Wildfood For Your Birds

Bobble Grass

Parrots are ‘hard-wired’ to chew. In the course of a day, 50% of their chewing is for eating and 50% is for foraging. Wild birds work hard for their food. In the wild, parrots search methodically for food items. They have to find tiny grass seeds, chew off the outer coating, husk the seed and finally eat it. They forage for seed pods, crack the pod, open the seed and eat the kernel.

However, in captivity, we present them with a bowl of seed. They can eat all they need to keep them alive in 5 to 10 minutes. Then they have nothing to do. Many cages are filled with plastic junk toys, metal bells and doweling perches. There is nothing to chew on except their seed. So the birds eat more seed and become obese, cough potatoes with all of the associated health problems. Parrots in captivity need to chew on green leafy branches and ‘wild foods’ to satisfy their foraging instincts and keep them happy and healthy. Foraging opportunities for captive parrots are necessary to maintain their mental and physical health.

It is the owner’s responsibility to provide foraging and chewing ‘occupational therapy’ opportunities for their pet parrots. Natural branch perches, green, leafy browse, seed pods and selected weeds are readily available to enrich the lives of captive parrots. The following ideas will provide ample chewing and foraging opportunities for pet birds.


Perches should be regarded as disposable. Provide branches that are wide enough for the bird’s foot to be comfortably spread on top of the perch, rather than curled tightly around a narrow perch. Branches should be from Australian native trees as these are non-toxic to native birds. Rough bark is better than smooth as it can be chewed more easily and also provides ‘Dr Scholl’ massage for feet. The following trees make good bird perches:

    • Wattle
    • Bottle Brush
    • Paper Bark
    • Iron Bark


Green, leafy branches from Australian native trees. Avoid ornamental, exotic garden and house plants as they are often toxic. Fresh browse makes the cage look more attractive and provides plenty of occupational and foraging opportunities for captive parrots. Chewing the leaves and bark also provides some nutritional supplements. When collecting browse, leave the flowers for the wild honey-eaters and lorikeets. Wait until the flowers set seeds e.g. bottle brush, eucalyptus, grevillia nuts are full of seeds. These native seeds are bush tucker for pet parrots. Smaller birds, such as cockatiels and budgies, prefer smaller leaved trees. The following trees are good for ‘chewing’:-

    • Lemon scented ti-tree
    • Wattle and Eucalyptus
    • Melaleuca
    • Lilly Pilly
    • Grevillia


Fresh, seasonal, seeding grasses are a natural and easily obtainable ‘wild food’ for pet parrots. Pet birds from budgerigars to cockatoos enjoy foraging through freshly picked grass seeds. The birds will let you know if they don’t like the seeds (e.g. they won’t eat setaria). Always pick seed a few metres from road verges to avoid exhaust fumes. Avoid black mould on seed heads after rain and don’t pick seeds if they have obviously been sprayed with herbicides and are wilted and yellowish. If no fresh seeding grasses are available, plant some bird seed and let it grow into seed heads. Fresh green seed heads are the natural way for birds to eat seed. It is customary and convenient to feed birds pre-packaged, dry seed. However, in the wild they eat fresh, green seed.


Watch what the wild birds eat. There are many nutritious and readily available weeds that make excellent dietary supplements and a foraging source for pet parrots. Some weeds that are non-toxic and nutritious include:-

    • Milk Thistle and other thistles
    • Tropical chick weed
    • Swamp Dock
    • Dandelions (whole plant and flowers)
    • Grevillia

Inclusion of wild food and foliage for nutritional and occupational therapy purposes will enrich your bird’s life. Pet bird owners need to learn about plants and foliage. It is important to become environmentally aware and watch what the wild birds eat. When you go walking, take scissors, sectors and some plastic bags to collect bird friendly plants and foliage. Plant trees that your parrot likes to eat. Grow some bird seed. The wild food and browse will add an extra dimension to your parrot’s physical and mental health.

