There are two facts every parakeet keeper needs to know about parakeets and bananas::
- Parakeets love bananas.
- And bananas can be a small part of any parakeet’s healthy diet.
Parakeets like bananas even better if you peel them first, but every healthy parakeet enjoys fresh, ripe bananas.
The most important thing to understand about parakeets and bananas is that no parakeet should eat just bananas.
Your parakeet thrives on a balanced diet.
There are some foods you can always feed your parakeet, and other foods you should never feed your parakeet.
But if you want to imitate a parakeet’s diet in the wild, start with seeds.
Wild Parakeets Eat Mostly Wild Seeds
Parakeets, which are also known as budgerigars or budgies, are native to the vast, dry expanse of the interior of Australia.
They thrive where the temperature can reach 120° in the summer and there is no rain for months on end.
Their lives depend on plants that grow and go to seed during a brief period every year when plants are green.
The way parakeets survive the harsh climate of Australia is by eating mostly seeds. They don’t feed on a great variety of seeds. They most feed on just one kind of seed.
Parakeets in Australia learn to look for a plant called Mitchell grass.
It can grow in depressions that catch rainwater in the rainy season, or in a few locations where there is enough rain every year to support scrub and brush.
Parakeets fly between little patches of Mitchell grass all day looking for seeds to eat. These seeds are high in fat and high in calories, but that’s OK for the budgies.
They burn a lot of calories looking for seeds to eat in the deserts and brush where they live.
A native parakeet never encounters a banana. A parakeet in the wild never sees oranges, plums, mangos, apples, carrots, broccoli, or commercial seed pellets, either.
They eat seeds, seeds, and more seeds, and don’t suffer health effects. That’s because the seeds they eat aren’t just seeds.
The grass seeds parakeets eat in the wild in Australia are coated with dust. The dust provides birds with minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
These grass seeds also harbor tiny insects and parasites. Parakeets get just enough “meat” in their diet when they eat seeds that also get vitamins A, D, K, and B12.
The seeds Australian parakeets in the wild eat are complete with their husks. Birds don’t have teeth. They grind their food in their crops. The husks make the seeds easier to grind and digest.
So, all you really need to feed your parakeet is birdseed, right? Unfortunately, that’s a mistake many budgie owners make that takes years off their birds’ lives.
The Seed Mixes You Get in the Store Aren’t as Nutritious as Wild Seeds
The seed you get in the pet food store isn’t the same as the seed parakeets eat in the wild.
Budgies eat a nearly 100 percent-seed diet in the wild in Australia, but that doesn’t mean they can do well on a 100-percent seed diet in a cage.
It’s not that bird seed companies don’t care. They source an all-organic mix of mostly canary grass seed, with added flaxseed, oat groats, nyjer seed, and white millet.
They spray vitamins on the seeds before they dehusk them to make them easier to eat.
That’s where the nutritional loss comes in. Many companies add vitamins and then take them all away before they package the seed for feeding your bird.
The seeds are, of course, packaged under sanitary conditions. There are no tiny, nutritious mites and insects in the commercial birdseed.
Commercial, natural bird seed provides lots of calories budgies don’t need, because they aren’t flying over long distances every day looking for food.
Even natural, organic bird seed mixes shortchange your parakeets of some needed nutrients. Ironically, seed pellets are slightly worse.
Seed Pellets Aren’t As Nutritious as Wild Seeds, Either
It couldn’t be easier to feed your parakeet than it is using seed pellets. Just scoop out about an ounce of seed pellets per bird per day, and let them eat all they want.
Seed pellets are modern pet food made with lots of good intentions. Parakeet seed pellets include a multivitamin, multi-mineral supplement.
Almost any brand of bird feed pellets will be fortified with vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin D, all eight forms of vitamin E, vitamin K1, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Many products will include probiotics.
Some will have a “natural” fruit flavor. (How would you like everything you ate all day had chemicals added to make it taste like artificial apple flavoring?)
These products will use a lot of readily available sources of carbohydrate like corn, wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa.
Your parakeet’s wild ancestors would have never encountered any of these foods. Even caged parakeets have to be coaxed to eat them.
If you don’t give them other foods, they will eat the pellets because they are hungry.
But parakeets can suffer malnutrition even when they are given seed pellets with added vitamins and minerals.
That’s because birds in cages don’t overeat.
You never see an obese parakeet, do you?
And because captive parakeets don’t overeat, they will eat less of their fortified seed diet when they eat more fruit and veggie snacks.
If they aren’t getting a balance of nutrients from the fresh food you give them, giving them seed pellets with all the added minerals and vitamins you can think of won’t really help.
On the other hand, if you give your budgie too many fresh food treats, like too many bananas, they may miss out on other nutrients in their bird seed.
Make Sure To Feed Parakeets Other Food Too (Apart from Bananas)
Parakeets can eat bananas. Parakeets will eat bananas. But it’s up to you to make sure they eat other foods, too.
