The Dietary Requirements of Fig Parrots
The dietary requirements for Fig parrots are similar to that of the Australian Lorikeets' - the only significant difference being that the major food source for fig-parrots consists of figs. Seed requirements may also be similar - although a lot is yet to be learned on this topic. Figs parrots have a high metabolic rate and are voracious eaters.
Things to consider:
- Fresh, clean food as well as clean drinking and bathing water needs to provided daily.
- Click here for information on the benefits and recommendations on bathing.
- All food and water dishes need to be kept meticulously clean. The soft diet commonly fed to these parrots provides ideal conditions for a variety of disease pathogens to grow. The "sudden-death" syndrome that many breeders talk about are without a doubt frequently caused by ill health brought on by contaminated food and feeding stations.
- Fruit eaters tend to be messy. If kept in cages, the wall behind them needs to be lined with plastic panels unless the floor and wall are made from an easy-to-clean material, such as tiles. The cage should not even be near any carpeted areas. Everything around the cage should be easy to clean and disinfect. Cages need to be cleaned frequently and carefully sanitized. Fruit flies and other insects attracted by the fruit spatters can be a nuisance. (Refer to Non-toxic Insect Control)
- Food should never be allowed to stand for too long to avoid bacterial problems or fermentation - especially in hot / humid climates. Husbandry techniques as close as possible to sterility in food presentation are essential. Fruit mashes that are allowed to stand for 24 hours or longer may show signs of fermentation - basically resulting in an alcoholic brew which is dangerous for adult fig-parrots who may show signs of intoxication. If the chicks are fed this toxic brew they rarely survive.
"On the menu"...
Fortunately, Fig parrots are not known to be picky eaters. They willingly sample whatever you offer them.
Figs: If fresh figs are out of season or not readily available in your area, preserved figs or soaked dry figs can be substituted. Figs are expensive and breeders save money by purchasing blemished fruits in bulk from local growers. The figs can be quick-boiled and frozen - along with a little juice. It will keep for up to a year. Thaw as needed and mix in with the fruit / veggie mash. Fig parrots require a minimum of three to four sliced fresh figs daily. You will find that fig-parrots only eat the tiny seeds in the fruit.
Other fruits and vegetables should be provided -- make sure they are in-season and nutritionally dense. Providing WHOLE fruits and vegetables, instead of cutting / slicing them, is one way of avoiding unnecessary bacteria contamination and delaying fermentation. Fresh vegetables are best, but frozen can be used - thaw before feeding.
Mash: Breeders often offer chopped figs, vegetables and fruits in one convenient mash that may include a variety of the below:
figs (of course);
vegetables, such as: fresh zucchini, carrots, cucumber, cooked yams, shaved cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, string beans, sprouted small seeds, tomatoes, corn-on-cob, peapods, green tops of scallions, squash and broccoli crowns; and
fruits, such as: grapes, cactus-fruits, papaya, raisins, plums, cooked yams, peaches, mangoes, pomegranate, apples, bananas, sliced citrus rinds, nectarines, strawberries, kiwi and cherries.
Pollen: Small amounts of pollen can be added occasionally.
Protein: A suitable form of protein should also be made available to these birds. In nature, insects deposit their eggs in the fruits of the wild fig trees, so when eating figs, the parrots will also ingest small larvae.
Seeds: Some seed should be provided, favoring Australian native seeds, if possible. Sprouted seeds is nutritionally superior and should be fed daily. Note: Feeding a seed-only diet to any fig parrot will result in malnutrition and premature death.
Lorikeet Mix: A small amount of a dry lorikeet mix can be provided - in a separate dish away from water or soft-food dishes that could cause moisture to be transferred between food / water bowls.
Cooked food: a cooked mix of brown rice, multi-beans, lentils and split peas - can be made in bulk and frozen.
Vitamin K: Literature quotes that vitamin K should be supplemented to avoid inside hemorrhages. However, natural sources of this vitamin K may be a safer alternative.
