When you hear the word parakeet, you’re probably thinking about the budgerigar or budgie, as they are affectionately called. However, a parakeet isn’t a specific type of parrot, but rather a term given to several small to medium-sized species of parrots with long tail feathers. The term parakeet isn’t a taxonomical reference to any genus or family of parrots; the parrots sometimes referred to as parakeets span multiple genera. Examples of parrots generally termed as parakeets include the aforementioned budgies, cockatiels, ring-necked parrots, and nose-ringed parrots.
As a parakeet owner, you might be curious if you can feed your pet bird some fresh vegetables from your pantry. Spinach is a common food item found in many households all over the world. If you’ve caught your parakeet nibbling on some spinach, or if you’re looking to expand their culinary profile, you might be wondering if spinach is an acceptable food item for parakeets. The short answer about whether the parakeet can eat spinach is yes, with a few caveats.
The Parakeet’s Diet in the Wild
The parakeet lives a nomadic lifestyle out of necessity. Many of the areas in which they inhabit are dry. To survive, they follow the availability of water and food. That also means these birds have a diverse diet. They eat various grains and seeds, even venturing into agricultural areas or lawns to find them. Parakeets will group into large flocks and forage for food together.
Parakeets are omnivores but rely on grains and seeds primarily for their nutritional needs. They may take the occasional insect or invertebrate. They may also feed on vegetation and fruits if available. Like other parrots, parakeets are remarkably intelligent and can find food when they need it.
The Captive Pet Bird
Pet owners often give their parakeets a commercial diet that consists of various seeds. Parakeets are notorious for picking out their favorites and tossing the rest out of their food bowl, often outside of their cage, too. That habit can often lead to nutritional deficiencies. Offering your pet a pellet diet is an excellent alternative to ensure it gets what it needs.
The expression, eat like a bird, is a misconception. Parakeets, like others of their kind, will typically consume more than their body weight every day! Many people also include fruits and vegetables, like spinach, to cover their parakeets’ nutritional needs. That leads us to our first caveat about giving your pet this green. Fresh produce should make up no more than 25% of your parakeet’s daily intake.
The Nutritional Value of Spinach
Now, let’s consider what spinach has to offer your pet. A 100-gram serving is over 92% water. It is also an excellent source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin A. Unfortunately, the advice Popeye the Sailorman gave about eating your spinach for its iron content isn’t true. That portion only contains 1.05 mg. However, that fact doesn’t negate that it has some nutritional value for your parakeet.
The Problem with Oxalates
The other more serious caveat about feeding your parakeet spinach concerns its oxalate content. When foods containing these ingredients are consumed, the body converts them to oxalic acid. The problem is that these chemical compounds can bind with other minerals.
While you’re thinking that you’re boosting your bird’s nutrient intake, it is robbing your pet of the food’s value. The other issue is the accumulation of oxalates. The process of binding with minerals creates crystals, which can then affect other organs in your parakeet’s body. Kidney stones are a common result of overconsumption of oxalates, even in people.
Cooking can leach out some oxalates. However, that form is undoubtedly foreign to your bird, making it unlikely that your parakeet would eat it, at least at first. Some pets tend to be picky about their food. Then, there’s the concern about it spoiling if you leave unconsumed cooked spinach in the cage.
Of course, people foods you may use to prepare the spinach are also off the table for birds, including garlic and onions. Even the Teflon skillet you use to cook the spinach can also harm your pet from the fumes that these products emit when heated. All these factors are excellent reasons to avoid cooked spinach as a dietary supplement.
Spinach has many things going for it as a healthy addition to your parakeet’s diet. It has a high water content, which can provide an excellent water source. It is also rich in many vitamins and minerals that can offer a tasty way for your pet to get what it needs. Unfortunately, your bird’s metabolism may negate some of these benefits, particularly if it eats a lot of it.
The formation of oxalate crystals and their health risks are the primary concern, along with the binding of some minerals. If you want to offer your parakeet spinach, we suggest limiting it to an occasional treat. You’ll likely find there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables that provide excellent nutrition without the caveats.
- You may also be interested in: What Do Parakeets Eat in the Wild and as Pets?
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels