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Variety Is the Spice of Life

Pet Age Staff//February 1, 2013//

Variety Is the Spice of Life

Pet Age Staff //February 1, 2013//

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The assumption that companion birds should be fed a diet primarily consisting of seeds is becoming a thing of the past. The new mantra is “everything in moderation, while keeping things exciting.”

Naturally, wild birds are able to keep variety in their diets because they have the ability to fly and forage. Companion birds do not have the same advantages, requiring their human owners to step up to the challenge of providing a balanced diet in order to assist them in maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.

According to Gail Shepard, Zupreem’s director of marketing, avian diets should consist of precise percentages in order to maintain a healthy balance.

“A bird’s daily food should consist of approximately 70 percent pellets, 10 percent veggies, 10 percent fruit and the other 10 percent can be made up of seeds, nuts and treats,” Shepard said.

Nutritionally speaking, avian diets have come a long way throughout the past few years. New products and theories are being constantly developed and improved each year, such as blending dried produce with nuts and seeds. However, these advanced diets still break down into two basic choices. You can feed birds a pelleted blend or a seed diet, keeping in mind the pros and cons of either choice.

Pelleted formulas were created to bridge the nutritional gaps in a bird’s diet.

“Pellets have helped to take the guesswork out of providing a balanced and nutritious avian diet,” Kathleen Lance, owner of A&E Cage Co. and Bird Paradise in Burlington, N.J., said.

She believes that proper nutrition for birds is the foundation for a healthy life.

“We always encourage people to use our blends as the nutritional base and then feed a daily abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables,” Lance said.

Bird Paradise carries a large variety of blended foods such as Hagen, Zupreem, Harrisons, Lafeber, Roudybush and TotallyOrganics.

One food choice that is growing in popularity is the extruded pellet.

Extruded pellets are created by combining fresh ingredients such as grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, along with vital vitamins and minerals and grinding them into fine grain flour. The flour is baked at a high temperature and compressed into various sizes and shapes. This high pressure cooking process ensures that all bacteria are killed and that the end result is a clean product.

When feeding a pelleted diet, Shepard recommends Zupreem’s FruitBlend with Natural Fruit Flavors, which comes in five different sizes for small to large birds. It contains 21 vitamins and minerals and the bright colors and different shapes provide stimulation and prevent boredom.

High Marks

The Rolf C. Hagen Corporation, a multi-national pet products manufacturer and distributor, offers a wide variety of all avian diet options, but only the best earn the Hagen Avicultural Research Institute approved insignia. Located in Rigaud, Quebec, H.A.R.I. was established in 1985 to study the captive breeding and maintenance of companion birds. It now houses over 250 pairs of more than 30 parrot species.

“We do recommend our formulated extruded diet Tropican, as a staple part of most companion diets as this scientifically formulated diet provides essential elements of nutrition that are missing in seed based diets,” Melanie Allen, avian product specialist at Hagen, said.

The Tropican diets are made with human grade ingredients and incorporate eight multigrain amino acids. Feeding this extruded diet ensures a properly balanced diet and can help prevent weight-related illness. For those who prefer feeding more of a variety, enrichment foods such as Tropmix, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, can be given.

Although Hagen offers a wide variety of blended and extruded products, Allen also acknowledges the benefits of seeds in a bird’s diet.

“They are OK and they can be supplemented with vitamins and minerals that are lacking in the traditional seed diets, but pet owners cannot take away the fat content,” Allen said.

Wild birds require the high caloric and fat content found in seeds since they fly long distances for food, but captive birds do not since food is readily available to them and they do not have to battle the elements.

ome studies say that seeds alone lack the proper nutrients pet birds need to maintain a healthy weight. Without these vitamins, companion birds can become sedentary and develop such issues as weight gain, lethargy, feather damaging behaviors and liver damage.

Variety Is Key

Omar Gonzalez, owner of Omar’s Exotic Birds in Orange County, Calif., recommends Omar’s Premium Blend, which contains a mixture of seed, dried fruit, millet, dried vegetables, nuts and many other nutritious supplements.

“If you are not going to give your bird variety in order to properly absorb nutrients, then pellets may be a good choice for you,” Gonzalez said. “I prefer to use a good blend of nutrients and then add Blair’s Super Preen Vitamin supplement to the feed mixture.”

Gonzalez is a big believer in the theory that variety is the spice of life. He recommends feeding birds a little bit of everything and exposing them to as many food groups as possible, so that the chance of them obtaining a balanced diet is greater.

“In my opinion, there are two different types of bird owners,” Shepard said. “Those that feed a blend are looking for variety and convenience. Many of those that feed extruded still feed the dried fruits and veggies … it really comes down to the pet owner’s preference.”

Advancements in avian diets are consistently coming about because of the continued research that takes place.
“Birds are not domesticated animals. We need to continue to do research into each species’ native dietary requirements,” Lance said. “In the meantime, a quality non-seed diet, together with lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, etcetera, is certainly a major step in the right direction from the sunflower seeds of yesterday.”

– Erin Salley is a freelance writer and customer service manager at Wyvern Consulting LTD.