Parrots can become overweight, but the signs of obesity can be difficult to spot as fluffy feathers hide excess weight. Consequently, weight gain often goes unnoticed by owners.
Parrots get fat due to food consumption and a sedentary lifestyle. Wild parrots require fatty foods to fuel their active lifestyle, but pet parrots still want high fat foods, despite not exercising as much. Feel the keel bone located across the parrot’s chest and, if it is hidden under two layers of flesh, the parrot is overweight.
A parrot’s weight should be monitored as obesity leads to health issues that can shorten a parrot’s lifespan. A planned diet and physical activity can greatly reduce the risk of premature death. If your parrot is already prone to overeating, you’ll need to create a feeding schedule for your bird to follow.
Can Parrots Eat Too Much?
Wild parrots rely on a very fatty and calorie-heavy diet to support their active lifestyle.
If your parrot is kept in a small cage and given limited exercise, it’ll inevitably start to get fat. It’ll want to eat the same amount of food (perhaps more) but, when it can’t burn this off, it’ll start to gain weight.
Will Parrots Overeat?
Parrots are some of the most active birds in the world. So, they need to be constantly entertained and stimulated to remain happy and contented. In the wild, parrots will:
Of course, this requires a lot of energy, so parrots have a high metabolic rate and quickly burn through their fatty reserves. They’re naturally drawn to foods that are high in fat. Between their active lifestyle and not always finding food to eat, wild parrots can keep their weight in check and avoid weight-related illnesses.
Wild parrots can’t always successfully forage for food. So, whenever they find some, they’ll eat as much as they can, storing those calories in their fatty reserves for later usage.
Pet parrots are still inclined to have this attitude toward food. Of course, they don’t know that they have a consistent food source due to being in your care. Consequently, they overeat as a way to survive.
Is It Bad To Have An Overweight Parrot?
If your parrot gains a little weight, this isn’t harmful. In fact, a small reserve of extra fat can be healthy.
Since parrots have such delicate immune systems, an illness can quickly overtax their bodies. If they lose too much weight during a recovery period, this can lead to more severe illnesses.
Obesity in Parrots
Obesity can negatively impact your parrot’s life and result in serious ailments that harm the lifestyle and lifespan of your parrot. Obesity in parrots is caused by the following:
The most common diets for a parrot are:
- Seed-based diets
- Formulated diets
What are the pros and cons of each for your parrot’s health?
As mentioned, seed-based diets aren’t ideal because parrots will eat the fatty seeds and ignore the rest. It’s virtually impossible to prevent obesity in parrots with seeds because you can’t force-feed a parrot the other seeds.
Additionally, seeds won’t provide a parrot with all the nutrients it needs to live a healthy life. Even if seeds are a primary part of the parrot’s diet, it also needs fruits, veggies, and nuts.
Many pellet brands market themselves as providing a complete diet, but this is untrue. It’s difficult to simulate the kind of diet that wild parrots have with processed food.
Pellets are high in protein but they’re also high in fat. They’re meant to supplement a parrot’s diet, not become the only food they consume.
Many pellets contain artificial coloring, disrupting the parrot’s digestive system and leading to more issues with its metabolism. Combined with the high fat content, they can lead to obesity in parrots.
Formulated diets involve carefully planning a mix of nutritious foods for your parrot to eat, like:
Of course, it’s not 100% faithful to a wild parrot’s diet because there are still differing aspects between what’s out in nature versus what you can provide. For example, the berries wild parrots eat are less sweet and contain more fiber.
Still, a parrot won’t be as prone to weight gain on a formulated diet. You have to understand the nutritional needs of the parrot species you own and monitor its weight and health.
Climate may seem like an odd area of concern when your parrot is gaining weight, but it directly impacts your parrot’s metabolism and ability to burn fat.
Parrots have high body temperatures, so they need a fast metabolism to maintain that temperature, and this consumes a lot of energy, which burns fat.
