We previously wrote a guide on all you should know about bird houses, as well as bird feeders. In this article, we’re going to focus specifically on bird food, also known as bird feed. Food is, of course, fundamental for all living things and birds are no exception. If you just brought home a bird as a pet, we’re sure you’ve got a thousand questions, including which type of food is best for your new bird.
When it’s time to feed your bird, you can’t just give it the first item in your pantry. Birds eat specific foods that vary depending on factors like the type of bird, its age, size and if it’s breeding, to name a few. That’s why we made this guide for you, so that all your concerns and questions are answered and so that your bird is well-fed from day one.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Ranking: The best bird feed on the US market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you need to know about bird feed
- 3.1 What is bird food and what are the benefits of quality bird food?
- 3.2 How can I supplement bird food?
- 3.3 What different kinds of bird food are available?
- 3.4 What do I feed a baby bird?
- 3.5 Which nutrients are found in bird food?
- 3.6 What should my bird avoid eating?
- 3.7 Can my bird become sick if I feed it low quality food?
- 3.8 My bird is molting feathers, what should I feed it?
- 3.9 How often do I need to feed my bird?
- 3.10 What if my bird doesn’t like bird feed?
- 3.11 How do I feed my bird?
- 3.12 What should I do if I find a wounded bird, and what can I feed it?
- 4 Shopping Criteria
- 5 Summary
- A bird’s diet may vary throughout the year in line with the changing of the seasons, as physiological needs change in the same way. For example, in the winter, birds need a higher caloric intake than in summer, because of the cold weather.
- Not all kinds of birds consume the same foods. It’s important to consider your bird’s breed and the particular types of food that it prefers to eat. The nutritional needs of birds are largely made up of seeds (a wide variety of them) as well as pieces of fruit and vegetables, and also fresh water. You may even notice that your bird develops gourmet habits for its favorite delicacies.
- To help you get started, we’ve created this guide of everything you need to know to provide your pet with quality bird feed. Keep in mind that you may need to consult your vet on best feeding practices, especially if your bird has any special needs.
Ranking: The best bird feed on the US market
If you just purchased or received a bird as a pet, you’re in luck: this list offers a variety of can choose the product that suits you best, depending on the type of bird you have. Don’t forget important factors like your bird’s age, because younger birds need different foods than adults.
No. 1: Wagner’s 62059 Greatest Variety Blend, 16-Pound Bag
This is Wagner’s best premium blend for attracting a wide variety of colorful songbirds. It contains 11 different ingredients that birds love including black oil and striped sunflower seeds, white millet, cracked corn and peanuts. In total, this mix is over 40% sunflower products, which are the top choice for the largest number of wild bird species.
Birds that will enjoy this blend year-round including cardinals, chickadees, jays, finches, woodpeckers and sparrows. You can put this mix in tubular, hopper or tray feeders.
No. 2: Kaytee Fiesta Big Bites Diet Pet Food
This four pound bag of nutritionally fortified gourmet food is tailored to small parrots and conures. It’s packed with important vitamins to support general health, immune support and vibrant, healthy plumage.
Fiesta’s Big Bites blend includes a variety of nuts, fruits and vegetables, in addition to probiotics and probiotics that will support your bird’s digestive health. Store this product in a cool, dry location to preserve freshness, or even put it in the fridge or freezer to extend its shelf life.
No. 3: Kaytee Nut and Fruit Blend 10 pounds
Another great option from Kaytee, this fruit and nut blend provides high-energy food that can be used for year-round feeding. The mix includes black oil sunflower seeds, dried fruits, mixed nuts and safflower seed.
The Kaytee Nut and Fruit Blend is sure to attract cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, goldfinches and other beautiful birds to your home.
No. 4: Wagner’s 13008 Deluxe Wild Bird Food 10-Pound bag
Here’s another tasty blend from Wagner that includes black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower seeds, white millet, corn and more. It’s sure to bring hungry birds including finches, cardinals and chickadees along with other native birds and backyard visitors.
This blend is perfect for bird enthusiasts looking for good value and a moderate price.
