What is Malnutrition?
To get to the root cause of inappropriate parrot behaviors, we’ve got to talk about avian malnutrition.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, malnutrition is a common and detrimental condition that must be addressed quickly and comprehensively. Malnutrition is a physical state of unbalanced nutrition. It can mean undernutrition or over nutrition. When most people think of malnutrition, they often picture undernutrition, this is caused by a lack of complete protein or a lack, or imbalance, in any of the hundreds of nutrients a bird must eat everyday.
Over-nutrition comes from eating too many calories, or when vitamin supplements containing vitamin A or D are used. See the article on this website: “Feeding Parrots: Over-Supplementation Malnutrition”. A bird can eat more calories than his body needs and still be malnourished at the same time. This type of avian malnutrition occurs because the bird is not eating the proper combination of foods that provides the required balance between nutrients.
Nutrients, Malnutrition and Behavior
Fact: a parrot must eat hundreds of nutrients every day. See my ‘MUST EAT’ List here. When any of these essential nutrients are missing from a parrot’s diet they become stressed. Because they are not eating the proper balance of nutrients they instinctively may start acting out and become more aggressive. Loud screaming and biting are two examples of these types of behaviors. If you want to improve your parrot’s behaviors, you’ve got to feed him, or her, balanced nutrition.
Nutrient Inter-relationships and Balance
One example illustrating ‘the required balance between nutrients’ is the relationship between the essential minerals calcium and phosphorus. In the avian body calcium is the predominant mineral in the skeletal system. Calcium is also contained in the body fluids where it plays an essential role in blood coagulation and membrane permeability (an essential quality of cell membranes, that present in all cells, that allows certain molecules to pass through), while also maintaining normal functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves.
Calcium absorption is regulated by vitamin D3 (the sunshine vitamin) and relies on proper amounts of phosphorus being present and available for absorption. Other nutrients that play a role in calcium absorption are the macro-mineral magnesium, and the trace minerals iron, fluorine, zinc, iodine, manganese and copper. There are thousands of these ‘nutritional inter-relationships’ that must be in balance for avian malnutrition to be avoided.
Calcium nourishes the nervous system and can provide a calming effect on a parrot’s behavior.
Feeding a Wide Variety of Foods
Feeding your birds a wide variety of different foods is one sure way to know your parrots are not getting all the nutrients they need. Feeding this type of diet lacks nutritional balance. This mean the diet lacks essential nutrients and this will result in unbalanced avian nutrition. This is the direct cause of avian malnutrition and undernutrition. And avian malnutrition and undernutrition are what makes the birds you love sick, cuts their lives short and causes them to bite and have other ‘unfriendly’ behaviors.
The next article in this series: