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Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

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Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby Michael » Tue May 07, 2013 2:32 pm

Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

This is an extensive article about the importance of weight management for all companion parrots. I compare household parrots to wild parrots, talk about why weight management is healthier than freefeed, and share results of Kili & Truman's recent weight evaluation at the vet.
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby danetterivera » Wed May 08, 2013 9:55 am

i am excited to see pictures of your baby as it matures.
here is my question...i live in Mexico and it is impossible to find pellets
or any managed diet feed for my parrots.
i like to make my own food for them..do you have any suggestions as to
what to be sure to include in their homemade blends?
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby KaratParrot » Wed May 08, 2013 8:23 pm

Weight management is not a necessity for companion parrots. It is complex, time consuming, and terribly dangerous when implemented improperly. Free feeding may be the status quo and as long as the diet is low in fat and nutrient dense no vet is going to say it's an unhealthy diet. What a silly claim Micheal!

No real expert in the animal behavior modification field actually reccomends weight management for companion parrots OR ANY companion pet. Not Dr. Susan Friedman, Barbra Heidenrich, Steve Martin, Sid Price, Chris Biro, Bob Bailey, Karen Pryor, Emily Larlham, Rebecca O'Connor, I mean just name someone in the field and they will all shout out with a resounding "No" if asked to recommend weight management.

Weight management was designed for birds of prey to increase motivation to work and hunt for falconers. Its very definition means to get a bird to perform, Micheal. Whatever strange definition you have slapped onto "weight management" is far from the truth of what it really is.

By stating how "unnatural" it is to free feed a bird you succumb to the Appeal to Nature fallacy. You just assumed that because it doesn't happen in nature it must be "bad"! While it is true wild parrots do not spend all day eating, I hardly find it true that free fed birds eat all day. Which IS what you are indirectly saying. If this was true parrots would be stuffing themselves like goldfish an die from eating too much!

And for your concerns about bugs and rodents, well, I do hope that any responsible companion parrot owner does not have an insane infestation of rats and roaches in their home! Free feeding does not mean to have a food bowl in the cage when birds don't eat (at night), I hardly expect anyone would argue that this important for the bird. What an inane idea.

Again, you haven fallen for the appeal to nature fallacy and are assuming that because parrots eat in the morning and evening it is the best for them. What data do you have that actually concludes this? The research on parrots health and longevity related to WHEN they are fed a diet, is nonexistent. There are no conclusions to be drawn about your claim that free feeding is bad for a bird.

Have you taken a basic ecology class micheal? I'm assuming you have not and rather chose to major in computers or business because of this scrupulously written sentence:
"Simply put, there's not enough food for everyone."

Really? Is this so much more of a population pressure than age, stress and disease? Fully grown adult animals are not dropping dead in a healthy ecosystem because of "lack of food". This only happens (as you should have learned in ecology class) after an exponential population boom when the critical load to support a population has been reached. This is when dying due to lack of food becomes a problem.

When you say compare a bird to car on its last gallon of gas it worries me. It worries me in that you think it is acceptable to constantly have your car working on with that last gallon of gas in the tank. If you treat a car like this you shorten its life, and I suspect the same if this is how you treat a bird. We know this is true because weight management is much more than managing straight weight of the bird gram for gram. It's about making sure the bird has fat to burn. If the bird does not have fat its body will start to eat away at its muscle tissue to use for energy. Never have you once even mentioned this disastrous consequence from implementing weight management improperly. I doubt you are an expert in it at all.

I would certainly like to know where you got the idea that "parrots go days without food (in the wild)" it sounds like you are talking more about raptors than parrots.

This article is hardly convincing to the seasoned animal trainer to weight manage a bird. Managing what a bird eats however is far more important than micro-managing what the bird weighs. Birds should weigh differently over the seasons and their weight should be allowed to naturally fluctuate as such. To be restricted to the same weight all year should be considered cruelty.

Thanks for the article Micheal.
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby Michael » Wed May 08, 2013 8:55 pm

You, whoever you are, missed the point that parrots should be weight managed to the weight that is most healthy for them. Not starved, not underweight, not overweight. For most it is down. In some cases it's up or the same. There is nothing dangerous about weight being managed to the weight and body condition that is deemed most healthy by a veterinarian. That is just keeping the parrot healthy.

You also missed the major point that the reason less food has to go in (for the household parrot) is because less energy gets to go out through exercise. Clipped birds don't remotely come close to getting enough exercise but even flighted parrots in the confines of our homes and schedules get relatively little. Also the foods we tend to feed them are much more caloric than what they'd manage to find in the wild (corn and soy based pellets!? sunflower seeds?). The solution is either more exercise or less food, but since our abilities to grant sufficient exercise are limited, we have to resort to managing the food.

