Implementing an Effective Foraging Strategy

Posted in Foraging

parrot foraging strategy Transitioning to a foraging based feeding scenario should occur in stages.  You don't want to require your bird to have master safecracker credentials to be able to eat.  The initial goal is to stimulate your bird's curiosity and get him moving throughout his cage in search of food.

  • Continue to provide your bird's regular diet in his usual bowl.
  • Start by placing treats and their favorite foods within multiple bowls spread high and low throughout the cage.
  • Once your bird catches on to the idea of moving, searching and retrieving items, increase the complexity of the task.
  • Hide the food by loosely covering the cups with paper.  The paper can be taped down when this gets too easy for your bird.
  • You can also start off with easy homemade devices such as Dixie cups, small paper bags or cardboard tubes that can easily be crumpled around the treats.
  • Let your bird observe the placement of treats in these devices and demonstrate their retrieval.
  • Progress to puzzle oriented toys that require problem solving and manipulation such as opening hatches, turning compartments, opening drawers, unscrewing hardware or shredding material to gain access to the food. Check out this video of a clever African Grey foraging for a treat in the Zig Zag maze toy:



Some more great foraging ideas....

  • Create a Foraging Tray by burying dried foods under toy parts, washed stones or similar items that require your bird to sift, lift and rummage through to find food.
  • Skewers fruits and veggies using a stainless steel kabob.
  • Hide treats inside destructible Vine Balls to encourage chewing.
  • Stainless steel nut cages are wonderful for holding a variety of foods and stimulating play activities.
  • For small birds, hide millet inside a Chinese finger trap or wrap it up in an easy to chew paper cupcake cup.
  • Hide peanuts or almonds inside a leather pouch drilled with holes to entice exploration.
  • Weave veggies thru the cage bars.
  • Create edible food wraps by placing treats inside of lettuce leaves or tamale wrappers and then tying off the ends.

You are limited only by your imagination in how you set up a treasure hunt for your bird.  Sit back, enjoy and be amazed as your bird demonstrates his skills!

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Why Does My Bird Waste Food?

Posted in Foraging

Parrots waste food when they forageWhen there is an abundance of food in a natural environment, birds have the luxury of being picky in their search for the most delectable fruit or berry.   As frustrating as it is to find our carefully prepared meals all over our carpets and sticking to our walls, they are not being obstinate or commenting on our culinary skills.  It is a natural behavior for birds to take just a few bites of something and then drop the rest.  Actually, in the wild, the flinging of food fulfills an important role in the ecosystem.  In the process of "wasting" food they are distributing seeds and providing food to ground dwelling species.   Unfortunately, this an example of a behavior that we must adapt to and accept (sigh).

There are steps you can take to minimize the environmental impact on your home and to make cleanup easier:

  • Hang shower curtains or sheets on the walls behind your bird's cage.
  • Use an easily cleaned floor protector under the cage.
  • Purchase a cage with skirt.
  • Use seed catchers and barriers.
  • Use covered crocks and bowls.
  • Use bird safe cage cleaners and cage scrubbers.
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Why Foraging is Important

Posted in Foraging

Why Foraging is ImportantParrots spend up to 70% of their day searching for food in the wild. Once found, the food needs to be peeled or cracked open. Contrast that level of engagement with the typical "fast food" lifestyle that most captive birds experience. Each day their food is neatly delivered to them, often nicely chopped up, in a bowl. Hmmm, so how are they supposed to spend the rest of their day?

Lack of activity leads to boredom which often results in frustration and abnormal, self-destructive behaviors such as feather picking. It is possible to avoid these problems by utilizing a variety of foraging devices placed at various levels in the cage or play area. Hiding food in various locations throughout the cage will keep them busy, challenge their minds, stimulate their curiosity and make eating more fun.

C. L. Meehan (U. C. Davis) has reported that there is evidence that indicates parrots "prefer to perform some sort of work for food even when "free" food is available". This indicates that foraging is a behavioral need of parrots.

Foraging toys provide your bird with a purpose, a mental challenge, increased opportunities for exercise, essential play time and a reward for their effort !

Foraging toys are devices that require birds to work for their food and they are commonly categorized as either destructible or mechanical foraging toys. There are many other types of foraging devices available including fruit and veggie skewers, treat and nut cages and foraging boxes to name a few. Most require some level of manipulation or puzzle solving to uncover and remove the food such as turning, pressing levers, rummaging, opening lids, tearing/shredding materials or unscrewing hardware.


For advice on how to provide foraging activities for your bird check out our article Implementing an Effective Foraging Strategy.

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