Parrots in warmer climates don’t need to burn that much fat to stay warm. After all, the environment keeps their body temperature where it needs to be. In contrast, parrots from colder climates will burn more fat.
So, if your parrot is a warm-weather species, it’s more likely to retain weight instead of burning through it. If your otherwise thin parrot starts getting fat after you move from cold-weather areas to a sunny locale, this could be why.
To fight obesity, all living creatures need to burn more fat than they consume. Wild parrots manage this by living an active lifestyle. They forage for food, fly around for miles at a time, and eat little during their day.
In contrast, pet parrots are fed every day and usually can’t exercise away all the calories they consume. A sedentary lifestyle is usually the cause of obesity in parrots, even if they eat healthily.
That’s true even if you give your parrot ample room to exercise. Gliding from one place to another can become boring, especially if the parrot is large, and boredom leads to disinterest in flying or moving around.
It’s even more difficult if the parrot feels lonely or stressed because it may lack the energy or mope in its cage. To make sure your parrot stays active, exercise with it. You can try working out together by dancing and playing games.
Parrot Species Most Likely To Be Obese
As mentioned, parrots have a metabolism that fits their climate. If your parrot is biologically geared to have a slower metabolism to combat the heat, it’s more likely to gain weight when it overeats.
A hot climate may also discourage the parrot from moving around as much, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle. That’s why the parrot species most prone to obesity are:
- Amazon parrots
- African grey parrots
With that said, these parrots can remain fit and trim if they’re encouraged to exercise and fed a balanced diet.
How to Tell if Your Parrot Is Fat
It can be difficult to tell if a parrot is fat as parrots have a different weight distribution from other animals. Likewise, their feathers can hide extra weight. When it seems too large, you may attribute that to the parrot being fluffy or ruffled. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent the problem:
The most immediate way to tell if a parrot is fat is by touching its chest. Parrots have a bone that runs vertically across the middle of their chest called the keel bone. To the sides of the keel bone are the parrot’s breast muscles.
Can you feel the keel bone protruding out more than the breast muscles? Then the parrot is underweight. A healthy parrot will have a nicely rounded chest, and the keel bone will easily transition into the breast muscles.
An overweight parrot will have breast muscles that protrude past the keel bone, making it look like the parrot has a divide in the middle of its chest.
You can also tell if a parrot is fat by how it acts. A fat parrot will:
- Tire out more easily
- Breathe heavily
Parrots are energetic and like to move, and the excess weight may be making the parrot lethargic. Parrots use their breast muscles to fly, and when those muscles are surrounded by fat, they find it more difficult to move around.
The exact weight of your parrot can determine if it’s fat, which can be determined with a small scale. If you’re concerned that your parrot is fat, you can perform weekly weigh-ins as a part of its diet and exercise routine.
Average Weight of Parrots
Every parrot has different healthy weight ranges. After putting your parrot on a scale, check the table below for comparison. Parrots are considered obese if they weigh 15% or more beyond their ideal weight.
|Parrot Species||Average Chick Weight||Average Adult Weight|
|Hyacinth macaw||25 grams||1200 to 1450 grams|
|Scarlet macaw||21 grams||900 to 1100 grams|
|Caninde macaw||18 grams||750 grams|
|Cuban Amazon||10 grams||240 grams|
|Yellow-crowned Amazon||12 grams||380 to 480 grams|
|Blue-fronted Amazon||10 grams||400 to 430 grams|
|Goffin’s cockatoo||10 grams||221 to 386 grams|
|Moluccan cockatoo||20 grams||850 grams|
|Palm cockatoo||18 grams||900 grams|
|Umbrella cockatoo||18 grams||600 to 700 grams|
|Greater Patagonian conure||12 grams||315 to 390 grams|
|Mitred conure||11 grams||200 grams|
|Black-headed caiques||8 grams||145 to 170 grams|
|White-bellied caiques||7 grams||165 grams|
|Dusky lories||7 grams||155 grams|
|Plum-headed parakeets||5 grams||90 grams|
Obesity-Related Health Issues In Parrots
Once a parrot is obese, a string of health problems can occur. Some weight-related illnesses will cause your parrot pain and shorten its life, while others will require a simple dietary change or medical intervention.
