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Can Parrots Eat Meat? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

If your curious parrot is eyeing your steak or chicken dinner, you may be wondering if you can share with your feathered companion. Before you cut a piece, you’ll want to know if it’s safe and healthy for your bird’s diet.

Can parrots eat meat? Though meat isn’t a big part of the parrot’s natural diet, parrots are omnivores, meaning they can digest both meat and vegetation. While your bird may enjoy the treat of having a piece of juicy steak once in a while, your parrot should only have meat in moderation.divider-bird

How Much Meat Is Safe?

Parrot eating meat in Olivos, Buenos Aires, Argentina (Image Credit: Roberto Fiadone, Wikimedia Commons, Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

In the wild, parrots live on nuts, flowers, fruit, seeds, and insects. Nuts and seeds are their favorite food, and their strong beaks and jaws are designed for cracking nutshells to get the seeds.

Parrots need plenty of protein for development and physical conditioning. Meat is high in protein, but most domestic birds have no problem getting the necessary protein from a varied diet that includes a mix of seeds, nuts, and some vegetables.

If you feed your bird mostly fruits and vegetables, adding small amounts of meat to its meal a few times a week is healthy. If you already feed a lot of high-protein seeds and nuts, meat should be given sparingly. You should also be careful supplementing meat with commercial birdseed mixtures since your bird is likely getting close to ideal nutrition.

Potential Health Risks of Feeding Meat

If you overindulge your parrot with meat, you could be subjecting it to unnecessary health risks. Meat is high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and calories. If you feed too much, your parrot may become obese or suffer from health conditions like heart disease or high cholesterol. Birds are also susceptible to fatty liver disease, a condition in which excess fat is stored in the liver. These cells eventually overtake healthy liver cells, leading to liver failure.

Adding too much protein can cause kidney damage, so be careful of supplementing meat with a commercial or homemade diet high in other protein sources. Meat from factory farms may also introduce antibiotics and hormones into your bird’s diet. If possible, choose high-quality, free-range meat.

Best Meats for a Parrot’s Diet

If you want to add meat to your parrot’s diet, it’s best to provide different options and understand the benefits of each.

  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey, and duck are lean meats that add a lot of protein to your parrot’s diet without adding a lot of fat. Choose roasted or grilled poultry with no sauces, breading, or added oils.
  • Fish: Fish is high in healthy fats that aren’t commonly found in a plant-based diet. You can give your parrot low-mercury fish options like trout, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies.
  • Poultry bones: The hollow bones of a chicken or turkey make a great snack for your parrot. Birds love to strip the remaining meat and crack bones to eat the marrow inside. Be sure to monitor your parrot when you feed bones, however, to be sure it doesn’t swallow any bone fragments.

Baking, broiling, and boiling are the best ways to prepare meat for your parrot. Unlike humans, birds are happy with the plain flavor of the meat and its natural fats and proteins. Resist the urge to add ingredients like oil, butter, salt, or spices.

Meats to Avoid in Your Parrot’s Diet

Double Yellow-Headed Amazon Parrot
Image Credit: Kalamoku, Shutterstock

While meats like chicken and turkey are safe for your parrot in moderation, it’s important to pay attention to how the meat is prepared. Never feed cured meats or cold cuts, such as bacon, sausage, and salami to your parrot. These meats are high in fat, sodium, and nitrates. You should also avoid meats with fillers, such as ham or bologna.

Avoid giving your bird fried meats as well, since they contain a ton of unhealthy fats. Though it may be tempting to just share a small piece of your fish and chips or fried chicken with your parrot, breaded and deep-fried meats contain many ingredients that aren’t part of the parrot’s natural diet.

Finally, make sure all the meat you give your parrot is fully cooked. Parrots may eat raw meat in the wild, but captive birds’ digestive systems adjust to commercial diets over time. Raw meat can contain dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella, that can make your bird sick.

What Other Foods Should Be Avoided in Parrot Diets?

Many foods commonly found in human diets can be toxic to birds. Just like dogs and cats, we like to share table food with our pets and don’t realize how dangerous some foods can be.

Numerous human foods are toxic to parrots and other birds, such as onions, garlic, mushrooms, chocolate, and avocado. You should also avoid processed foods that are high in sugar and grains, such as candy, bread, cookies, and alcohol.divider-bird

Conclusion

Wild parrots learn what’s safe from their parents, which they learned from their parents, in an evolutionary cycle that took millennia. Pet parrots not only lack the instinct of wild parrots, but they experienced digestive changes from captivity. Parrots count on the knowledge of their owners to provide them with high-quality, species-appropriate diets that provide all their nutritional needs.

Small amounts of chicken, fish, and turkey, an occasional morsel of red meat, or a chicken bone are great treat options that give your parrot some protein and create a bonding experience between you. However, just because parrots can eat meat doesn’t mean it should be a staple in their diet, so always feed meat as a small part of a balanced diet.


Featured Image Credit: Hans Braxmeier , Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.