Grains are an essential part of a pet bird’s diet. They should always be included alongside vegetables, fruits and nuts. Good grain options include rice, pasta, couscous, barley, wheat, oatmeal and cornmeal.
Rice is considered a universal food because it can be found in just about any kitchen no matter where in the world you are. It is an easy and convenient addition to your parrot’s diet, but there have been questions about whether or not rice is safe for parrots.
Read on to confirm that the claim that rice is poisonous to birds is nothing but a myth.
Can Parrots Eat Rice?
Rice is perfectly safe for parrots. In fact, feeding your parrot rice is ideal because it provides essential nutrients and birds love it. White rice, which is most common is a great source of energy and contains small amounts of protein.
Some birds like doves, pigeons and pheasant prefer uncooked rice and will easily pick it over cooked rice. Smaller birds, including parrots find uncooked rice hard and will leave it on a food bowl when there are other food options to choose from.
Cooked rice is definitely the preferred choice for parrots. It is softer and easier for them to digest. When preparing rice for your parrot, make it as simple as possible. Just boil or steam it. Do not add any salt or spices. If you must, you can add in a little butter for flavor.
Allow the rice to cool completely before serving it. Hot rice could cause problems in the bird’s throat and digestive tract.
While white rice is perfectly fine for your parrot, brown rice a better option because it is more nutritious. Brown rice contains fiber, more vitamins compared to white rice, antioxidants and minerals.
Why the stark difference? Brown rice is a whole grain. It is made up of the entire grain which includes the fibrous bran, the carbohydrate-rich endosperm and the germ. White rice on the other hand, is not a whole grain. The bran and germ which are the most nutritious parts of the grain have been removed.
Brown rice also has a rich, nutty flavor.
The Myth about Birds and Rice
You must have read many warnings on bird-care sites: “Don’t feed rice to birds.” It will kill them! Well, the truth is that this is nothing more than an old myth that has been carried too long. It is responsible for the fact that many people now opt to throw millet to the happy couple at weddings because they believe they are protecting the birds. The myth went as far as to cause illegalization of rice throwing at weddings in some states. In 1985, a bill known as the ‘Act Prohibiting the Use of Uncooked Rice as Nuptial Affairs’ was introduced in Connecticut.
It is believed that uncooked rice absorbs moisture and expands (as it does when we cook it) when it gets into the bird’s stomach and explodes, therefore ending its life. Raw rice is actually totally harmless to birds.
Think about it, even if rice grains were to expand in the bird’s stomach, how much does a cooked grain of rice really expand? Is it enough to kill the bird? Better still, is there enough heat inside a bird’s stomach to cook rice grains? No there isn’t.
Lots of wild birds eat raw rice grains in rice growing parts of the world. Migratory birds often eat rice while on their long journeys.
Other Nutritious Grains
Rice is indeed a great grain for your parrot and is easily available in virtually every part of the world. Just like us, parrots appreciate variety in their meals. What other grains can you feed your parrot to make sure his nutritional needs are met? Here are a few other options.
Quinoa: This grain is higher in nutrients than most others. It is marketed as a superfood. Quinoa is primarily a carbohydrate (83%) though it is also rich in fiber (10%). It is rich in protein and provides high quality amino acids similar to those in milk and other dairy products.
Barley: Like quinoa, barley is primarily a carbohydrate though it is rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals like selenium and magnesium. Barley is available in a few different forms: hulled, pearled, grits, flour and flakes. Hulled barley is most nutritious.
Amaranth: These carbohydrate-based grains are also rich in fiber, protein, manganese, iron, copper and phosphorous. Studies have shown that amaranth helps decrease cholesterol levels in birds by up to 30%. This makes amaranth a good dietary choice for parrots prone to obesity.
Buckwheat: This is a pseudo cereal which is primarily a source of carbohydrates. It is also rich in protein, fibre, magnesium, calcium and iron. Its grains are relatively small making it a favorite for birds.
Poisonous Foods for Parrots
We have confirmed that the claim that uncooked rice is poisonous for parrots is actually a myth. It has been perpetuated for so long it is difficult to establish exactly what is true and what is not.
Here are some foods which really are poisonous for parrots. These are scientifically proven. Some bird owners have lost their birds or had to deal with serious illnesses after feeding their parrots with these foods.
Caffeine: it is toxic to birds because it causes cardiac malfunction. Beverages containing caffeine like coffee, soda and tea are associated with increased heartbeat, hyperactivity and cardia arrest.
Avocado: There is some debate on just how toxic avocado is to birds, but it definitely has negative effects. Avocado flesh, skin and pits are associated with cardiac distress and heart failure in birds.
Chocolate: If you are a chocolate lover, it will be hard to believe it is bad for your bird. It affects the bird’s central nervous system. The first signs of chocolate poisoning are vomiting and diarrhea. If consumed in large quantities is causes deadly seizures.
Avian nutrition is not like human nutrition, it is a relatively new science. There has been some research on what birds need in their diet but nothing sufficient to provide information on exactly what each species requires.
Take time to do some research on specific nutritional needs for the species you have and consult a veterinarian when you are uncertain about certain details. Judging from myths about rice being deadly for parrots, it is clear that not everything we hear is completely accurate.