Nutrition

Birdseed & The Avian Diet

Avigrain birdseed mixes provide the seed component of a balanced avian diet. In the wild birds eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants, nectar, grains, roots & tubers, nuts, grubs, animal matter such as insects and carrion , grit and even clay. A pure seed diet will be relatively high in fat and low in nutrients particularly Vitamin A and calcium. Seed is a vital part of a balanced avian diet but should not be the only part.

Although ‘complete’ diets such as pellets or fortified seed diets claim to provide a balanced diet they give breeders a false sense of reassurance and do not replicate natural conditions or nutritional inputs. Also, while little is known about how the mind of a bird works, bird-fanciers will agree they are intelligent creatures and a monotonous pellet diet will bore them. A varied diet provides mental stimulation for caged and aviary birds.

Avigrain advocates a varied balanced diet thoughtfully provided by well-informed bird-keepers.

The following diet tips are general and are to be used as a guide to learn more about their birds and the avian diet. For more detailed information on avian diet and general care, breeders should contact their local Avian vet or a specialist publication.

Diet suggestions for bird fanciers and breeders

  • A wide range of fruits and vegetables to see what their birds like. Fruit and vegetables provide nutrients not present in seed particularly Vitamin A. Just about any fruit or vegetable can be tried except Avocado which is toxic to birds. Iceberg lettuce may cause diarrhoea and thistles are excellent except when in flower and the purple leaves are toxic.
  • Native gum nuts, pine cones, eucalypt branches and blossoms will all be welcomed.
  • Grits and cuttlebone are essential to supplement the diet. Soluble grits such as egg shell, cuttlebone and charcoal provide minerals and trace elements such as calcium. Insoluble grits aid digestion as birds have no teeth and grind food into a pulp in their gizzard with the help of grits. Without grits birds may pass seed straight through thereby losing nutritional input.
  • Biscuits or Egg & Biscuit mix can be fed as well as meal worms or insects. Cockatoos will even enjoy cooked meat bones.
  • The importance of clean water supply.
  • Sprouted seed provides a highly nutritious and tasty source of food. Sprouting can be time-consuming but breeders should be encouraged to learn which seeds are suitable for their birds and the techniques required to sprout seeds.
  • Changing a birds diet will upset its routine and should be undertaken carefully. It is important to note a bird’s previous diet when buying or selling birds. Birds fed on pellets will not readily take on a seed diet or vice versa. This may cause problems in a bird shop which will not want to feed two separate diets to its stock. Similarly note whether a lorikeet has been fed on a wet or a dry food.
  • Worming every three or four months is considered important and vitamin and mineral supplements may also be suggested.

Nutritional Breakdown of grains present in Avigrain mixes

                                      Percentage of

Group 1  Birdseeds

Protein

Fat

Fiber

Ash

Carbohydrate

White french millet

13

2

9

4

62

Panorama

13

3

9

4

59

Jap Millet

15

6

11

6

60

Millet Spray

15

6

11

6

51

Canaryseed

14

4

21

10

27

Group 2    Oilseeds
Grey Stripe

15

28

29

3

17

Safflower

14

28

31

3

16

Canola (Rapeseed)

20

45

6

4

18

Nigerseed

19

43

14

3

17

Linseed

24

37

6

4

22

Group 3     Cereals
Wheat

8

2

9

5

65

Oats

12

4

12

3

58

Sorghum

12

4

2

2

69

Corn

9

4

2

3

70

Peas

24

1

6

3

57

Oilseeds are much higher in fat and lower in carbohydrate than cereal grains. It is also worth noting that millets are nutritionally similar to each other and different to canaryseed. Canaryseed is an important ingredient as it is low in carbohydrates and higher in fiber than the other grains present in the mix.

Protein is known as the “building blocks” of muscle tissue. It is protein that provides essential nutrients for muscle building and growth. However, excess protein and little exercise will do little to enhance muscle development. Any excess protein is often stored as fat, and without exercise protein storage will add to the quantity of fat in the body.

Fat is any excess material that the body doesn’t need – unless there is an excess of activity by the body. Generally fat acts as blubber would on mammals, and may be useful for warmth of the body in colder climates.

Fibre is essential to ensure ‘cleansing’ of the digestive system. It has also been said that fiber ensures regularity of bowel movements and acts to assist the body utilising required vitamins and nutrients.

Ash helps gather waste products.

Carbohydrate is fuel for the body. Carbohydrates found in any foods finally breakdown into glucose, and are an essential part of any diet. Carbohydrate means that carbon dioxide and water act to release energy , therefore foods with higher carbohydrate yield greater energy. Once again excess Carbohydrates end up as fat but excess carbohydrate may be less harmful than excess protein. top