Several meetings and conferences on psittaformes, have taught me a great deal about the diet of South African species. My bird collection consists of Pionus (parrot-like) and Conure (parakeet) species. Therefore, I use two basic seed mixtures, one for the parrots and one for the parakeets. Ideally, each parrot or parakeet species, and even each individual bird should be fed a specific seed mixture. But practically speaking this is simply impossible. Most well-known brands of bird feed are sufficiently balanced to provide the bird with the natural food requirements. In the wild, Psittaformes obviously do not merely feed on dried seeds but mostly eat berry seeds, half-ripe seeds, nuts, fruit, blossoms, insects, etc…
A. Seed
90 % large parakeet mixture + 10 % canary seed
50% large parakeet mixture + 15% sunflower seeds + 12.5% safflower seeds + 12.5% buckwheat + 10% hempseed

B. Soft Feed

Most of the vegetables and berries I grow in my own garden. In the summer I harvest the beans, sweet peppers and Chilli peppers. I chop them into small pieces, put them into plastic bags according to the number of birds in my collection and freeze them. I put the half-ripe corncobs in the freezer as a whole. Carrots and red beets are stored in a pit in earth or sand and covered with straw to protect them against frost. All kinds of berries are picked regularly and also put into small plastic bags and freezed. When making jam the seeds of raspberries and blackberries must be removed anyway; these are relished by the birds. As you can see, feeding psittaformes entails a lot of preparatory work.
In spring and summer the birds get every two days alternately a fruit and vegetable mixture. In the autumn this is reduced to about two days a week. In the wintertime they get this mixture only once a week, when the weather allows it. Breeding pairs and their chicks get this mixture every day, though. The days when they do not get the mixture, I give them a piece of defrosted corncob.

Preparation of Soft Food
The defrosted vegetables and berries are first drained. A varied diet is very important, therefore try to rotate daily mixtures from the freezer. Add small bits of carrot, apple and beet, again alternately. I mix the humid feed with a bit of dried crumbs and egg food, which is used as a basic element. These ingredients are then carefully mixed. The crumbs and egg food stick to the wet feed. For pairs with chicks I add a pinch of Aves-growing feed to their mixture. During the breeding season I also regularly add a calcium preparation (Calcigenol N.F) or sometimes wheat-germ oil. Now and then I feed them other vegetables and fruits which are at hand, for example chicory, oranges, grapes, kiwi fruits, etc. With regard to the parrots, I also feed them cracked walnuts and Siberian brown nuts, but only a limited amount. Sometimes I also add processed food containing animal proteins such as insects. When the weather is not too warm, I sometimes feed them germinated pigeon mixture. Remains of these germs should however be removed in time from their seed containers. Whole dandelion plants and small twigs are thrown onto the aviary roof. The latter is a good example of occupational therapy; it takes a lot of perseverance to pull the twigs through the wire, gnaw off the bark, eat the buds, etc.
C. Minerals and Micronutrients
Both minerals and micronutrients are found in compound grit consisting of pebbles, sand grains, lime, crushed seashells, charcoal etc. This grit grinds up the food in the gizzard. South American parakeets and parrots need this grit more than birds from other continents. In the wild, birds eat lots of fruit seeds which are sometimes poisonous; that is why birds visit the ‘Barreiros’, mineral-rich earth they eat to neutralise the poisonous elements in their feed. This is as it were their doctor’s appointment.
This grit and sepia shells should be part of their daily diet throughout the whole year. Especially before and after the females lay their eggs they need lime, since the lime to form the eggshells is mainly generated by the female’s skeleton. During and after laying the eggs the male and female need to take in the lost amount of lime.
D. Conclusion
South American birds need a balanced diet which should not merely consist of dried seeds. As a result of this diet, these birds have looser droppings and the remains of the vegetable mixture should be removed at the latest the next day. All this requires a lot of cleaning and feeding work by the genuine bird-lover.
But there are other ways!
Animal food industry has now pellets in all kinds of shapes, colours and tastes containing everything psittaformes require. No more waste, no more work, but is it cost-effective? Why don’t we, human beings, eat one block of compound food a day?
A commercial bird-breeder will choose the second option. But the genuine bird-lover will stick to his old feed mixtures. In the future, our hobby will evolve into these two different ways; just think about the commercial hand feeding method for baby parrots.
What will the future bring?