PREPARATION AND PRESENTATION
OF FOOD FOR BIRDS
Feeding a bird an adequate diet is one of the most important responsibilities of a bird guardian and one of the most difficult ones to fulfill.
Most of our birds would come to us as inveterate seed junkies and, in order for us to convert them to healthier food, we need to try every trick in the book. Two of the most useful ‘tricks’ are a feeding schedule and presentation. There is also a section about preparation included which is not meant to stimulate them to eat the produce but for their own safety.
Birds in the wild feed throughout the day but that’s because they need to constantly forage in order to find enough food to survive. Birds in captivity get their food ‘on a silver platter’ eliminating the need to search for it so we need to feed them when they are at their hungriest.
Birds are intensely photosensitive and, as most captive birds are diurnal, they wake up at dawn and go to sleep at dusk, so the two most important feedings should take place early in the morning and in the evening, when the sun starts to set. Specific times of doing this vary during the year as the seasons change so, for a bird guardian, there is no ‘set’ schedule and his or her life must, by necessity, revolve around the birds’ needs. For practical purposes, we will refer to the morning feeding as breakfast and the evening one as dinner.
Not all species eat at the same time, some of them are very early feeders (all passerines –canaries, finches, cardinals-, columbines –doves, pigeons- and galliforms –chickens, quails), some don’t start to eat that very early (most psittacines), and some are late risers and feeders (macaws) but they all eat a big meal in the morning, forage during the day except for the time when they nap (usually from noon to 2:00 pm) and then have a good dinner when the sun starts to set, right before they get ready to go to sleep. It is, therefore, healthier for them if we follow their natural schedule and, it is also useful to us because they are more likely to be willing to try new foods when they are at their hungriest.
I believe that a very large selection of food offered at the same time is actually detrimental to them because they end up eating only the handful of things they prefer. Whereas, if we just offer them one single vegetable, one single fruit and one single leafy green, they will eat most of them out of sheer necessity ensuring, thus, a well rounded diet. Therefore, breakfast should consist of mostly fresh produce: a different fruit, vegetable and leafy green every day of the week and gloop or some other whole grain, rice and vegetable dish. Birdy bread or birdy muffins can be substituted for gloop, but not more often than twice a week because they are higher in carbs and lower in fiber (gloop is made out of whole grains but baked products are made of flours). Please refer to our lists of fruits, vegetables, greens and flowers for reference (http://www.newyorkbirds.net/diet.html) and to our piece on recipes for some good ideas.
Breakfast is actually available to them all day long so they can pick at it at their leisure. Because gloop is cooked, it does not really spoil that easily and will stay fresh the entire day unless it’s very hot and humid in which case it needs to be removed at noon.
Dinner should consist of food with the higher protein content (seeds, nuts and pellets) and should be carefully measured so the bird consumes its portion within a few minutes and nothing remains. No psittacine should ever have free access to seeds, nuts and/or pellets all