What's the Deal with the African Grey Parrot Diet?

By Diane Burroughs

Revised 8/29/2022

Table of Contents

African Grey Food

    African grey parrots are renowned as being one of the best talking birds around, with their mouths able to mimic human speech patterns almost perfectly. But have you ever wondered why the diet of African grey parrots is different from other birds? Learn more about what an African grey parrot eats and how it is different from the diet of other bird species, like parakeets or cockatiels.

    What do wild African grey parrots eat?

    African Grey parrots are mainly herbivorous, eating a diet of fruits, vegetables, and seeds. In the wild, they also eat clay which is thought to provide minerals and help them digest their food properly and absorb essential nutrients.

    There are several species of wild African Grey parrots: Congo, CAG (Congo African grey), the Timneh African grey, and the Cameroon African grey. They all have slightly different diets due to their differing habitats but the vitamins and minerals are very similar.

    All animals need a rich range of vitamins and minerals to thrive.

    What is a good diet for African Grey's?

    What to feed your African grey parrot

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

    A healthy diet for an African Grey parrot should include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a small amount of pellets or a premium cooked diet. It's important to make sure that your bird has access to fresh water at all times. Avoid feeding your parrot processed foods, sugary treats, or any food that is high in fat or salt.

    Even though we know what to feed a parrot so that it will thrive the seed myth is alive and well. For years bird owners have been told by pet store employees and even some veterinarians that sunflower seeds are good for birds because they provide protein. However, this could not be further from the truth! Bird seeds contain too much fat and can lead to obesity, which can have serious consequences on your bird's health. Sunflower seeds are the worst!

    With 25 years of offering premium bird care, 3 pellet brands stand out for their scientific research, organic ingredients, and good practices in manufacturing. These are:

    • Harrison's Bird Food
    • Roudybush Bird Food
    • TOP's Pellets

    You can't go wrong by offering your pet a premium pellet as the base of its diet.

    But, research continues to point to supplementing pellets with a raw, plant-based diet.

    Unfortunately, many of the pellets found in big box pet stores are ultra-processed. In 2017, 'ultra-processed foods' were defined as "Industrial formulations typically with five or more and usually many ingredients"

    Not just salt, sugar, oils, and fats, substances... many ultra-processed pellets contain harmful additives like hydrolysed protein, modified starches, and hydrogenated or interesterified oils, and substances like colorants, flavorings, nonsugar sweeteners, emulsifiers, humectants, sequestrants, and firming, bulking, de-foaming, anti-caking, and glazing agents.

     african grey diet  Foods like these are created to be easy to eat while you're on the go, have a more appetizing taste and contain inexpensive ingredients that give it a more profitable cost. Though, they might make some of your birds sick.

    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 much should you feed an African grey?

    How much you should feed your African grey parrot depends on a few factors, including the bird's individual species, its age, activity level, and whether it is male or female.

    A healthy diet for a bird includes fresh herbs, flowers, sprouts, fruits, and vegetables, as well as a variety of seeds and nuts. When it comes to the African grey parrot diet specifically, there are a few things to keep in mind.

    First, African grey's seem to be more susceptible to calcium deficiencies. Some symptoms of hypocalcemia are overall weakness, seizures, tremors, collapsing, frequent fractures, loss of coordination, and exhaustion. You can find calcium-rich fresh foods like bokchoy, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, and parsley at your local grocery store.

    In addition to strawberries, cherries, and blueberries, other nutrient-rich, fresh foods include cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips, eggplant, and sweet potatoes.

    You can find fresh vegetables and fruits in most grocery stores. Also, you can try planting your own garden or looking for local farmers to ensure you are getting fresh, pesticide-free products. Chop us ten or more veggies and fruits into a chop and serve first thing every morning.

    🔥 HOT TIP 🔥 A wild baby bird spends its first few years learning what it should and shouldn't eat from its parents. As a result, your bird will assume that the food you eat is safe when it sees you eat it. Birds aren't really picky eaters. They won't eat anything that hasn't been proven to be safe.

    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.

    Is my bird overweight?

    What do African Grey Parrots drink?

    African Grey parrots drink water just like any other bird. In the wild, they would get their water from rain, puddles, rivers, ponds or dew, but in captivity, we need to provide them with fresh water every day. It's important to use a bird-safe water source and to change the water daily. A good rule of thumb is to give your bird 1 ounce of water per day for every pound of body weight.

    If you live in an area with compromised water, maybe too much lead, plastics, or other pollutants, consider purchasing de-ionized water, filtered water or bottled water for your bird.

    If you are unsure about the safety of your water, purchase a water test kit. Furthermore, as birds drop food particles and clean themselves in their water dishes, you should change the water twice a day.

    You can also provide your bird with nutrients and adaptogens (natural calming agents) by offering bird tea made from herbs. Birds can also drink a limited amount of fruit juice.

    What fruits can African grey parrots not eat?

    As I mentioned earlier, berries are packed with antioxidants, have plenty of vitamins, and have many benefits. A typical fruit list may include such things as cranberries, grapes, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, currants, figs, cherries, pears, guava, oranges, apricots, mango, grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya, and tomatoes.

    Do not offer any fruits with seeds (like apples and pears) or pits (like cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums) to birds, and NEVER offer an avocado to a parrot.

    Can parrots eat cheese or yogurt?

    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.

    That doesn't mean that they will never beg for a nice cup of yogurt or cheese! If a bird sees you eat something, it will always assume that it is safe. birds can't taste very well.

    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

    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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