The What-How-When & whys of feeding your parrot...
Commercially purchased bird seed is extremely high in fat and low in all but the smallest traces of nutrients. Feeding your bird a diet comprised primarily of seed is just as if YOU were eating a constant diet of nothing but fast food! You can survive on it, but how healthy will you be really?
Most birds that have been on a seed diet show severely compromised physiological systems. They are susceptible to liver and kidney damage, obesity, fatty tumors, heart issues and greatly shortened lifespans. Additionally, it may be cheaper but parrots should NEVER be fed a diet of wild bird seed! If you're worried about the cost of the food, maybe a parrot as a pet isn't for you.
For optimum health, a parrot should have a varied diet based on a healthy formulated pellet(s) and fresh foods. A variety of daily fresh, greens, (no spinach), vegetables, sprouted grains, and limited nuts, (Peanuts are not nuts and could be dangerous to your parrots health causing Aspergillosis).
Seeds are not necessary or desirable in your birds diet (with the exception of finches, parakeets & cockatiels). Just because they like it, doesn't mean you should give it to them. Fats, salt and sugar and caffiene are not good for your bird either.
60-75% of the diet should be made up of pellets. If you're feeding Eclectus, avoid any colored pellets unless you can be certain the color is from an all-natural source. 25-40% of the diet needs to be primarily fresh veggies and greens with very small amounts of berries/other fruits. (fruit is higher in sugar and lower in nutrients than veggies are, they are excess calories your bird won't be able to burn). The veggies can be fresh or frozen but avoid canned completely. Organic is always better than conventional vegetables. If buying frozen mixes be careful to avoid ingredients like onions and mushrooms and make sure there is no sauce or butter on the frozen vegetables.
Fruit should always have the seeds/pits removed before feeding to your bird and remember fruit is an occasional treat and only in small amounts.
Whole grains to serve include spelt, oat groats, barley, flax seed, millet, kamut, whole grain brown or black rice, quinoa, hemp etc.
Veggies like dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, zucchini squash, yellow squash, butternut squash, beans, sweet potatoes, red and orange sweet peppers, any of the other winter squashes and color rich veggies. Red & orange vegetables are a good source of Vitamin A which captive parrots can be deficient in.
*Granivores: budgies/cockatiels should be at 50% pellets and 50% whole grains, leafy veggies, minimal fruit.
Macaws: require a higher fat content (but not a lot higher), can have about 10% of diet being whole nuts with healthy fats like walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds.
Eclectus: have unusually long digestive tracts and require large amounts of fiber. Their diet should be 80% vegetables and leafy greens and vegetables (listed above) to remain healthy. They are far more likely than other parrots to suffer from nutritional deficiencies, since many people ignore their special dietary needs. Their diet in the wild consist of native fruits such as figs, native berries and native nuts. The main thing most people forget or do not know is that Eclectus Parrots are arboreal in habit. Tree-top dwellers, they forage for food in the canopy of the tropical rainforest. Avoid any colored pellets as they can greatly effect their health as well as the color of their feathers. Pellets like Caitec Oven Fresh Bites or Higgins In-Tune have no artifical colors and are safe to feed an Eclectus as well as limited amounts of nuts in conjunction with the majority of their diet being fresh/frozen vegetables (listed above).
Many people feed fresh food daily, however you can feed these items however it works best for your schedule just as long as your birds are getting them. You can feed different veggies at different times of the year depending on what is available and cost effective. They can be fresh, cooked or baked into a birdie bread. You can buy 'soak & cook' mixes that require you to soak them overnight then cook for 30 minutes the next morning. You can make up your own mixes depending on what your birds like. You're only limited by your imagination, what your birds like and of course the list of safe foods.
Table food that is not high in salt, sugar or fat can be shared in moderation. Leftover veggies for dinner? Maybe your birds would like it for breakfast! This however does NOT include meat.
Whatever fresh foods you decide to feed, your birds should have pellets available all day long. Feeding your birds pellets and a variety of fresh veggies as the majority of their diet is the best thing you can do for their health!
Take the time to research the best possible diet for your species of parrot, Google is a wonderful resource but be sure you are using reliable sources and they are current. There is a lot of outdated material on the internet. Feeding your bird a varied nutritious diet will help them stay healthy and they will thank you with a long life of companionship.
If you are tempted to feed your bird inappropriate treats and fruit every day, remember that in the wild, your bird would spend their day flying and burning calories HOWEVER, in captivity it is impossible to imitate that level of physical activity and excess calories will be stored as fat potentially causing a whole host of physical problems. Try to research online what your bird would eat if they were living in the wild to get an idea of what foods they might like.
Parrots generally eat their primary meals in the morning and in the evening. They will snack on their food during the day but those are their main meal times. It's best to serve fresh foods in the morning and then remove the fresh food dish within a couple hours to reduce the chance of contamination. Never put the (wet) fresh food on top the regular dry food (pellet) dish. Always serve the wet (fresh) food separately so as not to get any of their dry food wet or even damp, which can potentially attract bacteria and make your bird sick.
More information on nutritional deficiencies.
Fresh water is vital. It should always be available in a clean container that is washed daily. A good rule to follow is If you wouldn't eat or drink from the container, neither should your bird. Water should be changed at least once a day, and in some cases, like with a very messy bird that likes to dip their food, twice daily. Whenever the water has been dirtied, the dish should be washed and the water replaced with clean fresh water. Bacteria can develop and grow very quickly in a water dish, be sure you are washing it daily in hot water with dish soap or vinegar and rinsing it well before refilling it and giving it back to your bird.