As good parrot parents, we’re always looking for new foods to offer to our feathered friends in order to add enrichment and keep their diet rich in nutrients. Parrot Essentials offers plenty of ideas for novel foods for parrots our blog (see the posts on herbs for parrots, sprouting seeds for parrots, foraging for parrots and more). Let’s expand that idea list and talk spices!
Keep reading for everything you need to know about which household spices you might have lying around can also be offered to your parrot.
Why would you give spices to your parrot?
You might be wondering at this point why we’d feed spices to our parrot. After all, by definition, spices are often not the most nutritious. Some spices consist of the seeds, roots or fruits of a plant, but others are plain bark or pods. They’re usually dried, further reducing their nutritiousness.
Still, we think spices are a great addition to parrot diet. Here are a few reasons to consider:
- Although parrots’ sense of taste isn’t as developed as that of humans, they do actually have the capability to taste what they’re eating. As such, you can use spices to make foods for parrots more interesting to them.
- Spices can help in giving food a more attractive color (yellow with turmeric, red with paprika, etc.).
- Although spices should be fed sparingly just in case, many do have certain health benefits (although research on the benefits for birds specifically is very much lacking).
- Most importantly to us, spices offered whole are just a great combination of food and toy. Many parrots love picking them apart, crushing them and tasting them. This makes spices a great potential source of enrichment for our captive birds.
Foods for parrots: Safe & unsafe spices for parrots
|Name||Suitable for parrots?|
|Allspice (Pimenta dioica)||Yes|
|Anise (Pimpinella anisum)||Yes|
|Caraway (Carum carvi)||Yes|
|Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)||Not sure|
|Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)||No|
|Celery seeds (Apium graveolens)||Yes|
|Ceylon (true) cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)||Yes|
|Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)||Yes|
|Coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum)||Probably yes|
|Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)||Yes|
|Dill seed (Anethum graveolens)||Yes|
|Dried chili pepper, cayenne, etc. (Capsicum sp.)*||Yes|
|Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare)||Yes|
|Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)||Yes|
|Galangal (Alpinia galanga)||Probably yes|
|Garlic (Allium sativum)||No|
|Ginger (Zingiber officinale)||Yes|
|Juniper berries (Juniperus communis)||Yes|
|Mace (Myristica fragrans)||No|
|Mustard seeds (Brassica sp.)||Yes|
|Nigella (Nigella sativa)||Yes|
|Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)||No|
|Paprika (Capsicum annuum)||Yes|
|Peppercorns (black, white, red, green; Piper nigrum)||Probably yes|
|Peppercorns (pink; Schinus molle)||Probably no|
|Saffron (Crocus sativus)||Probably yes|
|Star anise (Illicium verum)||Yes|
|Sumac (Rhus sp.)||Yes|
|Turmeric (Curcuma longa)||Yes|
|Vanilla bean (Vanilla planifolia)||Probably yes|
Although parrots can eat many of the spices we use in cooking, it’s important not to overdo it. Don’t offer your parrot a bowl full of cloves, star anise and ginger on the daily, as this can lead to an upset stomach. Many dried spices are very rich in essential oils, which is hard on both human and parrot tummies, and some possess other properties that can have negative effects in larger quantities.
So, instead of a full bowl, just offer your parrot a single pod, berry or piece of bark to play with and chew on. Seed spices like caraway can be used to make homemade birdie bread more exciting or as an addition to a seed mix.
There are many different types of spices out there and a good number of them are safe for our parrots. Use them to make your bird’s food more exciting and as an easy way to offer a fun new enrichment option!