In the wild, it is common for birds to spend the morning foraging for food. They move from place to place seeking, probing, tearing, and discovering edible foods. In other words, they work for their meal. They must also be on the lookout for predators during their food searches. To minimize exposure to danger, many birds have evolved a food-holdingsac called a crop. This allows them to ingest large amounts of food in a short time and move on to a safe haven to digest it. The day is left for other activities, but the food search begins again in the afternoon.
All parrots and passerines (mynahs, canaries, and finches) have crops. Other groups of birds, such as penguins and gulls, do not have crops.
Pet birds, on the other hand, usually have food provided for them all day long. Foraging and twice-daily feeding behaviors are eliminated. What can result is boredom, lack of natural curiosity, and "fussy" feeding behaviors.
To help ensure a pet bird's emotional and physical well-being, an attempt should be made to modify the environment to stimulate natural feeding behaviors. It may require time for birds to adjust to new routines and toys, but persistence pays off!
The list below provides some ideas on how to eliminate feeding boredome and stimulate interest. These are only some suggestions - creativity and imagination can supply the rest.
- Hang vegetables and fruits on a rod-type feeder. Birds must hold the feeder to keep it from moving while they eat.
- Weave foods into the bars of the cage. The bird must climb to the spot and "unweave" them.
- Provide cooked chiclen leg bones to larger parrots. It will require considerable effort to strip the meat and crack the bone to reach the rich marrow.
- Stuff food in the "nooks and crannies" of pine cones. This encourages food-seeking and probing behaviors. Treats will reward the bird for its effort.
- Commercially prepared or homemade food-toy combinations can combine nuts, dried fruits, and vegetables. This combines playtime with food-gathering activities.
- Put your bird on twice-daily feedings. Remove food after 20 or 30 minutes. This stimulates active feeding twice a day and provides the thrill of anticipation.
Reference: "The Complete Pet Bird Owner's Handbook" by Gary A. Gallerstein, DVM