No. 5: Lyric 2647414 Supreme Wild Bird Mix 4.5 pounds
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This is Lyric’s most popular wild bird food, and for good reason! The blend contains a wide range of twelve all natural, tested ingredients including large black sunflower seeds that cardinals love and smaller seeds like white millet that will bring juncos. Overall, the mix is more than 50% sunflower seeds and nuts.
Lyric’s Supreme Mix is all natural, with no fillers, and the bag uses special StayFresh technology to absorb oxygen and keep the food fresh for longer.
Shopping Guide: Everything you need to know about bird feed
In order to keep a healthy, strong bird at home, it’s important that you learn about bird feed and how best to pick food that is suitable for your bird. To give you a hand with this, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions by bird owners below.
What is bird food and what are the benefits of quality bird food?
Broadly speaking, bird feed primarily consists of a mixture of seeds and other types of food, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. When necessary, other food supplements may be added into a bird’s diet.
It’s perfectly understandable if you have doubts about bird food, especially if you’ve never had a pet bird at home before. The most important thing is that you give your bird high quality feed. The worst thing you can do is to look only at the price of the feed and buy the cheapest option, since what you intitially save in the wallet will likely cost you big time at the vet later on.
How can I supplement bird food?
Birds don’t only eat seeds, but they also need fresh vegetables and fruit for a complete diet. They should also always have clean water available to them. Of course, the amount of supplemental food you provide will depend on the size and preferences of your bird. For example, a parrot may need up to three pieces of vegetables and fruit per day, along with the usual servings of bird feed.
Parrots are quite large of course, and we advise that smaller birds have just one or two pieces of fruit or vegetables each day. You may be wondering what types of fruit are good for birds. The following fruits are generally the best for birds: bananas, apples, cherries, raspberries and grapes. Don’t forget to wash and clean the fruits or vegetables before you feed them to your bird.
Finally, if you’d like to give a special reward to your bird, you may want to have a variety of snacks and nutritious treats available, like bars (made of honey, cereal, and egg or multivitamins) and popcorn (only homemade, since bagged popcorn might contain ingredients that are toxic for birds).
What different kinds of bird food are available?
All birds don’t eat the same foods or in the same way. It’s true that all birds eat seeds, however, there are many different kinds of birds, all with very different needs. The type and size of your particular bird is especially important when picking out bird feed.
With this in mind, we’ve made a table below with some of the most common bird breeds, so with a glance, you can know what kind of food your bird should consume most. But if you need more information or if your bird has special dietary needs, you should certainly consult a veterinarian.
|Species||Type of food|
|Canaries and parakeets||Seeds of all kinds, including birdseed, oats, turnip rape, flax, hemp and rapeseed|
|Goldfinches||Birdseed, lettuce, sesame, rapeseed|
|Parrots||Oats, wheat, corn, sunflower seeds, nuts, peas, dried fruit, boiled vegetables and rice|
|Lovebird||Dry portion (nuts and seeds) or wet portion (fruit and vegetables)|
What do I feed a baby bird?
The dietary needs of a chick (a young bird) are very different from those of an older bird. While adult birds can chew and digest canary seeds and other hard foods, chicks have a less developed beak and digestive system, so you should adapt the food according to your bird’s stage of growth.
Today, it’s very easy to find bird feed that is appropriate for chicks. The products available are usually powders that you add hot water to, stirring carefully to prevent the formation of lumps. Then you feed the chick the mixture using a syringe that you put in its beak. If you’re in a pinch and you’ve run out of baby bird feed, you can always make a homemade mixture using a boiled egg, bread crumbs and some water.
Which nutrients are found in bird food?
Most birds essentially need four types of food: seeds, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables. If you provide a good combination of these four ingredients, your pet will receive a well-balanced diet.
Always keep in mind that it is not recommended to give your bird only one type. It’s just like with human beings, who can’t eat only meat every day without facing health issues. In the case of birds, they eat primarily grains and seeds, but because they carry so little water in their bodies, they also need the benefits of other supplemental foods, such as the freshness of fruit or the digestive properties of vegetables.
|Food||What properties does it hold|
|Seeds|| The primary food.
Holds almost no water as a result of the drying process (to avoid mold).
Good source of carbohydrates.
