Importance of Vitamin A


Vitamin A deficiency is the most common preventable disease that avian veterinarians see in their practice Pet birds that eat only seeds (especially sunflower seeds and peanuts) are most prone to this problem. Vitamin A deficiencies increase the likelihood of secondary infections because cells that line the respiratory, reproductive and digestive tracts undergo structural change, which allows bacteria and microorganisms to penetrate the mucous membrane barriers.

The respiratory system is most often affected. A bird with vitamin A deficiency may show any of the following symptoms: sneezing, wheezing, nasal discharge, crusted or plugged nostrils, lethargy, depression, diarrhea, tail-bobbing, thinness, poor feather color, swollen eyes, ocular discharge or lack of appetite.

Though few birds actually die from vitamin A deficiency, they do die from the secondary infections common to birds with weakened resistance. Vitamin A strengthens cells so that they function properly and it enables the natural healing process to occur. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


Further, in birds there is a complex relationship among calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Calcium is the major component of the skeleton and eggshell and is also present in the blood Calcium is absorbed in the intestines and vitamin D regulates that absorption. When the calcium level in the blood stream is low, vitamin D increases the absorption rate. Vegetables that contain oxalates, such as spinach, rhubarb and others, interfere with calcium absorption. High fat diets also block calcium absorption.

Phosphorus is also a component of bone and is absorbed through the intestines. There is an inverse relationship between phosphorus and calcium. If the calcium level in the bloodstream is low, more phosphorus is absorbed. If the calcium is high, less phosphorus is absorbed. Vitamin D increases the absorption of phosphorus through the intestines when the blood level of phosphorus is low.

For healthy bones, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the food should be about 2:1 The greater the variation from this ratio, the greater the role of vitamin D in regulating calcium and phosphorous. Fortunately, about 30% of the phosphorus present in food is available in a form that can be utilized by birds. But too much phosphorus interferes with calcium absorption.

Generally, foods that are yellow, orange or deep green in color have high vitamin A content Corn. lettuce, summer squash, grapes, apples, oranges and bananas are exceptions and are low in this vitamin.

Birds can make their own vitamin D if they have access to sunshine (not filtered by glass.) Birds cannot absorb calcium without vitamin D. Birds housed indoors on an all-seed diet lack vitamin D and calcium (and are likely to die at a young age.)

Cuttlebone is an excellent source of calcium. Full-spectrum fluorescent lights (such as Vita-Lites) that are suspended over your bird cages will allow your birds to make their own vitamin D.

If your birds are on a peletted diet, then you don’t have to worry about either calcium or vitamin D.

NOTE. In African Greys, the Calcium:Phosphorus ratio should be 2:1. If they do not get the proper ratio, they may be prone to falling off their perch, lack of coordination and seizures.

WARNING: Too much vitamin D or too much vitamin A can be harmful. Too much vitamin D causes too much absorption of calcium which results in minerals being deposited in soft tissue including kidneys. Too much vitamin A can be toxic and results in hypervitaminosis A. Bone spurs, painful joints, liver damage and renal gout are a few health problems that can result.

Vitamin A Content          IU Per 100 GRAMS 

Red Chili peppers (fresh)                21,000
Red chili peppers (dried)                77,000
Broccoli leaves                          16,000
Broccoli flowers                          3,000
Carrots (pureed)                         10,000
Sweet Potatoes                            9,000
Collards                                  9,300
Kale                                     10,000
Dandelion greens                         14,000
Spinach                                   8,000
Beef liver                               45,000
Egg yolks                                 3,000
Cantaloupe                                4,000
Turnip Leaves                             7,600

Canned pumpkin and Jalapeno peppers are good sources of Vitamin A.

The best natural foods which contain a good calcium:phosphorus level for African greys are:

broccoli, collard leaves, dandelion greens, fennel, okra, orange with the peel, parsley, spinach, turnip leaves, kelp and blackstrap molasses.

Published in Bird Care, Bird Feed

Fruit and Veggies



APPLES: These are the most widely fed fruits and most popular. The nutritional value is not great as the skin is usually discarded and most of the value is in the skin or just beneath it; water content can be as high as 80%. They contain pectin, a natural germicide (in humans) against gastrointestinal diseases.

APRICOTS: They retain their high Vitamin A content even when cooked, dried, or canned, their carotene content is also very high.

BANANAS: They digest slowly, they have a high carbohydrate content and release energy over a long period.

FIGS: A natural food for many species, served fresh or dried, soaked in water overnight or the dried ones have high levels of minerals including calcium, potassium, and magnesium and their fiber content is high.

GRAPES: Nutritional value is not high but they are relished by the birds.

KIWIFRUIT: An excellent fruit the contents of potassium, calcium and magnesium is quite high.

MANGOS: They contain large amounts carotene, also minerals including potassium.

NECTARINES: A fine source of carotene and potassium.

PAPAYAS: Unripe they contain the protein-splitting enzyme papin which is highly efficient in aiding in digestion. Ripe it contains only a small amount of papin. Carotene is high, it also contains potassium, calcium and magnesium.

PEACHES: It is easily digested, contains vitamins and minerals, is rich in carotene.

PLUMS: The contain carotene calcium, and potassium.

RASPBERRIES: This fruit is excellent nutritionally, potassium content is high, there are smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium, carotene and vitamins of the B complex and iron.

(reprinted from: Texas Canary Club)


Follow these guidelines when picking out your veggies.

CORN: Look for bright green husks that, when pulled back slightly, reveal even rows of kernels.

CAULIFLOWER: Pick solid, heavy heads with a creamy white color and bright green leaves.

GREEN BEANS: Long straight pods that snap crisply when bent.

CARROTS: Should be firm, medium sizes, bright orange, free from shriveled tips and blemishes.

BROCCOLI: Buds should be rich green, firm and packed closely together. Leaves attached to the stems should be bright and not wilted.

ASPARAGUS: Should be firm, straight stalks with dosed tips.

(reprinted from.~ Bayou Bird Gazette)

Published in Bird Feed



The following table covers a few of the factors needed to make an educated decision on the proper disinfectant/cleansing agent for your aviary:

CHLORHEXIDINE (Nolvasan/Chlorhexiderm)


  • Minimal toxicity of diluted mixture
  • Kills some Gram Negative Bacteria


  • Does not kiil Chlamydia, some strains of Pseudomonas or Polyoma
  • Diluted mixture good for only 24 hours
  • Costly - $0.42/day
  • Does not penetrate organic material

GLUTARALDEHYDE (Cidex/Wavicide) Advantages:

  • Kills majority of viruses, bacteria and fungal organisms
  • Moderate cost - $0.29/day
  • Can penetrate organic debris


  • Toxic to birds, humans and environment *Not biodegradable
  • Corrosive to feeding utensils
  • Chemically related to formaldehyde

SODIUM HYDPCHLORITE (Bleach/Chloros/Purex)


  • Kills most viruses, bacteria and fungal organisms even when diluted 1:10
  • Inexpensive - $0.10/day


  • Stable for 6 hours when diluted
  • Not biodegradable
  • Caustic to avian and human tissue
  • Corrosive to some metals and plastics
  • Does not penetrate organic debris very well

CHLORINE DIOXIDE (Oxyfresh Dentagene/Oxyfresh Cleansing Gel).


  • Kills Polyoma Virus, NewCastle Virus, all types of bacteria and fungal organisms
  • Penetrates organic material
  • Stable for 7 days
  • Moderate cost - $0.39/day
  • Manufacturer supports Avian Research by donating a percentage of sales
Published in Bird Dangers

Dangers to Birds


There are many dangers for birds in your house. Make’ sure your house is ‘bird safe’. If It is safe for a baby, it will be safe for a pet bird.

  1. Close the toilet seat cover on all toilets (the bird can drown in the water).
  2. Store or dispose of all chemicals, plants, hot grease, soapy water (they love water) to where your bird can’t get to them.
  3. Do not put the cage near or against curtains (they will chew on them and get their legs caught) or any other household items the bird can chew on.
  4. Wood burning stoves, fireplaces, Teflon cookware and Teflon coated items give off fumes that can kill your bird.
  5. Keep plants away from the bird so they cannot chew (almost all plant leaves and stems are poisonous to birds).
  6. Put all electrical cords in PVC pipe or other protective piping, if possible (the birds will chew the cords and electrocute themselves).
  7. Hot light bulbs can burn your bird.
  8. Before you take your bird out of the cage, be sure all ceiling fans are turned off and have stopped rotating. Spinning ceiling fan blades can kill or maim your bird.
  9. When your bird is out of the cage, insure someone in the family is attending to it to keep it company and to protect it from its own curiosity and chewing habits.

Have a happy time with your pet bird. Give it plenty of love and attention and you will have a wonderful companion for many years to come.

Published in Bird Care

Types of Feeds



Various ingredients are ground and mixed together in a meal or ground slightly and then forced under steam and pressure through a “cooking tube’. The cooked ingredients expand and are then forced through specially shaped dies. The resultant product is then cooled. Because the products produced under extrusion are dry and somewhat expanded, oils, fats and other sprays can be easily added. Many whole grains, such as soybeans, can be extruded under pressure and friction without steam. When products are extruded, they are cooked and thus become very palatable. However, this process crates heat which destroys natural enzymes and also produces a kibble which contains larger amounts of air meaning, fat consumption will increase. Where high fat, high protein and palatability are important, extrusion is a preferred method of manufacturing. Added fat, vitamins and natural enzymes are then sprayed on the finished product when it is still hot and the product “soaks up” those add ons during the drying/cooling process.


Cooking at temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit usually destroys natural enzymes.


Various ingredients are finely ground and then forced through a pellet machine and die so that the end result is a compacted food. Because this is a simple compaction and pressure process, no real cooking occurs. There are two types of pelleting processes:

  1. Regular: Steam is injected in order to help lubricate the pellet, allowing the mix to be pelleted faster. In this process, high levels of heat occur.
  2. Cold Pressed: In this process, the mix is forced through the die using very little steam and heat thus helping to preserve naturally occurring enzymes.

In a “regular” pelleting process because of steam and heat, a more compact, harder pellet can be produced having fewer fines (less waste), but this process tends to destroy most natural enzymes and deteriorates vitamins sensitive to heat and moisture. The cold pressed’ process produces a coarser, less compacted pellet. Often there are more fines, but the process has less damaging effects on vitamins and enzymes.

Seed Mixes

These mixes are combinations of various seeds, fruits and other ingredients which are combined in a mixer and then packaged. Heat and moisture are not introduced, thus maintaining natural nutrient content. Because of varying size and weight of each ingredient, there is often “separation’ during shipping and handling. Therefore, it is always recommended that those types of mixes be stirred thoroughly prior to use.

Published in Bird Feed