By Diane Burroughs

Revised 10.15.2023

African Grey Food

Discover the secret to your African grey parrot's health and happiness! African grey parrots are renowned for their exceptional talking abilities, but did you know that their dietary needs set them apart from other birds? Explore the fascinating world of the African grey diet and uncover how it differs from that of other avian companions, such as parakeets or cockatiels. Your parrot's well-being is at the heart of this journey, so read on to unlock the key to a healthier, happier feathered friend.

What do wild African grey parrots eat?

African Grey Parrots: Herbivores of the Wild

African grey parrots feel right at home in the lush lowland rainforests across Africa. Sometimes, they venture into nearby savannas, mangroves, and even farmlands to find their meals. They're not big fans of solo dining; they usually gather in groups, keeping it cozy with fewer than 50 flockmates.

When it comes to their diet, these parrots are all about the fruits, seeds, and nuts. They're not too picky and enjoy a variety of treats from different plants like Bombax, Ficus, Macaranga, and Raphia. But if they had to pick a favorite, it'd be the fruit of the oil palm tree.

To add some flair to their menu, they also snack on flowers, bark, and small critters like insects and snails. Surprisingly, they sometimes head to the ground to nibble on clay and soil, which scientists believe helps with nutrition and keeping those pesky parasites away.

Access to Beta Carotene and Calcium-Rich Foods

Picture the African grey parrots in their wild homes, enjoying a daily dose of superfoods that keep them strong and healthy. Their diet is like a treasure chest filled with delicious treats that provide the nutrients they need.

One of the stars in their menu is beta carotene, which is found in vibrant fruits especially red palm fruit. Beta carotene is like magic for their feathers and eyes, keeping them colorful and sharp.

And let's not forget about calcium, the bone and beak booster. These clever parrots munch on leafy greens and various nuts, which are packed with calcium to keep them strong and ready for action.

By learning from their wild diet, we can make sure our African grey parrots are also getting a taste of these incredible superfoods right at home. It's like giving them a nutritional power-up to lead a happy and healthy life.

What is a good pet African grey diet?

What to feed your African grey parrot

GIF by Diane Burroughs,, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Just like us, our African grey parrots need a balanced diet to thrive. Most avian veterinarians recommend starting with a solid foundation of high-quality pellets. Brands like Harrison's and Roudybush are top picks, as they offer a well-rounded mix of essential nutrients.

Imagine their diet like a pyramid – the bird food pyramid, to be exact. At the base of this pyramid are the nutrient-packed pellets, which should make up the bulk of your parrot's meals. They provide the core vitamins and minerals your African grey parrot needs for a healthy life.

Now, let's add some colorful layers to our parrot pyramid. Fruits and veggies are like the next level, offering a rich range of nutrients. Choose from foods like papayas, sweet potatoes, and carrots, which are loaded with beta carotene and give your feathered friend's diet a nutritional boost.

Fruits such as melons and berries are sweet treats that should be included, but remember to offer them in moderation. The natural sugars they contain can add up quickly.

And for a finishing touch, herbs, edible flowers, bird sprouting seeds, and a touch of red palm oil can enhance your parrot's dining experience. These add variety to their menu and introduce new nutrients into their diet.

By following this pyramid, you're creating a diverse and balanced diet that mimics the nutrition African grey parrots enjoy in the wild. It's like giving your feathered friend a taste of the wild while ensuring they stay healthy and happy at home.

bird food pyramid

© Diane Burroughs, LCSW

african grey diet  The more common nutritional disorders of large psittacines result from diets containing primarily seeds and nuts. Patients may present with signs of obesity or deficiencies of calcium, vitamin A, or iodine. Scott Stahl, DVM, DABVP, 1998.

An African grey parrot's diet should be as natural as possible to provide them with a healthy lifestyle.

In plain English, they are filled with the following that are hypothesized to potentially cause cancer:

  • Synthetic nutrients
  • Dyes
  • Preservatives
  • Fillers

Go for as natural of a diet as you can.

How to Convert Your Bird's Diet with the 'Slow and Steady' Method


In the wild, young birds learn about safe foods from their parents during their early years. This means that when your pet bird observes you eating, it naturally assumes that the food you consume is safe. Birds, in general, are not overly selective eaters, but they have a built-in instinct to only consume what they've learned is safe and suitable for their diet.

Converting your bird's diet to pellets can be a gradual process. Here's a simple step-by-step guide to use the "Slow and Steady" method for Diet Conversion, as described by Cummings, et. al. in An Evaluation of Three Diet Conversion Methods in Psittacine Birds Converting from Seed-Based Diets to Pelleted Diets, 2022.

Plan to work with your avian vet to ensure that the transition goes smoothly. It will be important to monitor your bird's weight throughout the transition proces

Materials Needed:

Pelleted bird food

Your bird's current food

Setting the Stage:

The evening before introducing the pellets, remove all food from your bird's cage.

Morning: The next morning, offer only the pellets for 4 hours.