All of the avian veterinarians I have questioned complain about exceedingly more overweight parrots coming in with health problems than underweight. You only question the points that are of little significance. Fact is, owners need to be aware of their parrots weight and learn how to make adjustments in food quantity/quality to ensure it shifts to or stays at the healthy condition. This article is not about how but why.

Edit: But for people not paying full attention as they read, I went back and added this in bold to reiterate what I have already wrote:

Parrot's food intake should be managed such that they attain and maintain the optimal healthy weight as can be inferred from body condition by an Avian Veterinarian. I am not suggesting that the target weight should be determined by behavior, mathematics, guesswork, or chance.
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby CarlosQuaker » Thu May 09, 2013 2:12 am

I'm guessing your new baby is either some sort of macaw or an African Grey :)
Carlos - 23 month old Quaker Parrot :quaker:
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby Merlinfrombelgium » Thu May 09, 2013 12:57 pm

:hatching: I would guess it's a caique, right ?
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby KaratParrot » Thu May 09, 2013 10:09 pm

Micheal there is a difference between monitoring a bird's weight to keep it healthy and weight management, please don't add additional confusion! Your definition of "weight management" in this article significantly differs from the actual meaning and use by professional falconers in which the idea was originally contrived for. This is a big misinterpretation on your part because this is what your article is discussing, is it not? You would be best replacing what you mislabel as "weight management" as "weight awareness".

I did not miss the point made in the post. You state calories in = calories out, no one can argue with that. But to go out and claim that "birds stuff themselves all day" as true? C'mon man, like I said if that were true pet birds would be popping like gorging goldfish. It just doesn't happen.

I agree that food management is a good idea, perfectly acceptable. This is what I believe you are trying to convey in this post. Birds CAN have scheduled meals in the day just like people. Zookeepers do it and their birds are healthy. And as an added bonus it can be much easier to train birds around their mealtimes as well. This is something every bird owner can do and is much more readily accepted by professionals in the field.

All of the avian veterinarians I have questioned complain about exceedingly more overweight parrots coming in with health problems than underweight.


And don't all avian vets! But calories in calories out right? Most avian veterinarians will not blame free feeding for this pandemic (and you seem so to keen to put down free feeding). It's seed-based diets causing the problem, end of story. Like I said, if a bird is free fed pellets and greens no vet is going to complain because the bird will not be over weight! What is it with you being against free feeding?

You only question the points that are of little significance.


Really? Because it seems all the little insignificant things add up Micheal. You use them to support your view but you will not defend them. Can you not?

Do these really seem like insignificant issues?:

    Bird's do not stuff themselves full all day. If they do it is not considered normal!

    Free feeding does not mean bugs and rats will infest one's home.

    Using the Appeal to Nature fallacy over and over again is not small, but is what your entire argument is supported by.

    Animals in a healthy ecosystem (especially parrots) don't drop dead over lack of food.

    Bird's naturally fluctuate in weight over the season's and should be allowed to do so. To not allow a bird to do this is considered unhealthy.

These "little" inconsistencies found in your post are topics that graduate students can write their major thesis about. These little things add up and makes a reader think that your blog is untrustworthy and not based on actual facts. This is not building trust with your audience Micheal, but breaking it.

Fact is, owners need to be aware of their parrots weight and learn how to make adjustments in food quantity/quality to ensure it shifts to or stays at the healthy condition. This article is not about how but why.


Yes! And you make it out to be more complex than it really is! Too much time on your hands? "Weight awareness" is all an owner needs. But then if it was that simple you wouldn't have something to sell this May.

What did your vet say in your video? "It's probably what we typically see, the majority of the birds are in the average body condition." Oh, did he just say weight management isn't needed to attain a healthy weight? I wonder what all those other bird owners are doing right... :swaying:
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby Michael » Thu May 09, 2013 11:21 pm

I did not suggest "weight awareness." Merely being aware of it doesn't regulate it. When I say weight management, I mean that the "Parrot's food intake should be managed such that they attain and maintain the optimal healthy weight." Weight management is the active process of tracking, manipulating (through food availability), and maintaining a target weight. Where I differ from "experts" and those kind "zoo trainers" is that I do not recommend deprivation, starvation, desperation, or in fact any basing target weight on performance. I do not recommend evaluating behavior, motivation, performance, or behavior goals to determine or play a role in choosing a "target weight," "flying weight," or "training weight." I will get to maximizing motivation in the next article without straying from "healthy weight." Coincidentally, healthy parrots tend to be motivated parrots.

I didn't address your points because I said they are of little significance to the main point which is that captive parrots get little exercise, a lot of food, a lot of calories, reproductive triggers, and that since we have less control over those, we need to look to managing weight.

