Nutritional Requirements for the Macaw:
To ensure good health, a variety of nutritious food items shoud be available to your macaw.
Typically, a core diet of an organic and color-free parrot pellets and / or high-quality dry bird mix.
I would look for preferably “organic” or at least “all-natural” dry bird mixes. “Fortified diets” are not necessarily good as often inferior, artificial additives are used, which may have no health benefit at all or indeed may even be harmful. It is far better to buy unfortified mixes and add a good quality bird supplement instead.
Pellets: In the 90s, pellets were recommended by just about everyone; however, concerns have been raised about poorly balanced processed pellets and harmful additives. Still, many vets recommend one particular pelleted diet: Harrison’s – which is mostly available at the vets’ offices.
When discussing pellets with my vet, he felt that most people just don’t offer a sufficiently varied diet and providing formulated diets, such as Harrison’s, is better than risking a one-sided nutrition.
Looking over the ingredients, Harrison’s most certainly is superior to most other pelleted diets on the market. Still, a high quality Base Seed Mix in addition to fruits / vegetables & greens is far more superior.
Please note: When feeding pellets to your pet, please be aware of the fact that overly feeding citrus fruits (including oranges) or vitamin-C-rich foods to your birds can lead to “Iron Overload Disease” as vitamin C increases the amount of iron absorbed from foods and supplements.
Base Diet Mix: Not all parrots can be pursuaded to consume pellets and many bird owners, including myself – generally don’t like to feed pellets.
Dr. Harvey’s Bird Food Mixes or Lafeber are convenient options that lack many of the harmful additives that are commonly found in commercial mixes and have a great variety of quality ingredients (including dried fruits, veggies, herbs / greens and even superfoods, such as bee pollen!) – in short: myriad nourishing ingredients that are not found in other commercially available bird mixes.
However, our biggest grievance with their products is that they use sulphurated dried produce (a process which also requires chemicals), but it is very difficult to find mixes with unsulphurated fruits and veggies.
You could just buy the seeds, nuts and grain mix and buy human-grade unsulphurated dried produce / greens as well as bee pollen and mix them in.
Even organic trail mixes (WITHOUT CHOCOLATE!) work great. With a little creativity you can put a mix together that offers superior nutrition without the chemicals typically found in commercial brands.
Please note: Seeds should be fed in moderation, and the seeds should always be clean and fresh.
A quality mix may contain the following ingredients:
- Safflower Seeds … Sunflower Seeds … Pumpkin Seeds in Shell … Fennel Seeds
- Macadamia Nuts .. Pine Nuts … Walnuts … Filberts … Cashews … Brazil Nuts … Pistachios … Pecans … Almonds … Peanuts in Shell (some bird owners remove peanuts from their bird’s diet because of potential aflatoxin contamination)
Dried Fruits / Veggies / Greens
- Papaya and Papaya Leaf … Soy Beans … Whole Corn … Apricots / Pineapple … Carrot Dices / Apple Dices … Banana Chips … Orange Peel Strips … Cranberries / Mango Dices … Peaches/ Pears … Nectarines … Garden Peas / Green Beans … Broccoli / Zucchini … Green and Red Bell Pepper … Spinach / Parsley Flakes … Celery Stalk and Leaf Flakes … Red Clover Blossoms … Dandelion Leaf … Calendula Flowers … Echinacea … Angustifolia Herb … Alfalfa Leaf / Thyme Leaf … Oat Straw / Rose Hips … Rosemary Leaf / Peppermint Leaf … Basil Leaf / Red Raspberry Leaf … Raisins (small quantity only!)
Other Healthy Ingredients
- Bee Pollen … Coconut Chips
In general macaws require a higher fat content in their diet which can be provided with some of the large nuts as a part of their regular diet.
A large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables should be provided for both nutrition and mental stimulation.
Convenient Sources of Fruits / Veggies:
Baby Food: Human baby food with fruits and vegetables (i.e. Gerbers)
Dry Fruits / Veggies: When fresh fruits and vegetables are not available, dehydrated fruits and vegetables work wonderfully. Many birds love their crunchiness, or they toss them into their water dish (creating a “soup” of some sorts) and then eat them once they are rehydrated. Be prepared to change the water more often throughout the day.
Dried fruits and vegetables have the advantage that they don’t go off. You could literally leave them in their cages for days (unless they get wet, of course). This surely comes in handy when traveling.
Dried fruits and veggies also help convert “seed junkies” to a healthier diet. When you are at home, you can moisten the dried fruits and veggies with warm water to rehydrate them.
Birds tend to LOVE warm fruits and veggies, maybe because it gives them flashbacks to the times when they were chicks and were fed warm regurgitated food by their bird parents.
It is important to keep in mind that some companies add artificial coloring to their dried fruits and veggies to make them visually appealing.
Only purchase naturally dried fruits without any sulfur dioxide, as this preservative is known to increase hyperactivity, aggressiveness, feather shredding or picking due to allergies.
An inexpensive and convenient way of feeding living foods / greens to your macaws would be sprouted seeds. Even if you don’t have time to prepare vegetables, spooning out some sprouted seeds for them is easy and quick. The best thing, however, is that sprouted seeds are extremely nutritious and I have not seen a parrot yet who didn’t love them. Sprouted seeds are a good way of introducing greens to the stubborn eater.
Don’t want to go through the trouble of sprouting and would prefer an easier way to provide greens to your bird? You can also germinate the sprouting mix – rather than going through the process of sprouting, which may be somewhat intimidating initially. Germinated seeds offer its own unique set of valuable nutrition and are quicker to obtain and less likely to spoil.