You need to make sure you are feeding enough other foods before you give your parakeet bananas.
We will discuss meeting the basics of parakeet nutrition before we get back to bananas.
In their concern to make sure parakeet owners don’t feed their birds nothing but seeds, some veterinarians suggest feeding parakeets no seeds at all.
If you feed your parakeet pellets, there is no nutritional reason to feed a mix of seeds, too.
But if you aren’t feeding your bird pellets, you do need to feed them seeds. Seeds provide parakeets with the fat and carbohydrate they need to generate body heat, and to power hours of activity in their cages.
Don’t waste your money with seeds (not seed pellets) that have been sprayed with vitamins and minerals.
Your bird’s body will use the seed coat that has been sprayed with nutritional supplements the same way it uses tiny rocks and gravel, to help break up other foods.
Its body won’t absorb the vitamins and minerals sprayed on the seed. Vitamins and minerals inside a seed pellet are absorbed into the bird’s bloodstream.
Pellets are ground up bird food with nutritional supplements molded into shapes that look like seeds.
Parakeet pellets are designed to give your bird the sensation of eating a seed without eating an actual seed.
There’s nothing wrong with giving your parakeet up to half an ounce of pellets every day. Just be sure to provide other foods in addition to the pellets.
Pellets are OK as the base of your parakeet’s diet, but they shouldn’t be their only food.
Switching from Seeds to Pellets
It can be hard to find nyjer seed, canary seed, and other components of a healthy seed diet for your parakeet.
For convenience, you may want to switch from seeds to pellets for the base of your bird’s daily diet.
Some pet stores will have already started young parakeets on a diet based on pellets, so you won’t have to deal with this transition. Always ask what your parakeet has been eating when you buy it.
You shouldn’t try to change your parakeet’s diet from seeds to pellets unless your bird is in good health.
Adding foods to your parakeet’s diet isn’t stressful to them, but taking foods away is.
A parakeet will look at its food dish and say to itself, “I don’t see my regular food, and I don’t know if it’s safe to eat this.” So, they don’t eat.
If your bird is already in a weakened state, switching its main food source can be overwhelming for it.
Don’t try to switch foods for a parakeet that is breeding or sick. Never make your parakeet switch of base foods “cold turkey.” This can lead to your bird’s starvation and death.
If your bird is otherwise healthy, start the switch by offering a 50-50 mixture of seeds and pellets.
Gradually increase the proportion of pellets to seeds until, after a few weeks, your bird is eating just pellets as its base food.
While you are changing the base food of your parakeet’s diet, offer a variety of fresh plant foods.
Feeding Parakeets Plant Foods, Including Bananas
Giving your parakeet fresh fruits and vegetables is a fun activity for you and the younger members of your family.
These healthy plant foods provide vitamins and minerals for bird health.
Parakeets can enjoy:
- Broccoli florets
- Cauliflower florets
- Shredded cabbage
- Shredded greens
- Peas out of the pod
- Cooked green beans
- Cooked carrots
They also can eat:
- Apple slices
- Berries of all kinds
- Small chunks of cantaloupe
- Grapes with skin
- Grapefruit sections
- Sliced oranges
- Sliced peaches
- Sliced pears
- Slice plums
- Sections of tangerines, and, of course,
- Sliced bananas.
It is best to offer your parakeet five different vegetables and fruits every day, in servings of just about a tablespoon (15 grams) each.
Variety is key to making sure your parakeet eats a balanced diet. If your bird doesn’t eat a particular fruit or vegetable, you can always offer something different.
Parakeets love a millet spray. It resembles the grass seeds they eat in the wild.
Parakeets also enjoy almost any food humans will eat. Even though it sounds like cannibalism, they thrive on teaspoon-sized servings of cooked egg or ground turkey every week.
They enjoy tiny bits of whole-grain bread or seeded crackers. They can eat tiny servings of almost any food humans eat except:
- Caffeine (coffee, tea, cola drinks, energy drinks)
- Fruit pits or seeds (they contain cyanides that are toxic to birds)
- Rhubarb and sorrel, which interfere with your bird’s kidney function
Don’t leave any kind of fresh food in your parakeet’s cage for more than two hours.
Parakeets can get food poisoning from E. coli, scientists have confirmed, especially when they are suffering nutritional deficiencies
In the wild, parakeets spend much of the day searching for puddles and trickles of water in the desert. When the summer rains don’t come, their babies die.
In captivity, parakeets are especially susceptible to water-borne E. coli and Salmonella infections if they are fed all seed diets. Scientists have found that all-seed diets also make parakeets more vulnerable to yeast infections.
You can help your birds resist these serious infections by giving them a balanced diet, and by changing their water twice a day
Keep your parakeet’s water so clean you would feel OK drinking it yourself.
It’s OK to feed your parakeet a few slices of banana (without the peel) every day as part of its five-a-day fruits and vegetables.
Just be sure to give it all the other foods it needs plus clean water to keep it a healthy bird.
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