Bird Seed Isn't What It Used to Be: Innovations in Feeding Pet Birds

A few decades back, exotic companion birds were fed the same bird seed as commercial poultry. However, this inaccurate assumption that such vastly different birds should eat the same food was quickly debunked.

Research during the past 20 years has demonstrated that nutrient requirements are different among various bird types. Even among different companion birds, the requirements vary greatly in regards to what bird seed is most beneficial for their dietary needs.

The most popular pet birds fall into two major categories:


  • Bird types: Canaries, finches and other perching/songbirds
  • Dietary requirements: Seed-based diets are optimal.


  • Bird types: Parrots, parakeets, cockatiels, lories and macaws
  • Dietary requirements: Varied diets consisting of fruit and vegetables along with seed mixes produce the healthiest birds.

Making the perfect bird seed

Unsupplemented bird seed is the simplest way to feed your bird. This option typically contains two or more seed varieties, making it best for passerines.

Another option is buying a seed mixture and supplementing it with compounds that provide vitamins A and D, calcium, and amino acids. These supplements come in the form of seed coatings or specially extruded pellets.

The final option is a manufactured diet made from extruded bird food. Manufacturers sell the final product by protein, fat, vitamin and mineral content rather than identifying specific ingredients. This ensures that you are fulfilling your bird’s dietary requirements.


Feel free to give all types of companion birds supplementary food in the form of treats. This encourages foraging behavior and prevents your bird from getting bored. The most beneficial types of bird treats are millet sprays, which are millet seed heads that hang in the bird cage for your feathered friends to enjoy whenever they want.

Other healthy types of bird treats include:

  • Small grain mixtures
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Honey
  • Parrot treat sticks
  • Sprouted mixtures with wheat, safflower, millet, sorghum, and/or buckwheat seeds