What is the Diet of a Pet Bird?

Translated by Nick R

It seems like some owners see bird feed as the only necessary source of food for their birds and ignore the rest of the alternatives such as vegetables and fruits. They will make your pet very happy and complement their nutritional needs.

Remember that all you read here is no guarantee of a balanced and healthy diet; I recommend that you always consult your veterinarian for more information.

Aspects to take into account when feeding a bird 

Before we get into specific foods, you need to know some basics about feeding birds.

The beak shape 

One of the most determining factors for feeding a bird is the shape of its beak; each type of beak is meant to feed a certain type of food. In the case of the most common domestic birds, you’ll find the following:

Pointed, short, and/or curved beaks (generalists) 

These beaks don’t have a shape that allows for classifying the birds for a certain type of food because they’ll use it based on the conditions they are in. However, their diet can be granivorous, frugivorous, or insectivorous. Birds that may have this type of beak are:

Curved beaks and with a movable upper jaw 

These beaks are intended for the consumption of seeds and fruits. It is also used by birds to climb trees and is common in psittaciform birds such as:

Certain foods can benefit the bird at each stage of life.

For example, some foods are ideal for winter when birds need more carbohydrates to conserve heat, or for the breeding stage when they feed their chicks.

Not all birds will receive the food you give them.

Many birds may not be fond of variety, some of them may go in search of their favorite seeds or in the case of fruits and vegetables leave them aside because they don’t seem appetizing enough. This is because birds are not attracted by food because of its smell, but because of its appearance.

The metabolism of each bird can vary.

Metabolism is the way a living thing processes food to obtain nutrients. It is much faster in small birds such as canaries or zebra finches compared to larger birds such as parrots.

You must mimic wild feeding conditions.

Unfortunately, common pet birds have not gone through a domestication process as far as poultry have, which means they preserve many wild behaviors, as is the case of psittaciform birds with foraging, in which they search for food on the ground and behind things.

The feeding schedule must be considered too.

Also, remember that each bird has a feeding habit during the day. Most commonly they feed in the mornings and at dusk as in the case of parakeets or lovebirds, although these behaviors are not exact due to the constant availability of food in their cages. This will be of help to know what will be the best time to give them new things to try.

What nutrients does a bird’s diet contain? 

Birds, just like us, will need certain nutrients that help them at every stage of their lives. Here are some notes to help you understand this.


Vitamins are the ones that promote the correct physiological functioning, some of them can be found in the sun (vitamin D), food or in food supplements.


They are important to maintaining healthy bones, heart, and brain. Some necessary minerals for our birds are phosphorus, selenium, manganese, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, iodine, sodium, and chlorine.


In birds, fats help in the production of membranes and cells. In some cases, they also function as a source of energy and Prostaglandin.


They are a source of energy used by the nervous system, their deficiency can lead to neurological problems.

Suggested percentages for pet birds feeding 

Bird SpeciesBirdseed (%)Fresh fruits and vegetables (%)Seeds and nuts (%)
Canary15 – 252550-60
Diamond Finch15 – 252550 – 60
Australian Parakeet15-252550-60

Taken from: PetSmart 

Essential foods for birds 

Now, here is a complete guide to foods to enrich your bird’s diet in the best way.


Small bird eating seeds

There is a variety of seeds in the market for domestic birds, but it is recommended that you look for commercial foods that guarantee a complete diet for your bird with the correct combinations and amounts of seeds for the bird, such as mixtures.

It’s also important to check the condition of the seeds, which must be stored safely to avoid damage and to keep them fresh, and dry, without any particular odor and without the presence of mold.


Yellow, oval-shaped, and pointed, these seeds are low in fat and are easily digested by birds, which is why they are part of the basic diet of many domestic birds.


It’s a yellow spherical seed. You can find different types of seeds of this type, each one with its own nutritional value. In the case of common millet, it is also used as a base for mixtures due to its low-fat content. Meanwhile, Japanese millet, being small, soft, and containing good amounts of amino acids and protein, is used for poultry in the breeding stage.

Foxtail Millet 

It is a branched seed preferred by many birds. It can be used as food for newly fledged and fledged young birds, since it is very soft, or as a prize and snack.

It is rich in carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and water.


Oat seeds are a fairly complete food so they should be given carefully so your birds can spend all the energy intake from the food. Some of its nutrients are B and E vitamins.

It’s used in aviaries and birds with the possibility of exercising constantly. It also favors the onset of estrus.

Sunflower seeds 

Sunflower seeds are a good source of fat and energy, in this case, you can find two options: the black oil ones which are totally dark and thin-shelled, and the striped sunflower seeds which are bigger and thicker.


It’s a black-colored and elongated seed. Due to its high protein and fat contents, it must not be used as a staple food and should be given with caution just like oat seeds.


These are round, pale brown seeds with high fat and vitamin E content. They are a favorite of canaries and goldfinches, but you must be careful with your birds as it can cause liver damage if consumed frequently.

Mixture of seeds

Finally, we find the mixture, which is the combination of several seeds always having one of them as a food base. The purpose of this type of food is to give the bird a balanced way of feeding and to make it easier for you as the owner to combine different seeds in a single mixture.

Be careful with the mixture you buy and always try to check its content, as some of them may contain more fatty seeds than your winged pets can burn in their metabolism.

Fruits, vegetables, and other bird food 

Yellow and green parrot eating.

