Bananas are edible fruits which are produced by plants in the genus Musa. Botanically, bananas are categorized as berries because they are fleshy fruits with seeds and pulp produced from the ovary of a single flower. We associate bananas with monkeys. They are a favorite fruit for these animals as well as many birds including parrots.
Some fruits and their seeds are poisonous to parrots but this is not one of those. Bananas are safe, healthy and highly recommended fruits for parrots.
Bananas are a rich source of vitamin A and C, vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium. They are also a good source of fibre which helps improve digestion.
Give Bananas in Moderation
Bananas are rich sources of carbohydrates. Many bird owners mistakenly consider carbohydrates to be bad for their feathered friends. This is not necessarily the case. Carbohydrates are responsible for the energy required to keep your bird’s heart beating, his food digestion and his lungs functioning. They are the reason he has energy to play and move about as he does. Carbohydrates are not necessarily bad for him. The key is in moderation.
Carbohydrates occur as sugars in ripe bananas and starch in green bananas. As the fruit ripens, the starch in green bananas is gradually converted into sugar. By the time it is completely ripe, it has almost no starch content.
Sugar in ripe bananas: Bananas are sweet fruits. The main types of sugar in ripe bananas are glucose, fructose and sucrose. Sugar content in ripe bananas can be as high as 17% of fresh weight. This translates to about 120 calories in a single banana. This is more than twice the amount of sugar in 1 cup of strawberries for instance which is about 8% sugar and has an average of 53 calories.
Starch in green bananas: Green or unripe bananas have an exceptionally high starch content. They can contain up to 80% starch (measured in dry weight). This comes with about 105 calories per green banana. Green bananas cannot be eaten raw so if you are feeding them to your parrot they have been cooked. This calorie count remains as such if the green bananas are boiled or roasted such that they have no oil. If they are fried or deep fried, add the extra calories of the oil to the mentioned calorie count.
Keeping in mind that parrots are prone to obesity, it is clear that you will want to check on the amount of banana, ripe or green, your parrot consumes. According to avian nutrition experts, small parrots like budgies require 12 to 16 calories a day and larger parrots like macaws require no more than 220 calories per day.
Assuming you feed your macaw with half a ripe banana on a given day, it leaves you with only 160 calories to be gained from other nutrient sources. If your macaw eats half a green banana, you have 167 calories to work with from other foods.
Bananas in Bird Chop
Bird ‘chop’ refers to a mix of raw and cooked food like fruits, vegetables and seeds which you use to feed your bird. Chop is preferred by bird owners because it allows you to incorporate many different foods which provide an array of nutritional requirements in one meal.
One point to note is that you should not include ripe bananas in bird chop because bananas oxidize quickly and easily. This fruit contains polyphenol oxidase and other chemicals which contain iron. When the cells are cut open they are exposed to oxygen in the air and this makes them turn brown.
Oxidized bananas are soggy and unpleasant. Your bird will probably not eat them and may opt not to eat any of the other vegetables and seeds in the chop. Give bananas on their own, in bite size bits. Remove whatever is left as soon as he is done eating.
Are Banana Peels Safe For Parrots?
First let’s dispel the myth that banana peels are poisonous. They are eaten in many parts of the world (such as India), though they are not common in America. Not only are they harmless but are very healthy for you and your feathered friend. Banana peels are packed with nutrients like vitamins B6, B12 and minerals like potassium and magnesium. In fact, about 40% of the minerals contained in a banana are in the peel.
Another advantage of banana peels is that they are almost calorie free so you don’t have to worry about adding to you bird’s daily calorie count when you feed him with banana peels. They also boast of high concentrations of carotenoids and polyphenols which are cancer fighting anti-oxidants. Peels are high in soluble and insoluble fibre which helps improve your bird’s digestion.
You can give your bird banana peels raw or cooked. Fry, bake or boil them for about 10 minutes and they are ready to serve. Heat breaks down fibre making the peel soft and easier to chew and digest. The riper the banana is, the thinner and sweeter the peel is.
Feed organic bananas: If your bird enjoys banana peels, make a point to buy organic bananas. The biggest risk associated with feeding banana peels is ingestion of harmful pesticides. Bananas are often sprayed with pesticides while on the farm and these may have been absorbed into the skin. In other cases, chemicals are sprayed on the surface of bananas to speed up ripening and ensure even distribution of that desired yellow color.
Dirt is another concern. If you intend to feed your bird with banana peels, be sure to wash them thoroughly to remove all surface dirt. Chop off the bottom tip of the banana as this part often hides a lot of dirt and may be hiding insect eggs.
Are Banana Leaves Safe For Parrots?
There isn’t much research on the safety of banana leaves as a food source for parrots. One argument is that these leaves are unsafe for parrots because they are considered unsafe for human consumption. Arguments in favor of banana leaves for parrots is that experts generally advice that leaves of fruits which are safe e for human consumption are safe for humans and birds too. Banana leaves are also known to be useful for wrapping foods when steaming, baking or grilling. The leaves are useful because they protect the food from burning when on an open flame. Leaves also helps to retain heat inside the wrapping, to allow foods such as meats to cook in their own juices. The food also ends up with an aromatic, sweet flavor which comes from these leaves. If they are safe for cooking they must be safe to eat.
Most bird owners however, say their parrots enjoy banana leaves as a toy and not to eat. Many parrots are known to enjoy shredding banana leaves because they are similar to paper, but never eat it.
What about Banana Chips?
Banana chips are dried, crispy slices of banana. Most types of banana chips you find at the store are either covered with sugar, glazed with honey or sprinkled with cinnamon. Others are deep fried and salted or spiced. Yes, these are a delicious snack for you. Should you share with your feathered friend?
Bananas are fine for parrots whether fresh or dried. The question as to whether banana chips are safe for parrots is answered based on additives. Avoid feeding your bird with banana chips if there are any preservatives added. Check the nutrition facts label on the package.
If they are sugared, salted or spiced, don’t share with your bird. It is only safe to share if they have no preservatives and have no other additives. Another detail to check is the expiry date. Yes, it may seem obvious but it is always important to check that you are not feeding your bird with expired products. That said, moderation is the key even if the chips are fresh and preservative free.
You can make homemade banana chips. Bake thinly sliced pieces of ripe bananas at 250F for about 2 hours or until crispy. Alternatively, use a food dehydrator. Place thinly sliced pieces of banana on the dehydrator tray ensuring none are overlapped. It takes about 12 hours to dehydrate banana slices completely. These can be fed to your bird.
Bananas are a great, nutritious inclusion in your bird’s diet. They are sweet, fleshy fruits so your bird is bound to enjoy them. However, they contain lots of sugar in the case of ripe bananas and starch in green bananas. Both of these are not healthy for your bird when fed in excess. Moderation is always advised.
Banana peels can also be included as they too provide important nutrients. Observe caution when feeding peels because fruit peels are often full of harmful pesticides used to keep them healthy before harvesting. Banana leaves are often used as toys and not food though it is not clear if the leaves would cause any harm to the bird’s health or digestion.