Q: I have a sun conure (Kona,) who is 2-1/2 years old, who loves dairy products. He will go nuts for a milk shake, whipped topping, milk, ice cream, cottage cheese…..I know in the wild he would never eat things like this. He gets them in limited amounts just because of the high fat content. But is it okay for him to eat dairy at all?
A: Cheese & natural yogurt are OK in small amounts for conures, but too much dairy isn’t really good for them. Here’s a breakdown of good and bad dairy:
- Milk: Milk is high in protein, fats, and lactose, which are milk sugars that most conures can’t handle. Since milk is a liquid, and is easily absorbed, feed milk to your conure only very sparingly, to keep them from getting sick.
- Cheese/Cottage Cheese: Cheese is a nutritious soft food, and can encourage mating in birds (since mating time, spring, is the only time when soft foods are available in the wild.) Cheese is also high in lactose, and dairy fats, but being a solid, it’s less readily absorbed by birds. Feed your conures cheese only sparingly, and stick to yellow cheese, which is lower in lactose sugar than white.
- Yogurt: If feeding yogurt to conures, choose plain/greek yogurt with no added sugars, dyes, and preservatives – since an overdose of these human ingredients is harmful to birds. Plain yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein, and healthy fats for birds, but stick to half a teaspoon or less of yogurt per conure per day.
- Ice Cream: Alas, just like in humans, an ice cream diet is bad for birds. It’s high in sugars, which can make your bird lazy and lethargic, or even turn him into a perch potato. Feed ice cream very sparingly, like when your cute conure is begging for it. Only feed vanilla ice cream, if your have to, and avoid chocolate – which can overstimulate and kill pet birds.
- Whipped/Coffee Cream: These are usually full of preservatives, and chock full o’ sugars. Worse – coffee cream is commonly found in coffee! (shocker, isn’t it?) Coffee, like chocolate, will damage your conure’s health rapidly. So avoid whipped cream latte’s, decadent pie toppings, heavy whipping cream and the like for your bird’s good vascular health. I personally wouldn’t allow the bird to eat things like ice cream & whipped cream. that’s a bit like giving them chocolate, even occasionally it’s not really good, way too much sugar.
The bottom line is: There are much better sources of calcium for your conure parrot than dairy products. Birds are lactose intolerant and so cannot metabolize dairy products. Feed them occasionally and in very small amounts.
Good Sources of Calcium for Conures
Conures eat mainly canary seed and rape seed in the wild, which are naturally high in calcium. The other seeds available for conures (such as millet) should only be given as treats, as they are fattening and the bird will become lethargic and lazy and less likely to sing.
To keep calcium levels high, conures should be offered a variety of leafy green vegetables, fresh spinach or leaf lettuce, and little calcium in the form of a cuttlebone, water vitamin supplement, or boiled and crushed egg shells.