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Eating Acorns?

Expert Question

Oak trees grow over my aviary. Acorns fall through. The poultry and birds generally ignore them. My Lesser Sulphur-Crested Perdy is climbing upside down across the roof and pulling acorns in and eating them. Can she overeat them? She does not seem to pick them off the ground.


Expert Answer

Dot, acorns are a safe food for psittacines. There are many instances of wild parrots and feral parrots eating acorns, i.e. Thickbilled Parrots, Quakers, Amazons.

T’would not be unusual for your cockatoo to prefer to eat the acorns right off the limb—foraging is an instinctive and fun pastime for captive hookbills. Besides, if you watch her carefully, she may in fact also be eating the attachment nodes on the acorn stems, a nutritious and preferred part of some fruit and nut clusters. We have had lorileets that did not like certain berries when they were placed in a food bowl, but the pets would gorge on the same berries if they were on the bush.

In addition, those acorns that drop on the ground are perhaps not at the best ripeness for your cockatoo’s taste and trace mineral needs. He may be choosing younger nuts that are still attached because of their tannin level, much as our amazon flock will like semi-ripe fruit or seeds instead of the fully mature ones.

Encourage Perdy, I do not think an adult savvy cockatoo can eat too much of a certain food item as long as it is getting a fully rounded and complete diet from which to choose. Besides, wild-crafted foods are one of the optimum offerings we can give our birds. Try picking some branches with lots of little accorn buds and early-set nuts, and offering them to your smaller psittacines. You may be surprised at the reception!

EB Cravens
About EB Cravens

“If we TRULY believe our captive-raised hookbills are important to world parrot conservation, we must work ceaselessly to ensure that these same psittacines retain as much of their wild instinctual behavior as is possible,” affirms avicultural writer and hobby breeder EB Cravens, from his small organic farm on the slopes of the Big Island Hawaii.

“Our goal is to birth and raise only a few baby parrots who know that they are parrots, but choose to befriend humans, because humans are nice to them… feed them… and are fun to be with!”

EB has bred, trained, raised, kept and rehabilitated more than 75 species of psittacines during the past twenty plus years both at his home and while managing the notable exotic bird shoppe, Feathered Friends of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His emphasis on natural environments for birds, the urging of babies to fully fledge during the extended weaning process, and the leaving of chicks for many weeks inside the nest box with their parents in order that they may learn the many intangibles of their species, have succeeded in changing for the better the lives of so many captive parrots.

A science writer by training, he was for years a regular contributor for AFA’s Watchbird Magazine and the Companion Parrot Quarterly. EB currently writes a monthly column entitled “The Complete Psittacine” in PARROTS Magazine out of England; and another, “The Hookbill Hobbyist” down under in the well-regarded Australian Birdkeeper. His monthly series of articles “Birdkeeping Naturally,” is sent out to bird clubs and individuals around the U.S.

“As devastating pressures continue upon avian species in the wilds,” he says, “it is critical that those keeping birds in captivity do so with responsibility and foresight.”