Calcium is Key

In captive pet birds, disorders of calcium metabolism … are common, ranging from osteodystrophy in young birds (due in part to the greater calcium requirement in young growing birds) to hypocalcemic seizures and egg binding in adults. Although African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) are considered to be especially susceptible to disorders of calcium metabolism, problems have been reported in a variety of captive species.

-From Clinical Avian Medicine, Vol. 1.

Today, our guest blogger, Shauna Roberts, contributes her knowledge about avian nutrition in our post about how to include calcium in a parrot’s diet:

At least 13 minerals are required for optimal health. Some of the macro-minerals required in relatively large amounts are calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Calcium is the most prevalent mineral and required for bone health and egg shell formation. A properly formulated pellet should provide the correct mineral balance. Fresh food diets tend to be much higher in phosphorus than calcium so require some additional calcium for balance. Phytate acid or oxalate found in seeds or plants can also effect digestibility.

Some calcium sources are:

  • hulled sesame seed (shells contain oxalate)
  • greens such as collard, dandelion and kale
  • lightly cooked broccoli
  • unsweetened yogurt

Vitamin D3 is required for calcium absorption and can be acquired through natural sunlight by taking a bird safely outdoors. Sunlight through a window won’t deliver any D3 benefits. Pellets containing D3 may also be supplied. In order to give a parrot enough D3 via pellets, they should be a large percentage of the diet.

Calcium plays two important physiological roles in the avian subject. First, it provides the structural strength of the avian skeleton by the formation of calcium salts.

Second, it plays vital roles in many of the biochemical reactions within the body via its concentration in the extracellular fluid. (Clinical Avian Medicine, Vol. 1)

An adult African grey with osteodystrophy. Photo from Clinical Avian Medicine.

An adult African grey with osteodystrophy (defective bone development) due to disturbances in calcium metabolism. Photo from Clinical Avian Medicine.

Read more about Calcium and why it is an important part of your bird’s diet in the Calcium Metabolism chapter in Clinical Avian Medicine.

Leafy greens full of yummy calcium! Photo by Elle Michelle

Some recipe ideas from The Parrot’s Pantry:

Butternut Squash, Kale and Nopales Salad

Kale, butternut squash, pomegranate, cilantro and nopales (prickly pear cactus pads). Nothing beats fresh organic food to nourish your fids.

Sprouts Salad

Sprouted quinoa, garbanzo beans, wheat berries, buckwheat groats, lentils, brown rice, and mung beans with finely chopped broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, carrots with tops, ginger root, sweet peppers, kale, mustard greens, cilantro and parsley. Topped with chia and sesame seeds.

Leafy greens with petunia petals

Leafy Greens: Kale, Collard, Mustard, Dandelion and Cilantro.


YUM! Happy eating his veggies. (Elle Michelle)

About Shauna Roberts:

Shauna has had an interest in nutrition since the mid late 1960s. She renewed that interest in 1997 when a cockatoo wasn’t doing well on pellets, and she realized a fresh diet was needed. The bird is now over 17 and doing well, as is the rest of her flock – now 16 – some of which arrived with dietary health issues. She is also a diet consultant for the parrot welfare organization, The Gabriel Foundation. Her research has taken her to various conferences to listen to nutrition experts as far as Japan and EU, as well as attending AAV (Association of Avian Veterinarians) conferences since 2003 in her mission to learn.

After retiring as a veterinary assistant, she discovered the internet and has been learning from and helping bird owners since 1995. In 2003, a parrot food list was founded named FeedingFeathers and now has over 3,700 members.

About Elle Michelle:

Elle’s Kabuki eating his adzuki bean sprouts.

Elle adores parrots and has shared her home with them for over twenty years. She’s always trying to come up with fun new ways to feed the flock nutritious and enriching meals. She buys most of her “bird food” in health food stores so she knows that the ingredients are all fresh, human-grade and organic. She still feeds a quality pellet mix, sprouts, and lots of fresh leafy greens, vegetables and some fruit and flowers. She makes all different types of meals so that they get a good variety of fresh foods daily.

Elle currently writes a feeding section for the Florida Parrot Rescue newsletter and provides healthy recipe ideas for the Arizona Aviculture Society newsletter. As well, she founded a “healthy parrot feeding ideas” group on facebook, The Parrot’s Pantry, where members can share their healthy meal ideas with one another.

Further information:

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