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Question:

November 3, 2021

Encouraging parrot to fly?


This is about my friend’s mealy amazon parrot. The vet says he’s overweight – he’s a really big parrot anyway, but he shouldn’t be that heavy – so in addition to putting him on a low calorie diet (no more fried chicken, pizza, BBQ pork ribs, Doritos or drinks of orange soda in particular, no matter how much he begs) she’s been trying to get him to fly so he can work out. But he doesn’t want to. The parrot is at least 25 years old and mostly flies like a spruce goose on the few occasions that something scares him and he takes off (other than that, he walks and climbs everywhere). We tried picking him up like a chicken and throwing him up into the air (bean bag underneath), but all he did was flutter his wings on the way down. This was making him really angry so we stopped doing that.

Do you have any tips for how to do it properly, or good links? Thanks.


Answer:

Hi Lyle,

I have to laugh, because Mealy’s are chunks, but you have to love them. Your descriptions are spot on! They are the largest of the captive Amazons and do have a naturally larger frame. So some are not as overweight as the Vet might think. But if this is an experienced Avian Vet, then the Vet did an assessment of the body condition and based the diagnosis on this rather than actual weight. And from what you said, the bird was eating and drinking a lot of things he shouldn’t!

We do have a diet that can help with weight loss, and it is available only through a Vet. Here is a link you can share with the Vet if you want to go in that direction:

https://lafeber.com/vet/use-of-nutri-an-cakes-for-weight-reduction-and-maintenance/

I’m not sure what he is eating as his main diet, but ideally your friend should incorporate foraging into his daily eating. We have learned that wild parrots spend most of their day foraging, and this is how they get most of their exercise versus flying. A pelleted diet unfortunately does not offer any foraging exercise, unless used in toys or other means for foraging. We do make foraging diets that are nutritionally balanced the same as a pellet, but the ingredients are not ground up. Our Nutri-Berries, Avi-Cakes and Pellet-berries can be fed instead of or along with pellets as a complete daily diet. A parrot will gradually lose weight on these foods because he will no longer over eat. Parrots eat to satisfy their nutritional requirements, so if fed a balanced diet, they do not over eat. When fed a loose seed mix, they eat too much because they can’t get satisfied, so people, including Vets, erroneously label seeds as being fatty. Actually nearly all pellets are made from grains and seeds that are ground up, so the “fatty seed myth” is just that.

As for flying, you can try holding one foot on the side of each hand, and place your thumb over the foot to keep him from lifting it. Then gently move each hand up and down alternating, to cause him to flap his wings to maintain balance. This only works with a tame bird, and if you move slowly until he learns. Also, they typically do not like flying downward, so you can try him on the floor, and place a treat in a spot that he can fly to, but not climb. If he is enticed enough, he might fly for the treat. It can be one of his junk foods, but just do not let him eat more than a bite. A bite for each flight is a good rule. And he does get good exercise by walking and climbing, so look for a parrot ladder and try to get him to climb it a few times in a row. Again  up, not down. Most Amazons do prefer to walk, so he will likely lose more weight and get in better condition through a good diet and plenty of foraging exercise.

I’m going to give you some links to our webinars on foraging and nutrition. These will help your friend work on the bird’s diet as well as learn ways to encourage the bird to forage.

These are playlists, so there are several webinars on each link:

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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