We know that sunflower seeds are a healthy snack for us, but how about our feathered friends? Are sunflower seeds good for your parakeet? Absolutely! Sunflower seeds are a healthy and safe snack for your parakeet, albeit in moderation.
We look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of adding sunflower seeds to your parakeet’s diet. We also give you pointers on how many sunflower seeds are safe for your pet.
The Sunflower Seed
Sunflower seeds come from the sunflower. There can be as many as 1,000 to 2,000 sunflower seeds contained in the head of a single flower! The seeds that are harvested are used for eating or are made into sunflower oil, which makes up the majority of the sunflower seed industry.
There are two different kinds of sunflower seeds: black oil and striped. The striped seed is the one that we are all familiar with. They have thick shells and can be hard to open for us, however, most parrots do not share this concern-their beaks make short work of their hulls. The black oil sunflower seed has thinner shells and is easier to crack open.
Like most seeds, the majority of sunflower seeds’ content is fat. A 100-gram serving of sunflower seeds contains over 51 grams of fat. That being said, most of these fats are unsaturated, otherwise known as “good” fats (however, they also contain the “bad” saturated fats).
Fats are a great source of calories. By proxy, this makes sunflower seeds a great source of energy. The high fat content means their calorie yield is exceptionally high. Though sunflower seeds do offer other micronutrients and vitamins, their high fat content means they are a very poor choice for obtaining these nutrients. Overconsumption of sunflower seeds can lead to a parrot that refuses to eat anything else and gains too much weight. This inevitably leads to health issues associated with obesity.
With a seed offering so much fat, you might be wondering if sunflower seeds are dangerous for your bird’s health. When fed in moderation, sunflower seeds are a great addition to your parrot’s diet for several reasons.
Their fat profile is excellent, and they contain a plethora of the essential fatty acids your parrot would need for growth, maintenance, molting, and repair. Furthermore, many parrots are granivores, which means they forage for seeds. Incorporating seeds into their diet promotes welfare by allowing them to practice this behavior when kept as pets. Finally, seeds are sometimes offered to extremely ill or debilitated parrots to promote rapid recovery.
In such a scenario, their high calorie content works to the bird’s advantage and helps them attain a healthy weight.
In short, when used as a treat, sunflower seeds are a great addition to your parakeet’s diet, and are safe for consumption.
A Parakeet Diet
Wild parakeets eat various seeds, fruit, vegetation, and berries. Some, like budgies and cockatiels, almost exclusively forage on seeds and are known as the aforementioned granivores. They naturally forage on the ground in their native Australia, and their diet changes based on the seasons and the availability of food. However, they easily accept and readily adapt to a varied diet when kept as pets.
It’s always important to be aware of how an animal lives and eats in the wild because it has a bearing on how to take care of them in captivity.
The diet of a pet parakeet should consist of pellets, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The general rule that you should follow is to provide your parakeet with a diet of about 75%–80% of pellets and up to 20%–25% of fruit, vegetables, and nuts.
You should always consult with your veterinarian to ensure that your parakeet has a diet that’s appropriate for them. Remember that their dietary requirements change throughout their life. A bird that’s growing, breeding, raising young, or molting generally needs more nutrition than an adult bird being fed for maintenance.
Other Seeds You Can Feed Your Parakeet
With a moderate serving of seeds being an important part of a parakeet’s diet, you might be wondering if there are other seeds you can incorporate into their diet. There are many different seeds that are safe for parakeets. Many parakeet species have a very extensive profile of seeds they eat in the wild. Budgies and cockatiels have been observed foraging on over 60 different types of seeds in their native Australia!
These a few other seeds you can consider adding to your parakeet’s diet:
Because no two seeds have the same nutritional value, it’s very good to periodically cycle your parakeet’s diet with variety. Not only does this offer your bird with variety, but it also decreases the odds of nutritional deficiencies.
A small number of sunflower seeds as occasional treats should be just fine. Most of your parakeet’s diet should be made up of a high-quality pellet diet, however it is important to note that no parrot can be kept on a pellet-only diet.
Offering your parakeet seeds in moderation is a great way to supplement their pellet diet. Seeds should comprise about 10% of your parrot’s daily food intake.. You can give them seeds with the shell, as parakeets are more than capable of cracking them open.
If you’re still feeling unsure if you should give your parakeet sunflower seeds, speak to your vet. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when taking care of a pet.
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Featured Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay