Many people associate feeding a conure primarily with seeds and nuts. Parrot nutrition experts, however, have concluded that a diet based on these products fails to meet a conure’s nutritional needs, often resulting in avoidable health issues, undesirable behavior, and an abbreviated life.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are essential elements of a healthy conure diet, just as they are of a healthy human diet. Most vegetables and sprouts can be offered in almost unlimited supply. Fruit should be offered less bountifully, and there are a few foods your conure should never eat.
Benefits of Eating Veggies and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are crucial to a conure’s long-term health are often lacking in traditional seed or pellet diets. While a good base pellet should be part of your bird’s daily diet, it should be supplemented and rounded out with an abundance of veggies and an assortment of fruits. Birds that enjoy regular servings of fresh produce tend to have healthier skin and feathers, better energy, fewer behavior problems, and fewer health issues.
Pet birds that eat more vegetables are less likely to be overweight. Some parrots have earned a reputation of being “perch potatoes.” Few pet birds get as much exercise as their wild counterparts. A diet high in vegetables and lower in seeds will reduce the chance that your bird will put on surplus weight, which can lead to other health problems and a shorter lifespan.
Eating vegetables and fruits is interesting. Foraging toys and puzzles are popular because they encourage parrots to work for and play with their food. Vegetables and fruits can stimulate and entertain your bird in a similar way. They can be hung on the side of the cage, hidden inside one another, or skewered together as a kabob. The sheer variety in the textures, tastes, and ways of serving veggies and fruits will make mealtime much more interesting for your bird.
What Fruits and Veggies Can Conures Eat?
Conures can and should eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits—with emphasis on vegetables. The amount of vegetables a conure may be offered is virtually unlimited. They are packed with nutrients that support healthy cell performance and complex carbohydrates that release a steady supply of energy.
Fruits on the other hand are made up of simple carbohydrates which can lead to excess weight gain and release energy in sudden bursts, leading to sugar highs and lows. Because conures will often choose to eat fruits instead of vegetables if they are offered together (due to fruit’s sweetness) fruit should be considered more of a snack food.
Trending post: 12 amazing Christmas gifts for your pet bird
- Dark green and cruciferous vegetables: collard greens, chard, spinach, kale, watercress, turnip greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts
- Red/orange vegetables: red peppers, sweet potato, yams, carrots, pumpkin, and winter squash
- Starchy vegetables (in moderation): corn, and potatoes
- Other vegetables: asparagus, eggplant, rutabaga, radishes, okra, green peppers, peas, green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini
Most vegetables have the greatest health benefits raw or nearly raw. However, potatoes and sweet potatoes should always be cooked before feeding. Legumes also should always be cooked or sprouted.
- Berries, apples, grapes, guava fruit, nectarines, pomegranate, figs, papaya, bananas, pears, melons, plums, peaches, apricots, mango, kiwi, cherries, pineapple, and passion fruit
- Tomatoes, oranges, lemons, and limes (in moderation)
When feeding fresh fruits and vegetables, keep in mind that they will begin to spoil after two or three hours. Whatever has been left uneaten should be removed and disposed of. Dishes that were used should be washed to avoid a buildup of bacteria.
Getting a Picky Eater to Taste Veggies and Fruits
If your conure has never tried fresh vegetables or fruits before, it may take a little coaxing to get her to taste them. With fresh goodies like the ones discussed above, though, it may not be as difficult as you fear. The best time to offer new foods is when your bird is awake, hungry, and curious in the morning. Make sure she isn’t filling up on too many treats to be hungry for a regular meal.
Try This, Try That
One of the best ways to tempt a parrot to try an unfamiliar food is to eat a bit of it yourself (or at least pretend to) and make a big deal about how good it is before offering your bird a taste. Try offering veggies in different forms—raw, steamed, chopped, mashed, shredded, etc. Texture can be as important to a bird as taste. Sometimes a bird will taste something warm that she wouldn’t touch cold—or vice versa.
Mix Things Up
Try sprinkling the new food on top of your bird’s regular diet, or if that doesn’t work, offering it in a special “treat” dish. Try sticking it through the cage bars so she will pull on it, play with it, and maybe taste it. Mix favored fruits or sweet potatoes with less tasty vegetables to get your bird interested. Many well-rounded parrot chop recipes are available online. These recipes mix a variety of whole ingredients that are often so intriguing parrots will dig in with little hesitation.
Keep it Fresh
Never offer the same serving of food over and over as its decreasing freshness will only discourage your bird further. Remove any food that hasn’t been eaten after a couple of hours and try again with fresh food later.
What Foods are Bad for Conures
As with other pets, there are foods (including a few fruits and vegetables) that you should not feed your conure. Some of them are potentially toxic. Others are just unhealthy or indigestible for birds.
This also goes for coffee and any other caffeinated foods or drinks. Caffeine can increase your bird’s heart-rate to a dangerous degree and even cause seizures and death. Chocolate also contains theobromine, which affects birds in a similar manner. The darker or stronger the chocolate or coffee, the more hazardous it is, but even small amounts can lead to your bird experiencing an increased heart-rate and developing tremors.
Even a tiny amount of alcohol can lead to severe brain and liver damage in a pet.
Though it’s considered a healthy food for humans, avocados contain small amounts of a natural fungicide called persin that can cause respiratory issues or heart damage in birds. Some birds may appear unaffected while others may have a sudden allergy-like attack that can end in sudden death. It’s best to avoid feeding avocado at all.
Apple seeds and fruit pits
Apples are fine, but make sure you remove the seeds before feeding the fruit to your conure. Apple seeds contain small amounts of toxic cyanide. Peach, apricot, cherry, and plum pits also contain cyanide and should be removed before you feed any of these fruits to your bird.
Onions and garlic
Conures, as well as other birds and even dogs and cats, should not be fed onions or garlic. Although they are fine for humans, they are toxic to pets. Garlic can cause digestive issues, and onions can break down red blood cells leading to “onion poisoning” or anemia.
Meat contains saturated fat and cholesterol, neither of which is good for your bird. While some parrot owners will allow their birds a nibble of lean meats like chicken or fish occasionally, they are not part of a conure’s natural diet and are best avoided altogether.
Though dairy is not toxic to birds, they can’t digest the lactose found in dairy products, which can lead to them having digestive problems and diarrhea. Yogurt and cheese are the exception, as they contain little to no lactose. However, they should only be fed in small amounts as an occasional treat.
Junk food and fried food
Just like people, conures can have a sweet tooth and be partial to foods that are full of salt, sugar, or fat. A smidgen of pizza or the edge of a non-chocolate cookie is fine now and then. As a general rule, however, you should avoid feeding “junk food” to your bird as they can cause multiple health issues.
Very acidic fruits
Citrus fruits and tomatoes should be fed only in small amounts as they are highly acidic. Experts also advise against feeding rhubarb as it contains oxalic acid, a potentially toxic substance for birds that can cause kidney damage.
Nightshades and inedible mushrooms
Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant are all part of the nightshade family—meaning the plants themselves are toxic. While conures can safely eat the fruit, they should not be given the leaves or stems of any of these plants. Any mushroom that would be toxic for humans is also toxic to birds.
If you are unsure about a food item that has not been included on this list, it’s best to play it safe and do further research or avoid feeding it to your bird at all. There are plenty of healthy fruits and veggies he can enjoy instead. It’s also possible to find creative recipes for bird-safe alternatives to the treats like quick bread, pizza, or mac & cheese that your bird is always begging for but shouldn’t have. Remember that your bird’s long-term health comes first, and a wholesome diet foundational.