The most common weight-related health issues in parrots are:
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease occurs when there’s so much fat in a parrot’s body that it infiltrates the liver until it can’t function. This disease is most common in Amazon parrots.
It’s caused by diets that contain too much fat, such as seed-based and pelleted diets. A parrot with fatty liver disease cannot handle much stress, so it may die suddenly due to organ malfunction.
Lipomas are balls of concentrated fat. They grow out of and hang from parrot’s bodies, but they aren’t fatal. The area around the growth is completely featherless. Once they develop, lipomas require surgery.
In parrots, this is called bumblefoot. The fatter the parrot, the more weight it has to carry on its legs, and it’s this strain on the feet that causes pododermatitis.
You’ll notice that your parrot’s feet are swollen. As time goes on, some skin will begin to peel off until the feet are red and inflamed. Eventually, it will be too much, and the parrot will become lame.
Atherosclerosis targets the arteries. When fat lines up the walls of a parrot’s arteries, they become less elastic and narrow, which could end up rupturing and killing your parrot.
Parrots with atherosclerosis often bite at their feet due to the discomfort it brings to their legs. Arteries deliver blood from the heart to the tissues in the body. Narrower arteries could cause lameness in the legs of parrots because of the lack of blood traveling to those parts. This condition is most common in medium to large parrot species.
According to Veterinary Quarterly, one of the most common signs is sudden death. So, it’s important to keep your parrot’s weight in check long before it reaches this point.
The symptoms of this condition appear at the tip of a parrot’s wings. Cholesterol crystals form under the skin and make the tip of the wings swell, sometimes until they bleed. In severe cases, the tips of the wings need to be amputated.
How To Make a Parrot Lose Weight
If you have a fat parrot, how can you reverse the problem? Here’s how to get a parrot to lose weight:
Formulated diets balance out their metabolism and reduce their fat intake.
If you can’t afford a formulated diet, you can provide a mix of seeds, pellets, along with a formulated diet. Remember, pellets and seeds work best as supplements, not the main course.
Any drastic change to a parrot’s diet shouldn’t be done immediately as they don’t adjust well to sudden change. Sneak in the new food by mixing it with the regular one until your parrot gets used to it.
Be strict about feeding times. Some parrots, especially those that have been hand-reared, are very needy, so they’ll demand food more often than they should. Talk to the other household members and ensure that they aren’t giving the parrot treats outside of normal feeding hours.
Along with a quality diet and strict feeding schedule, a healthy level of exercise is necessary. Here are some ways to help your parrot lose weight:
Parrots like to dance. Putting on music and teaching them to groove will keep them lean and be a good bonding time.
Playing With Other Birds
Schedule play dates with other owners, so your parrot can get active with them. Parrots are very social animals, so yours could be more motivated to exercise with another parrot.
Making The Room Colder
If it’s summer or you live in a hot climate, make the room cooler. This will encourage the parrot’s metabolism to work harder and burn some fat. The cold may even motivate a lethargic parrot to move more to keep warm.
Parrots have a destructive side, especially the larger species. They burn a lot of fat when biting and clawing into things. Ensure they always have something they can destroy nearby, such as cardboard.
If your parrot isn’t paying attention to its toys, get new ones as it might be bored of playing with the same things. Parrots can even play with old baby toys.
After bathing your parrot, it will often groom itself. Parrots preen their feathers to keep them healthy. By giving your parrot more baths, you can activate the preening process. This activity will burn off some fat. This is especially good for birds that are too fat to do anything more strenuous, like flying or dancing.
Parrots need to fly to be healthy, and they need to do so often. If there’s no outdoor cage available, you could always bird-proof your house, so your parrot can fly about as much as it wants.
Parrots can get fat. As long as you evaluate and modify your bird’s diet and exercise routine, your overweight or obese parrot will be able to shed any excess weight.