Many homes on the Gold Coast receive regular visits from parrots and cockatoos. These noisy, gregarious birds are great fun. We never recommend feeding any wildlife but if you insist on feeding wild birds you have a responsibility to give them the right food. Otherwise you can do great harm.
Let’s begin with what not to feed lorikeets. Never give a lorikeet bread and honey, or water with added honey or sugar. They love it in the same way kids love lollies, but it will strip the delicate hairs off their tongue. The bird needs those hairs to extract nectar from inside flowers. If a lorikeet can’t gather nectar it will slowly starve. Don’t feed a parrot or cockatoo avocado. It will kill them. And don’t give them citrus fruits.
What you can feed to lorikeets. The most suitable supplemental food is Lorikeet Wet or Lorikeet Dry, available from pet suppliers. As the name suggests you can give them the wet variety, mixed with water, or the dry variety. For variety add some fresh fruit like banana and apple (but no citrus fruits, onions or garlic).
The lorikeet mixture and the fruit will go off if left out in the sun for a day so be sure to remove any food that has not been eaten that day and replace it with fresh. It’s best not to feed any bird daily as this sets up a dependence which can have dire consequences if you go away.
Cockatoos (sulphur crested cockatoos, corellas, pink and grey galahs, king parrots and rosellas)
Parrot Mix can be purchased from any pet supplier and is suitable for the above species of cockatoos and parrots. Be sure the mix you buy contains no (or very few) sunflower seeds. If it contains sunflower seeds they must be the striped variety, not the black. Sunflower seeds contain too much oil and can cause fatty liver; affect growth and development and cause cancer in a cocky. You can fortify the parrot mix with uncooked fruit and vegetables. Cockatoos love corn on the cob, broccoli and sweet potato (no avocado, citrus, onions or garlic).
Beak and Feather Disease
Beak and feather disease is a horrendous illness that affects cockatoos and is contagious to all parrot species. It can be likened to leprosy. The disease is not contagious to humans or other species of bird. Unlike human leprosy beak and feather disease in cocky’s and parrots is incurable. The only solution is to catch the affected bird and end its suffering by putting it to sleep before it infects the rest of the flock.
Typically the first sign of the disease is a long, overgrown beak (however this is not always present). An overgrown beak makes it very difficult for a parrot to eat and ultimately causes starvation. Next is feather loss, particularly from the chest. Following is more feather loss as the bird develops a dirty and dishevelled appearance.
Cockatoos affected with beak and feather disease are often shunned by the flock. This is torture for a cockatoo because they are highly social birds. I suspect other birds sense the risk and drive the sick bird off to lessen the chance of transmission. Cockatoos that eat from the same bowl are more likely to contract beak and feather from an infected bird. This is another good reason not to feed wild birds, or indeed any wildlife.
Rather than feeding parrots and cockatoos why not install a bird bath to your garden? This will attract many different species and give them an additional supply of clean water to drink and wash. Planting flowering native plants is also a great way to ensure that local birds have good, natural food to eat. You will be rewarded with an abundance of birdlife in your garden.