- Vitamin naturally occurs in: Watercress, swiss chard, green leaf lettuce, spinach (100 grams of raw spinach has 483 micrograms of vitamin K. One hundred grams of frozen spinach has 377 micrograms, or about 20% less), raw kale, cooked broccoli. mustard greens, turnip greens, Collard greens, Romaine lettuce, Basil, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Asparagus, Celery, boiled Green beans, Cauliflower, Green peas, Carrots, red Bell peppers, Summer squash, cooked soybeans, Cranberries, raw Pumpkin seeds, Pears, Strawberries, Papaya, cooked Kidney beans.
- High doses of the synthetic form, vitamin K3, can produce jaundice and hemolytic anemia.
- Vitamin K is sometimes added to food to act as a preservative to control fermentation.
- It is extremely important to discuss with an avian veterinarian the need of Vitamin K supplementation.
Amino-acid supplementation: Breeders reported significant improvements in breeding activity and longevity when supplementing with amino-acid.
- One natural source of amino acids is in Spirulina (human grade only!). This nutrient dense food contains protein, vitamins A, B and naturally chelated minerals; it promotes the growth of lactobacillus beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract and improves fertility. It has 20 times the beta-carotene of carrots, 62% amino acids, is rich in essential fatty acid and naturally chelated minerals. It is important to make sure that they are grown without pesticides. Also, spirulina coming from polluted waters may contain mercury and other toxins. Finding a good, reliable source for spirulina is important.
Vitamin Q: Some breeders suggest adding a Vitamin Q mixed with powdered calcium 5 times a week (discuss with an avian vet). If a vet arbitrarily suggests supplementation of any kind, without the actual blood test as proof positive of any deficiencies or over-supplementation, I would have little confidence in the competencies of this health care provider as it pertains specifically to fig parrots.
Mineral blocks should always be available.
Calcium Supplementation: A breeder reported the occurrence of malformed offspring, specifically malformed beaks and legs, broken feathers and stunted growth. With the removal of the calcium powder supplement, a couple of healthy chicks resulted. Therefore, a qualified avian vet should justify a calcium supplement rather than supplementing blindly. Natural sources of calcium should make supplementation unnecessary, unless a pre-existing ingestion problem exists. A blood test should be able to reveal the need for calcium supplementation.
- Natural sources of calcium:
- Dried figs (3 oz.) 100 mg; Dried apricots (3 oz.) 80 mg; cooked Bok choy, 330 mg; Bean sprouts, 320 mg; cooked Spinach, 250 mg; cooked Collard greens, 260 mg; cooked Mustard greens, 450 mg; cooked Turnip greens, 450 mg; cooked Amaranth leaves, 276 mg;
- Seeds & Seed butters - per 2 T. serving: Sesame seeds, 110 mg; Sunflower seeds, 33 mg; Sesame butter, 42 mg.
- NOTE: Avoid calcium supplements from oyster shells since they may be contaminated with lead.
Feeding Protocol for Breeding Birds:
Breeders suggested changing the diet for actively breeding birds and their young, as young fig-parrots potentially metabolize food (including figs) differently and can't digest the normal diet of the adult fig-parrot. They suggest feeding only the fruit / veggie mash two days before the chicks are due to hatch until they are about 14 days old. From 15 days on, blanched meal worms can be added. Once the young have fledged, they recommend the normal diet of mash, seeds, and figs. At that time you may stop feeding mealworms.
Click here for more information on bird nutrition as it pertains to this species and other fruit-eating birds.
Many hours went into researching this topic - however, the most important message I would like to convey is: Don't rely solely on information published on this and connected pages. Your situation, and the condition / requirements of your birds may be different. Too little is known about fig-parrots, and if you are considering breeding this species - and, therefore, be part of a crucial conservation effort - I would recommend you discuss with breeders who have a successful track record with these species and consider any recommendations they may have pertaining to diet, housing and general care. Their experiences may be different and they may have the benefit of additional knowledge / research data not covered on any of these pages. Ideally, you would work in concert with those who have been successful with these species and a qualified avian vet who will be able to identify and remedy any problems before casualties occur. A better understanding is continuously gained with these species, and it's important to keep up on developments and new discoveries to ensure the health, well-being and, in fact, continued existence of the magnificent fig-parrots.
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