Collecting fresh grass seed is an excellent way to enrich your bird’s life by providing foraging opportunities.


What are some common wild foods that are good for birds?

Green, leafy branches are great for birds as the bark and leaves provide some nutrition and also gives the bird opportunities to forage like they would in the wild. Just be sure to provide Australian native trees, not ornamental exotic plants that may be toxic to birds, or you may find yourself doing a search for an emergency avian vet near me. Another common wild food that is good for birds are native seeds from plants such as eucalyptus, bottle brush and grevillea nuts.

How can I identify which wild foods are safe for my bird?

There are a few things you can do to make sure the wild foods you are feeding your bird are safe. First, check with your local avian veterinarian to find out if the plant is toxic to birds. If it is not on the list of toxic plants, then it is probably safe for your bird to eat. Second, observe your bird carefully after they eat any new food to make sure there are no adverse reactions. If your bird seems fine, then the food is probably safe. If you suspect that your bird has eaten a toxic plant, contact your veterinarian immediately. Some plants can cause poisoning in as little as one hour, so it is important to seek treatment right away. If you don’t already have an avian vet then do an online search for a 24 hour exotic vet near me.

What are the benefits of feeding wild food to my bird?

There are many benefits to feeding wild food to your bird. Wild food is more natural and nutritious for your bird than commercial food. Commercial food is often processed and lacks the nutrients that wild food contains. Wild food also provides your bird with mental stimulation and enrichment. Foraging for food is instinctive behaviour for birds, and it can help reduce boredom and behavioural problems. Offering a variety of wild foods to your bird will help to keep them healthy and happy.

How can I make sure my bird is getting the best possible nutrition with wild food?

There are a few things you can do to make sure your bird is getting the best possible nutrition from wild food. First, you should provide variety in the types of food you offer. This will ensure that your bird gets a wide range of nutrients. Second, you can offer smaller meals more often. This will help your bird digest the food more effectively and absorb more nutrients. Finally, you can supplement the diet with vitamins and minerals to make sure your bird is getting all the nutrients it needs. Do a search for a bird vet clinic near me to find the correct dietary supplements for your bird and get the right nutritional advice.

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  1. Hi, we have some rosella plants in flowers, was wondering if they are safe for an indian ringneck to browse on? I have only been able to find info on normal hibiscus and rose hips

  2. Hi. I’d like to get a small indoor plant but so many are waxy so not suitable for my cockatiel. I have plenty of native bushes I give him but this is decor for the house. I know he will want to chew it once discovered!

  3. G’day,
    I have a galah, about 30-40 years of age and although he is fed with small bird pellets, I also try to give him fruit and greens, apple core with pips in, broccoli, pieces of carrot, centre of celery, etc he will ignore almost anything else other than garden weeds. I have just pulled the flower heads from those but after reading your excellent article, will in future give him the whole plant and look for other edibles mentioned.
    Thank you for making such an informative article available, I have copied it for future reference.
    Sincere good wishes,

  4. Can you advise if eucalyptus leaves and bottle brush are safe for quaker parrots to chew on.

    Many thanks


  5. Came across your page on a Birdtricks post. I live in the US and have a healthy 7 year old parrotlet. Any ideas on foraging grasses and or trees. He’s lazy and won’t trim down his beak!

  6. Hello
    I have a grass thats not on your website, and was wondering if its OK for my budgie to eat. Could I emaila photo of it to you?
    Many Thanks,
    Jude Bunn

  7. I have been collecting seeding grass each day for my 2 budgies. I live in a busy area so the cars are a problem. I always give the grass seeds a good wash. Will that help to make them safer or not. I do worry about the rubbish that comes out of the exhausts.
    Thank you-Di

  8. I am interested in putting together a more comprehensive diet resource list for my 3 eclectus parrots. I currently provide a daily ration of Volkman brand eclectus mix, along with some vegetables, but I would like to improve on that. Can you recommend any good websites or people that live in AUS that have first-hand experience observing Eclectus in the wild? thank you

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