Freefeed doesn't necessarily mean there have to be pests but not leaving food out all day long is less likely to attract them. We don't leave food out elsewhere for a reason. I don't see a good reason for leaving it out for parrots (or pests) all day long.

Birds presented with food non-stop pick at it more from boredom. They will eat more when food is more available. If it is always available, they will put on more fat and maintain a higher weight. I've seen this in my birds, other people's birds, discussed it with vets, and it is common sense.

My appeal to nature is to demonstrate that parrots in the wild are not in fact on freefeed and to consider how their bodies are best evolved to operate. Since the human environment is quite different, we cannot make everything natural. Sometimes we have to apply unnatural means to achieve natural results. There are plenty of things that kill parrots in the wild and I'm not suggesting we accept them happening at home as natural. However, considering the natural elements helps us understand the dissonance of our home environments and gives us direction. Evolution has caused species to already reach equilibrium with environment pertaining to consumption vs work. At home that balance is entirely disrupted. The only way to regulate it is by encouraging as much exercise as we can and then making up the balance by reducing food consumption.

I base my food argument on my study of raptors and song birds. I don't know the mortality rates of parrots in the wild specifically but assume they are similar to other birds. Fact is most juvenile birds die of starvation and predation. Population takes its biggest hit on the young and old ends of the spectrum. "The evolutionary ecology perspective also defined the effect of adult mortality, first, on population density and, then, on reproduction rates through density-dependent effects on food availability. Seasonality of food is the key to these relationships. Birds of seasonal arid habitats in both Africa and Ecuador have larger clutches than do those in habitats that are humid year round at the same latitude. More generally, clutch sizes of birds relate directly to seasonal increases in food production rather than to absolute level of food production. This relationship exists because adult mortality in the cold or dry season of lowest food availability determines population density and baseline levels of food consumption in a habitat." (Ornithology Third Edition, Frank B. Gill p527)

Seasonal weight fluctuations are determined by environmental factors and food availability. If the parrot's weight is managed to stay fairly consistent, then reproductive activity will be suppressed. Reproductive activity is undesirable because it cannot succeed (for an unmated pet) but can create health and behavioral problems. Meanwhile molting and other demanding periods are automatically adjusted for by proactively "managing" weight rather than just observing it. When temperature decreases and birds metabolize more energy or they begin to molt, they will require a greater food consumption. Weight may momentarily begin to decrease and the food manager can quickly respond with a change in serving size to return to the target healthy weight. If regular training is performed, changes in motivation can also signal these needs. If parrots are regularly trained, they can earn additional fatty foods as treats. They have the ability to cope with metabolic changes accordingly. The actual weight does not need to change though as it is a closer reflection of body condition. Also, I have noticed that realistically these changes are minor compared to the change required to attain target healthy weight.

So these aren't little "inconsistencies". They're just less pivotal points that did not merit further explanation. But since you are so focused on them, there you are. I would rather direct attention to the fact that weight and body condition should be evaluated, and then adjusted through weight management to a targeted healthy weight. When that weight has been achieved, it should be evaluated again and further adjustments or equilibrium should be achieved.

Lastly your "experts" aren't relevant. Their papers about weight management almost exclusively pertain to outdoor freeflight parrots and zoo performing parrots. I am writing for the common parrot owner who's parrot does not remotely get the same amount of flight or exercise even if it spends all day out of the cage. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that their parrots are flighted but in reality most are clipped (and particularly overweight).

Through training (and with the help of taking some of the unnecessary weight off), greater amounts of flight exercise can be encouraged at home. But only to a certain extent. Since every individual parrot is different and every parrot's exercise regime is different, the only way to universally help everyone get their parrot to a healthy weight is to encourage maximum flight exercise and management of weight to a healthy body condition. Since that body condition is subjective and complicated, it is beyond the scope of this single article or discussion to present the way of achieving it.
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby MrCavyMadness » Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:43 pm

Hi Michael, I know you're very busy, but please reply. First, everyone's telling me picking parrots up by their necks is awful. I've read your book, watched all your Nowcast videos, and most of your youtube videos. I just got my very first bird, and 8 week old cockatiel yesterday. His name is Petey, and he is doing great. Here are my questions:

1) Is it safe to pick cockatiel up by their necks, too?

2) What's a good age to start formal training?

3) The store I bought him from told me to free feed for a while, since that's what he's used to, when can I start food management safely?

4) He won't come out of his cage, but will step up if I press on his lower abdomen. How do i make him eager to come out?

The store clipped him, but he will never be clipped again once they grow out. That's why flight says 'NO".

Please reply!!!! I really need your help.
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Re: Weight Management for Parrots - Why It's a Must

Postby Michael » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:03 pm

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Michael
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