Q: What should my green cheek conure’s diet consist of? I bought her some Harrison brand seed mix and pellets, but I’m concerned it’s not natural enough, or that she might be lacking nutrients. How can I tell if my bird is lacking vitamins? What should I include in a green cheek’s diet to help her stay healthy?
“What should I include in my green cheek’s diet?” Is a question many owners ask, when getting a new green cheek conure as a pet. It’s also one of the first things I wanted to know about green cheek conures as a new owner. You’re off to a good start with the pellets. An optimal diet for conures includes 50% fortified pellets, 30% nuts and fruit treats, 15% veggies, 5% seeds, and small sparing amounts of dairy and protein.
What Do Green Cheeks Eat?
So, you’re wondering “what do green cheek conures eat?” Luckily, giving your bird healthy treats (like bananas) to eat during feeding times isn’t hard at all! It just requires a little patience. Parrot diet doesn’t vary much between small breeds. Green cheek conures eat the same diet as their larger cousins in the Pyrrhura family, including maroon bellied, sun conure, fancy or painted conure, dusky, and golden capped conures.
Why is a Green Cheek Diet Important?
Green cheeks need to have a nutritional balance similar to what they would have in their wild habitat to stay loud and active. Because we can’t give them the exact nutritional care that they would encounter in the rain forest of Brazil (a mix of insects, roots, some seeds, plants, and vegetables) we have to substitute the best we can for our birds. A good diet for a green cheek means a long lifespan of up to 35 years of age.
A Good Green Cheek Conure Food List Includes:
- Fruits as 20 percent of diet (kiwi, mango, oranges, bananas, limes/lemon juice, strawberries, pears, wild berries, papaya, apples, and grapes)
- Vegetables as 50 percent of diet (leafy greens, kale, broccoli, mashed potatoes, cilantro, carrots, peas, corn, green beans, pinto beans, lima beans, and celery, but NOT avocado)
- Pellets as 20 percent of diet (Roudybush pellets, Zupreme, or Harrison’s Pellets)
- Dry seed mix as 7 percent of the bird’s daily diet
- Tree nuts as 3 percent of a conure’s diet (nuts like peanuts, cashews, pistachios, and almonds are all high fat, but also high in protein and vitamin E – a necessary vitamin in a captive bird’s diet)
- Dairy sparingly, as a treat only (plain yogurt, and white or yellow American cheese slices, but never milk)
- Boiled meat (yes, even poultry!) sparingly, for a protein supplement.
What Can I Feed My Green Cheek Conure?
The GCC diet is similar to most small hookbill seed mixes that smaller breeds eat,
which is why green cheek conures sometimes eat a balanced cockatiel diet seed mix and still remain healthy. Their diet can either consist of seeds or pellet food. I’m not here to lecture on the benefits of seeds versus pellet food, as I believe the best food for a green cheek conure are any that can keep your bird healthy.
A good, varied recipe of seed mix should consist of: Very little millet, some dried vegetables such as corn, dried fruits like papaya, almond slices, and essential fats like hemp seed and safflower. Crude proteins like bee pollen are also beneficial.
Please take care to avoid seed mixes which have sunflower instead of safflower! Sunflower is higher in fat which is the cause of fatty liver disease in parrots. Sunflower seed addiction is also a very real possibility for your conure.
Do Conures Need Grit?
Unlike chickens, who need grit to grind food to digestible proportions in their crop, conures and pet parrots do not need grit. A conure’s crop is smaller, making the need to eat grit little to none. If your conure does lack grit for digestion, they will show signs like eating the garbage at the bottom of their cage, or chew on their cuttle bone, and eat disgarded seed shells.
Can Conures Eat Meat?
The answer is yes, green cheeks and other conure breeds can eat meat! Conures can even eat (gulp) chicken. Boiled and shredded chicken breast is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your conure – a great source of protein. Green cheek conures can eat fish as well, but be sure to remove the tiny bones first. Avoid red meats, and pork, as these meats are fatty (not lean) and can clog your conure’s arteries.
Can Green Cheek Conures Eat Bananas?
Yes, green cheek conures can eat bananas – as a treat, or a regular diet staple. Eating bananas makes a very good and natural diet for conures, since they come from the rain forest, where bananas grow wild. I personally discovered that bananas were my green cheek conure’s favorite food when she opened a whole banana hanging on my banana keeper, and starting chowing down.