Afternoon: In the afternoon, provide a small serving of your bird's previous food in a separate bowl if needed.

Evening: The previous diet should be removed in the evening, leaving the pellets as the only food overnight.

Make sure to have fresh pellets available at all times, refreshing them daily. Continue this daily procedure until your bird is predominately eating pellets.  In the study cited above, 90% of birds converted to a pellet diet within 6 days or less.

Ideal Bird Types:

This method is recommended for birds that eat from their feet or those with less friendly dispositions. The

Conversion Process:

1.  Start with 4 hours of exclusive pellet access in the morning.

2.  Offer a small serving of the previous food in the afternoon, if necessary.

3.  Remove the previous food in the evening, leaving only the pellets overnight.

Gradually decrease the availability of the previous food until it's completely out of your bird's diet. 

Remember, this method is best suited for birds that eat from their feet or are less tame. It allows your bird to adjust to the new diet at its own pace.

How do I know if my bird is overweight?

Birds have faster metabolisms than mammals and take on a slimmer build in order to fly. This can lead to weight problems in pet birds like African Greys, just as with other species. This is especially true of birds fed nutritionally void fatty seed diets. After a few years, the effects of malnutrition set in, and they may become underweight.

While we always recommend routinely weighing your bird with a gram scale to monitor its weight, another way to gauge your parrots weight is by doing a keel bone check. Here is what to look for.

The keel bone is in front of your bird’s chest and runs parallel to its breastbone. It should be longer than it is wide and gently protrude from the breast muscle. If it protrudes your bird may be underweight. If you can't feel the keel or it feels too fleshy over it, your bird may be overweight.

checking your african grey weight

What do African Grey Parrots drink?

African Grey parrots, just like all their feathery friends, need their H2O fix too! In the wild, they're pretty resourceful and get their sips from rain, puddles, rivers, ponds, or even the dew that clings to plants, creating a sort of natural bird tea.

But in our homes it is important that we make sure they have access to fresh and clean water every single day.

Now, let's chat about something important. If you're in an area where the water quality isn't up to par – maybe it has too much lead, plastics, or other not-so-great stuff – you might want to think about offering your African Grey filtered or bottled water.

Now, here's something exciting – you can support your African Grey's hormones and mood with a specially created herb mix that can be steeped into a tea.

Our very own SereniTea Bird Calming Tea is a fantastic choice. This tea isn't just delicious; it's like a nutrient-packed hug for your feathered buddy. We're talking herbs here, folks! They're like little powerhouses of nutrition. So, serve them in chop for calming nutrition or steep them into some warm water, and voilà – you've got a nutritious calming tea that's a delightful addition to your African Grey's menu. 🍵🦜

Can parrots eat cheese or yogurt?

Knowing that African grey's have a tendency toward calcium deficiency, you might be tempted to serve up some dairy products. Birds also have trouble digesting dairy foods. You may want to stay away from dairy, including cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and cream-based foods. They may cause gastric distress and painful bloating.

Instead, supply for their calcium needs with nuts and leafy greens or with UnRuffledRx Calcium, Magnesium +D3 that can be administered up to 3 times a week right in their water.



What is the best treat for parrots?

Training treats are key for a well-behaved pet, as well as strengthening your bond and spoiling them from time to time.

To finish up this guide, we thought you would like to know what the best treat for parrots is well, it depends. Our birds do not eat junk food unless they've been trained to. Most parrots love their nutritious treats. Each morning, Smokey, my CAG and I go through a ritual. He jumps on top of his cage and stretches out his neck to accept a daily treat.

Some days he will choose a hazelnut, and other days he might opt for a walnut. Whenever it's something different from the day before, he is all in. Variety is the key!

In conclusion...

A healthy diet for a bird should include a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Birds also need access to fresh water. While there are many commercially available bird diets, it is important to do your research to find one that is right for your specific bird. The African grey parrot diet is an important part of keeping your bird healthy and happy.  

Related Posts:

Fat is not the "F" word in birds' diets 

3 problems with an all seed bird diet 

How your birds diet can keep it calm

Eclectus parrot diet: What to feed an eclectus parrot 


What Can African Grey Parrots Eat

The African Grey Parrots Handbook

African Grey Parrots Feeding 

The Diet of African Grey Parrots

Bingham, B. Harmony Animal Behavior, Dr. Scott Echols Series.

Cummings, A. M., Hess, L. R., Spielvogel, C. F., & Kottwitz, J. J. (Year of publication). An Evaluation of Three Diet Conversion Methods in Psittacine Birds Converting from Seed-Based Diets to Pelleted Diets. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 36(2), 145-152. URL: 

Ford, S. Balancing Your Parrot's Lifestyle.

Schwarz, D. Exotics Direct, 2019 "Feeding Budgerigars,", Transitioning Pet Parrots Away From a Seed Diet.

Stahl, S., & Kronfeld, D. (1998). Veterinary Nutrition of Large Psittacines. Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine.

Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

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