Some seeds are high in fat.
Multivitamins: A, D3 and B12, as well as others.
|Fresh Fruit|| Freshness, especially in the summer.
Water and naturally occuring sugars.
Doesn’t contain significant protein.
|Dried fruit|| High levels of fat.
Doesn’t contain sufficient vitamins.
|Vegetables|| Beets have high levels of sugar.
Holds large amounts of fiber and water.
Legumes are high in protein.
What should my bird avoid eating?
After seeing pigeons eat anything on the street, many people believe that their birds can also eat anything. This is certainly not the case, as there are many foods that are unsafe for birds to consume, so be careful with your feeding practices. If you turn a blind eye to foods that are poisonous to birds, you may accidentally harm your bird.
Some foods that are poisonous for birds include: chocolate, as it causes diarrhea and vomiting; apple and pear seeds, because they contain a very small amount of cyanide; and avocado, because it can cause heart and kidney issues. Artificial salt and sugar should not be fed to birds because they already get those things naturally.
Can my bird become sick if I feed it low quality food?
As is the case with humans and most other living things, your bird can definitely get sick if it consumes food that is in bad condition, such as rotting or moldy food, or if the food contains unhealthy ingredients. You should take extra care if your bird is pregnant or in the reproductive stage.
If your bird has been eating poorly for an extended period, and isn’t receiving the proper nutrients, it may begin to lose feathers. This can become a long-term problem, so if you want your bird to live a long, healthy life, be sure you feed it well!
My bird is molting feathers, what should I feed it?
Just as snakes shed their skin once in a while, and dogs and cats lose their hair, birds naturally molt, or shed, their feathers. This is a natural process that shouldn’t be of concern, since old feathers will usually be replaced by new ones. However, the situation can be more complicated if your bird is sick or old.
If your bird is sick or aging, the treatment options available to you vary widely depending on the bird’s breed. Generally, we recommend that you always offer your pet quality foods (cucumber, millet, wheat, oats and spelt, since they’re rich in silicic acid, which contributes to growth) and supplemental items like fresh fruit and vegetables.
How often do I need to feed my bird?
Birds have a tendency to ration their own food pretty well which means they’re less likely to put on excess weight. As a bird owner, your primary responsibility is to clean their food tray each day and give them fresh food. For example, if you clean the tray and change the food each morning, your bird will make sure that it has enough food to last until the next day.
This recommendation is for the vast majority of pet birds, but if you have a macaw or a parrot, the situation differs slightly, as they consume a large amount of food during the day. These birds require more frequent feeding and cleaning of the cage.
What if my bird doesn’t like bird feed?
It is particularly important that you don’t make sudden changes to your bird’s diet. It’s best to continuously alternate between various types of food and to offer your bird a range of items to choose from. For example, whenever you offer seeds to your bird, you could also include a small piece of vegetable or fruit along with the seeds, to see what they prefer most. It is normal if your bird doesn’t like all kinds of bird feed sold or every piece of fruit that you put in front of it.
Your bird might even reject the most common bird feeds that are sold in supermarkets or at the pet store. Should this be the case, you can transition to another type of food in the manner described above. Still, if your bird just won’t accept conventional bird food sold in bags, there are always natural alternatives that can keep your bird well fed and healthy, including raw seeds, fruits and vegetables.
How do I feed my bird?
This may seem like a silly question, but the reality is that many bird owners are not feeding their birds properly. In order to dispel any myths about how to feed a bird, there are two main ways to do it: place fresh feed in the cage each day or put bird feed in a seed dispenser.
If you decide to do the first option, keep in mind that you need to replace and clean the container regularly, especially if you have a large bird like a macaw or parrot.
What should I do if I find a wounded bird, and what can I feed it?
Many of us have had the experience of walking around, minding our own business and suddenly finding a bird with signs of injury. Some may keep walking, but others prefer to take the bird with them. Here’s what you can do if you find an injured bird.
- First of all, don’t offer the bird cookies or wet bread,since the problem could be related to their digestive system. These types of processed foods are meant for human consumption and could harm the bird.
- Do not give it milk,as birds do not naturally consume milk. Birds don’t have the natural enzymes needed to digest milk, so drinking it could result in death.
- Try to figure out what kind of bird it is and what its specific nutritional needs are. Also provide warmth and consult with a veterinarian.
- Some birds, like swallows, are insectivorous and feed on insects and worms.Other kinds of birds only consume seeds and grains, which is why they are called granivores. Some birds, like herons, are carnivorous, but these are less likely to find on the street.
- Upon identifying the type of bird you have,you can proceed to find the right bird food to feed it.
Be sure to pay attention to this section, because we will explain what you need to consider when purchasing bird feed. We have written a short list of important factors, followed by a brief description of each one. If you follow this advice, you won’t face any doubts about which product is best for your bird.
- Brand prestige
- Bird needs
- Shape of beak
- Exotic or common bird
As we explained in the shopping guide section, the ingredients in your bird’s feed are extremely important because they will impact your bird’s health. The more quality nutrients found in a food, the better it will be for your bird. Try not to focus only on the price, because it could cost you and your bird dearly later on. So, what nutrients should you look out for on the packet label?
- Proteins: they should form between 10% and 20% of your bird’s total diet, depending on the exact breed. Proteins are critical for the growth and repair of tissue, and also benefit a bird’s immune system.
- Carbohydrates: this is the primary source of energy. Carbohydrates can be found in seeds and cereals like rice, oats, millet and wheat.
- Fat: an essential component of bird feed, as long as it’s given in balanced proportions. Fats hold vitamins and contribute to healthy, shiny feathers.
- Vitamins and minerals: the important vitamins in feed are: A, K, E, D and B2. As for minerals, your bird should consume phosphorus, iron and calcium.
Whether the brand of your feed is a big name isn’t critical. It’s more important that you look for quality. If you select a feed without researching the particular brand, you should check with a professional at a pet shop or your veterinarian to ensure that it is a reputable brand.
Still, there may be times when you can’t consult a professional and need to decide for yourself. If this is the case, you can research on the internet or use trial and error to figure out which brands are best for your bird. Sometimes this is the only way to get it right!
Like all living things, your bird may not always be full and content. There will be times when your bird is unwell or stressed, and it may not want to eat as much as usual. If this happens, you should observe your bird closely and you may need to make certain decisions. One such decision might be to check if anything is wrong with their food.
Even if you decide to take your bird to the vet as soon as you notice something wrong, your bird might not recover overnight. Your bird may need special foods to help it recover from illness. A good option is to buy a special mixture for sick or injured birds, as this will be easier for the bird to digest.
Shape of beak
A bird’s beak is a very important factor for which food to buy. For example, birds with cone-shaped beaks are granivores while those with a finer beak are insectivorous. Meanwhile, if your bird has a curved beak, it is probably carnivorous.
However, there are some exceptions to these rules, such as with the toucan, which eats fruit even though it has a very strong, curved beak. So be sure to check on your bird’s breed to ensure you’re giving it the correct food.
Exotic or common bird
Each type of bird has unique nutritional needs and these differences can increase if you have an exotic breed in your home. In the below table, we elaborate on the needs of three common exotic breeds. Based on this table, you should be able to figure out which bird feed you need.
|Breed of exotic bird||Food requirements|
|Parakeet||Fruits, nuts, flowers, roots, barks, insects, tubers and pollen|
|Lovebird||A lot of fruits, such as apples, pears, oranges, watermelon, kiwis and peaches|
|Parrot||Fruits, insects, branch shoots, cereals and berries|
We agree with bird owners that keeping a bird at home can bring a lot of joy to the household. To hear your bird singing when you get home after a long day, to observe how it moves, to stroke it or even to watch with pleasure how it gets accustomed to your presence. These are unique situations that differentiate birds from any other pet, and this is why you need to take special care of them.
What better way to care for your bird than by being well informed of its food needs, along with other important needs (cages, feeders and accessories). We know that sometimes it can be hard to meet every individual need, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to research and buy the best bird food.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful and invite you to write a comment with your thoughts. Please also share this article on your social networks, so that others can benefit as well.
(Source of featured image: Teresa McGlothlin-Wissen: 27911597/ 123rf.com)