Sunflower seeds are bad for parrots

I have come across a few pet parrots recently that are fed just sunflower seed. I would like to explain why this is a bad diet for any parrot to be fed.


The sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower.

The term "sunflower seed" is actually a misnomer when applied to the seed in its pericarp (hull). When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel or heart. There are three types of commonly used sunflower seeds:

  • linoleic (most common),
  • high oleic, and
  • NuSun.

For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are usually classified by the pattern on their husks. If the husk is solid black, the seeds are called black oil sunflower seeds. These seeds are usually pressed to extract their oil. Striped sunflower seeds are primarily used for food; as a result, they may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.

The truth about sunflowers is that they are high in carbohydrates and fats and deficient in vital nutrients. Pet birds that are fed seed exclusively become overweight and can develop illnesses, such as fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis which leads to heart attacks and strokes. These birds are also often calcium deficient and suffer from weak bones, brittle nails and egg binding.

Did you know?

African Grey parrots require more calcium than any other parrot.

What food should I give my parrot?

Offer your bird calcium rich foods such as dark green vegetables (broccoli and spinach) as well as cuttlefish or even liquid calcium called Calcibird.   Stay away from dairy products like milk and yogurt which are high in calcium as parrots are lactose intolerant.

There is no way around it. If you want your parrot to have a long and healthy life, you need to put in the work.

What are the basics of giving my parrot a healthy life?

  • a diet consisting of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables,
  • access to sunlight,
  • shelter,
  • a daily bath,
  • a clean environment and
  • lots of enrichment.

If you cannot manage this then perhaps a parrot is not for you.

Did you know?
The African Grey parrot is now listed as Vulnerable on CITES.

Author: Jessica Lawrence


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