot species. However, when discussing the daily routine and best way to feed commonly kept pet birds, parrots can be divided into three broad groups based upon their foraging behaviour and diet. This division allows us to provide a simplified daily routine that suits many bird species. Additions are then made to this routine according to the special needs of each particular species.

 

The daily routine for each group is outlined below. A detailed daily routine for each of the different parrot species within these groups is found in the clients only section of this website.

 

 

Group One - Ground Foragers

 

In the wild these birds eat grass seeds and spend most of their foraging time on the ground. At other times they rest in trees. In captivity food supplements must be added to the seed mix and drinking water to balance their nutritional needs. Common pet birds included in this group are:

 

  • Budgerigars

 

  • Cockatiels

 

  • Lovebirds - Peach-faced, Masked & Fischers Lovebirds

 

  • Princess & Regent parrots

 

  • Grass Parrots (Red Rumped, Mulga, Blue Bonnet & Hooded parrots).

Daily Routine of Group One

 

Morning

 

  • Preparation of morning feed.

 

  • Interaction time - ideal for clicker training.

 

  • Provide seed mix in dish on cage floor to encourage foraging.

 

  • Remove seed dish after 30 minutes.

 

  • Place camouflaged seed treats and millet sprays in cage and return bird to cage.

 

 

 

 

Day Time

 

  • This time is spent inside the cage.

 

  • Fresh branches are provided for chewing activities.

 

  • Some species in this group (e.g. budgerigars) enjoy toys such as bells, balls and moving toys that stimulate interactive play.

 

  • This is an ideal time for talking lessons, as it is a natural time for your bird to learn and speak.

 

Evening

 

  • Allow supervised flight. This is an ideal time for a reward based training session.

 

  • Following flight and play (learning) time a shared meal opportunity is ideal for the evening feed.

 

  • Remove any remaining camouflaged seed treats and provide seed mix in dish on floor of cage.

 

  • Leave seed mix for 30 minutes then remove.

 

  • At sunset ensure all food has been removed and darken the cage for sleep.

Option Two: If time does not permit, set up a foraging seed dish and millet spray inside the cage each morning.

 

  • Australasian Parrots
    - Kakariki parrot
    - Barnardius parrot
    - Superb parrot
    - King parrot
    - Rosella
    - Eclectus
    - Cockatoos

 

  • Afro-Asian Parrots:
    - Alexandrine
    - Rosed-Ringed parakeets
    - Nyasa Lovebird
    - African Grey

 

  • South American Parrots
    - Conures
    - Monk or Quaker parakeet
    - Macaw
    - Amazon

 

Daily Routine of Group Two

 

Morning

 

  • Preparation of morning feed.

 

  • Place a bowl of small seeds, hidden seed treats and branches inside the cage for daily foraging activity.

 

  • Allow supervised flight whilst preparing fresh fruit or vegetables and encourage your bird to be included in the food preparation.

 

  • Call your bird in for morning meal.

 

  • Remove morning feed dish and any remaining fruit or vegetables after an hour.

 

  • Return bird to cage.

 

 

 

 

 

Day Time

 

  • This time is spent inside the cage.

 

  • Provide a bowl filled with small seeds that have been mixed with food supplements.

 

  • Provide fresh foraging branches or foraging toys in the cage each day. Thin fresh branches and leaves, long beans etc. can be woven in between the cage bars to encourage time consuming foraging.

 

  • The larger parrots of this group are very destructive and requires branches each day.

 

 

 

 

Evening
 

  • Release your bird from its cage for supervised free flight. This is a good time for a reward based training session.

 

  • Following play time or training session call your bird in for its meal.

 

  • Provide a smaller but similar meal as the morning meal. Remove all food from cage after one hour.

 

  • Darken cage at sunset in readiness for sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Routine of Group Three

 

Morning

 

  • Preparation of morning feed - diced fresh fruits and mashed sweet potato.

 

  • Allow supervised flight whilst preparing morning meal.

 

  • Lorikeets are fast eaters and will quickly devour their morning meal.

 

  • Remove fruits dish after an hour and replace with a bowl of lorikeet dry food.

 

 

 

 

Day Time

 

  • Provide bowl with lorikeet dry food.

 

  • Provide drinking water in a dish and 20mls of nectar in a drinking bottle. Food supplements may be added to the nectar.

 

  • Provide fresh natural branches (flowering grevilleas, bottle brush etc.) in the cage each day.

 

  • Appropriate toys may also be given to keep your bird occupied during the day.

 

Evening

 

  • Release your bird from its cage for supervised free flight.

 

  • Call in for the evening meal. Provide a smaller but similar meal as the morning meal. A hot porridge meal made on fruit juice with fruit salad from a can is a good alternative meal for the evening.

 

  • Remove all food from cage after one hour and clean and disinfect cage.

 

  • At sunset ensure all food has been removed, ensure cage is clean and darken the cage for sleep.

The evening meal should coincide with family dinner time so as to reinforce your bird's bond with its human family.

 

This routine allows your bird to understand you will return for a shared meal each day as part of its flock. It will impart a sense of flock security so that your bird will remain satisfied during the day and settle in its own natural routine.

 

 

Group Two - Tree & Ground Foragers

 

The second group of parrots is the largest and spends most of their day foraging either in trees or on the ground. Their diet in Nature comprises seeds, berries, nuts, fruits, blossoms and sometimes insects and their larvae. Food supplements are required to balance the nutrient requirements of these pet birds and are may be mixed into the fruit, vegetables, seed mix and drinking water. Common pet birds included in this group are:

 

This training simulates the same mental behaviour required for searching, locating and remembering where food is found in wild parrots.

Providing multi-grained toast is a good way to encourage time-consuming foraging activity.

A shared meal opportunity is ideal for the evening meal following free flight and play (learning) time.

 

 

 

Group Three - Tree Foragers

 

Lorikeets make up the final group. These energetic parrots are entirely tree foragers and depend upon pollen as their staple food. Common pet birds included in this group are dusk and rainbow lories, musk, varied and purple crowned lorikeets. Food supplements are required to balance their nutrient requirements and may be added to the fruit, or mixed into a juice or nectar.

A shared morning meal is an ideal time for learning and clicker training.

Prior to the evening meal play and a reward based training session are ideal.

 

A shared meal opportunity is ideal for the evening feed following free flight and play (learning) time.

 

Between sunset and dark, wild lorikeets become very noisy as they settle in their roosting tree. For pet birds, this is also an important time interactive time for you and your pet bird. Pet lorikeets enjoy singing, dancing and music prior to bedtime.

 

 

Client Information

 

In our clients only section you will find lots more specialised information, tailor made for each bird species. Here, you can also access Dr Marshall's detailed research into the natural behaviours and requirements of your particular pet species in the wild.

We encourage our clients to log in to this section to learn about the special requirements and best weekly care, nutrition, and health for your pet bird. If you are already registered as a client please click
here to log in. For those who would like to register, please contact us to make an appointment for your pet bird today.

Dr Rob Marshall and bird trainer, Tailai O'Brien have developed a complete system of care that ensures health and happiness in your pet bird.

See our comprehensive range of products for birds, designed to maximise health and improve wellbeing.

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