Can Conures Eat Tomatoes?
Yes, green cheek conures can eat tomatoes, but sparingly. The lycopine in tomatoes acts as a stimulant for conures and other birds – like cat nip for cats. In very large amounts, lycopine has been linked with mild nerve damage in pet birds.
Can Green Cheek Conures Consume Yogurt?
Yes, green cheek conures can eat yogurt, cheese, milk from your glass, and share diary on your plate – sparingly. The bird anatomy isn’t equipped to handle dairy (since mother birds don’t lactate) and too much dairy, like yogurt, can make your conure ill. In small amounts, like a dollop of yogurt, soft cheese (white is best, yellow cheese slices from the grocery store could contain chemicals or be poisonous) or sour cream on the container lid, your conure shouldn’t get sick from dairy. Plus, dairy products have the added nutrition benefit of being high in calcium – a vitamin often lacking in captive pet bird diets.
Green Cheek Conure Pellet Diet
Many rave about the best conure pellet foods. They shame seeds into submission, claiming that they only make up a small part of a parrot diet in the wild, and aren’t giving essential vitamins. Pellets, they claim, are formulated to give a bird all the nutrition and care that they need. I say that’s all well and good, but a parrot diet also needs variety. Not only does variety give the best chance for your conure to live a long and happy life, but the same thing every day gets boring!
The ideal mixture: about 80% pellets, 20% seeds for optimal health. Your conure will have the choice of what he wants to eat, without being forced into the same old thing every single day.
Fruits and Vegetables For Your Green Cheeked Parrot
Fruits and vegetables are very important in a green cheek conure diet. In fact, some would argue that they are the most important way to care for your green cheek! Along with their regular diet of seeds or pellets, green cheeked conures should also have another food dish available with leafy greens such as kale or even fresh basil. Vegetables and herbs provide added nutrition in any parrot’s diet.
Feeding Green Cheek Conures Soft Foods
Sometimes feeding green cheek conures soft foods is necessary, such as in the case of geriatric birds or baby conures. Some soft foods, such as boiled eggs or yogurt, give your green cheek conure necessary protein or calcium.
Be cautious in feeding your green cheek too many soft foods depending on the bird’s age. Soft foods are “mating” foods, since they are easier to regurgitate to young baby birds. Too much soft food can cause them to think that soft food sources are in “abundance” and trigger mating instincts.
Can I feed a Green Cheek Conure Chili Peppers?
Yes, you can feed them chilies as a healthy snack! Chili pepper plants evolved so that birds eat them, not mammals like us. In a mammal’s digestive system, a chili pepper seed has very little chance of survival. Birds who have less stomach acid than most mammals, can eat a seedy plant and pass the seeds through their digestive tract. Birds have less tastebuds than humans do, so the capsaicin in peppers don’t affect them. This is why birds eat the hottest chili peppers and spices like Cayenne and Habanero with (to the amazement of their owners) with no affect at all!
Chilies are beneficial to birds, giving the much needed vitamin A. Vitamin A helps the development of mucus linings, such as the mouth and stomach. An all seed diet can lack vitamin A, so chili pepper is an important treat to give your bird, especially if they eat seeds only.
Help, My Bird Only Eats Certain Seeds!
While some birds are picky eaters, green cheek conures are less picky. They may still
pick out their favorite seeds. (I know my bird definitely picks out the safflower, and then I find the rest on the floor!) But you can help them by switching seeds, or even switching to an all-pellet diet.
If your green cheek conure won’t eat vegetables or fruit like they’re supposed to, try not to force the idea. Let the bird see you eating vegetables and healthy snacks, and being social animals they will naturally want to taste some of your food. Gradually introduce these foods with a “monkey see, money do” method.
Vitamin Water as a Diet Supplement for Green Cheeks
As mentioned, vitamins such as vitamin A are vitally important for conures. Many conure owners never wonder about their green cheek lacking vitamins until they get sick. Vitamins, as with human children, are a very important green cheeked conure diet supplement. Vitamin water drops are available, but the most important way to keep your bird healthy is to give a varied diet of seeds, pellet, fruit, and soft foods.