In the wildlife of birds, their food is not that regular and of a single type. For example, when there is not an abundance of seeds they can resort to other foods such as fruits, sprouts, or insects.

Some advice you should keep in mind when feeding your bird with other foods are:

  • The fruits and vegetables you give your bird must be fresh, washed, peeled, and in some cases chopped to attract the attention of your winged pet.
  • Always place the food in the places where it usually is and in clean containers.


Fruits should be part of the bird’s permanent diet since you can distribute them in the way you consider best and they will provide different nutrients to the bird that it cannot find in seeds such as vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A or potassium, besides you can use them as a reward to teach them tricks.

The fruits that I advise you to feed your bird are:

  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Fig
  • Blackberries
  • Peaches or peach
  • Orange
  • Tangerine
  • Pear
  • Melon
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon
  • Stemless cherry
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Papaya

Be careful with fruit seeds, especially apple seeds since they contain amounts of cyanide that can harm your bird.

Try to remove the food that has not been consumed in the last 10 hours or less from the cage to prevent them from eating spoiled food.


Vegetables, as well as fruits, are an important part of the birds’ food supplement, although they can be more difficult to give and with some contrary effects if they are not given with caution due to their high water content. The vegetables I recommend are:

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Cabbage (High water content)
  • Carrot
  • Cooked sweet potato
  • Celery (High water content)
  • Zucchini
  • Tomato


Freshly sprouted seeds are another good addition to your birds’ diets, especially when they are breeding, since in wildlife breeding seasons usually occur when there is an abundance of food and favorable weather conditions for plant growth.

To ensure fresh and clean sprouts you can make them yourself by sowing the seeds that your pet eats in water and with the help of absorbent cotton and then removing them when they have reached a height of half a centimeter.


Bird eating a worm

Some birds include insects in their diet. The zebra finches, for example, may consume small insects from time to time when food is scarce, and this is also helpful during the breeding season and the growth of feathers of the chicks.

The most common insects to feed birds are:

  • Mealworms or mollusks
  • Pinkie worms
  • Silkworms
  • Buffalo worm

If you are disgusted by some of these insects, you can resort to insect meal for birds, which you can add on top of fruits or vegetables, feed, or brood paste.

Brood paste 

This food is indicated for newly hatched birds or pullets, which you can make by yourself or buy in pet stores.

The breeding paste should contain exact amounts of nutrients such as fiber, calcium, and some vitamins, and should always have a consistency between thick and liquid to facilitate the digestion of the birds you are going to feed.


If it turns out that your bird is not receptive to the food you offer it, the best thing to do is to complement its nutrition with mineral and vitamin supplements, which can be in drops to add to the water or to the food.

Cuttlefish bone 

A practical complement for the cage of some birds are cuttlefish bones, which will provide calcium and in the case of parakeets, lovebirds and cockatiels will help to keep their beaks in good condition.

Sand for birds 

For some birds such as canaries and zebra finches, sand can be used to digest some food. The correct way to provide it is to offer it once every 2 months since excess sand can cause vitamin deficiency.


Feed is another alternative to guarantee good nutrition in birds, this food usually consists of a different combination of foods that seek that your bird can have all the necessary vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats.

The feed can come in different presentations, granulated or extruded in which all the food is processed to obtain this presentation. The advantage of this is that the birds do not have the possibility of selecting the food they like the most, as it could happen with mixtures.

Forbidden foods for your birds 

Some foods can affect your bird’s health due to high salt, fat, or toxic substances. Foods you must never give to your bird are:

  • Processed human foods such as junk food, sugary drinks, sodas, milk, alcoholic beverages, and energy drinks.
  • Chocolate can be toxic to your bird’s health.
  • Avocado contains persin, a fungicidal toxin that can cause heart and respiratory damage.
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Fruit seeds
  • Sausages or meat products

Some notes on feeding domestic birds

  • The consumption of fruits and vegetables, containing abundant water and functioning as diuretics, can lead to your bird’s poop changing color or appearing as if it has diarrhea.
  • The metabolism of small birds such as canaries or zebra finches is much faster, so their feeder must be constantly filled with food.
  • For packaged foods such as mixes or feeds, it is important to check the directions on the label.

How to feed new foods to your bird? 

As you may know, getting birds used to new habits takes time and must be done with a lot of patience and delicacy. Feeding is not far behind, so if you want to feed new treats to your bird you must do it gradually by following these steps.

Start gradually 

New foods should be given in small portions the first time, as we run the risk that our birds will not like them and food will be wasted. At this point what we want to achieve the bird can begin to develop a taste for the new food.

Juices can help create a taste for the food 

One way that can help you introduce fruits to your bird’s diet will be to give it water-based, unsweetened juices of the fruits mentioned above. However, keep in mind that this should not replace the bird’s water because it detracts from the nutritional content of the fruit, such as fiber.

Combining is a healthy way to change foods 

Never switch your bird’s seeds for birdfeed. Instead, combine them and gradually increase the amount of birdfeed until the bird gets used to the new food.

Other options 

Depending on your bird’s eating habits, you can offer seeds in the morning and evening and then leave new food both fruits and vegetables. The percentage of these in the total food for the day ranges between 20% and 50%.

Don’t force your bird to accept a food

 If for some reason you think that a good way for your bird to try new things is to take away its base food (the food it eats every day) and leave it some food that it may not like or is unfamiliar with, do not do it, you may put your bird’s health at risk, especially if it goes 48 hours without eating.