Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 28, 2022

Nutriberries Allergy?


Hi. I recently adopted a rescue Senegal Parrot who has a problem with feather loss. He scratches quite a bit and has patches of only downy feathers. He was taken to a vet by prior owners and they did not find evidence of illness.

The one constant in his diet, as reported by both prior owners and foster mom are Nutriberries, which he loves.

I was wondering if it is possible he has an allergy to Nutriberries, or if you have any other ideas of things in his diet that he may be allergic to — or lacking. I am reluctant to deprive him of his Nutriberries as he just loves them.

Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated. Thanks!


Answer:

Hi Jacqueline,

Any type of feather picking, plucking, etc. is now known as Feather Destructive Behavior. It is a very complicated issue and often is both a health and behavior issue. While allergies are one theory for one possible cause, there are countless reasons why some captive parrots do this, and Vets have been working for years to solve this mystery. There is no way to test for allergies in parrots, so eliminating foods is one method. The most likely allergies would be from artificial ingredients, especially colors. Some fresh foods have been suspected, such as citrus fruits. But none of it has been proven and as of now, any evidence is purely anecdotal. Of course, this is what can guide research, but until it can be proven, one has to be careful about rumors and theories from other bird owners. One common problem is humans trying to apply their nutrition to their pets. Something is bad for humans, so it’s bad for my pet. Not true at all! So when doing research, consider the source. What happens is “bad ingredients” get discussed, passed around, and suddenly a common ingredient is bad for your birds. While we have learned more about nutrition over the years, generally the chat on forums is rarely based on facts when it comes to the “bad ingredient of the month”. LOL

I think it is highly unlikely that the Nutri-Berries are the cause. We use high quality, human grade ingredients with no artificial ingredients. And most quality parrot diets are based on the proven science, so we all use many of the same ingredients. Of course the quality and source are important, so we do go with the best. To try to identify or rule out a food, would take a very long time, and the stress of him not getting what he loves could result in more feather destruction.

As for his overall diet, the Nutri-Berries should make up 80% of his diet. Although this can also include another nutritionally balanced food like pellets. But any loose seeds you offer will compromise the nutrition he gets from his balanced foods. The remaining 20% can be greens, veggies, fruits, nuts and healthy table foods. However, nothing in excess. One small piece of any fruit or veggie is all he needs – not an entire section of orange, or a dish of grapes, or a dozen green beans. One nut or even a piece of a nut is the right amount – not several almonds, or an entire walnut. So do be careful with amounts. But again, unless there is a fruit or veggie he eats excessive amounts of, food is not likely the cause.

We will be presenting a webinar series on Feather Destructive Behavior in the Fall. As of now, it is planned as 2 webinars, but will go longer if needed. The two Vets who are presenting this have been studying FDB for years, and both are also nutrition experts. I highly recommend watching these, as they will give you a better idea of how complicated this disorder is, and why most parrots are never cured. It does sound mild with your bird, since he doesn’t mutilate his skin or have bare patches. As for itching and preening a lot, all parrots do this. It’s just natural grooming and what we think is itching really isn’t.

I’ll give you the link to our main webinar page. You can click on any webinar and scroll down to find a white box, where you can sign up for webinar announcements. All of our webinars are free, and are also available later on youtube to view for free. I believe after you attend these, you will have a better idea of what direction to take with your guy, and what tests to request from his Avian Vet.

https://lafeber.com/pet-birds/category/webinar/

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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