When it comes to the diet of my parrots I’m definitely always keen to learn more about the best approaches to the presentation, timing of delivery and composition of their daily food intake. It seems that no matter how many years I have kept parrots for, I find every aspect of feeding them to be a source of continual learning. On one of my recent ventures to the supermarket I came across `Okra’ (Scientific name - Abelmoschus esculentus). It reminded me of the sort of elongated, bean like pod that I have seen footage of South American parrot species feeding on in the wild. I asked an employee who was dutifully stacking the Granny Smith’s nearby what it tasted like. The response wasn’t favourable – which got me even more excited given that my birds tend to eat stuff I normally turn my nose up at anyway, a good indicator that I might be on to a winner here (admittedly – I am better at dishing nutritional advice for parrots rather than taking said advice onboard for my own diet!). Taste potential aside I figured I would give it a go – I was intrigued at what the reception might be from my birds. I have to add here - Let’s keep in mind that Parrots are reported to have less than 500 taste buds compared with the nearly 10 000 in humans, hence a poorly developed sense of taste which might explain why, in reality, taste probably has little or nothing to do with feeding preferences. Might also explain why they happily chow down on some pretty cardboardesque foods we feed them without too much fuss.
Back to the Okra… The cool thing about the Okra pods is that they are loaded with seeds but encased in a tough, fibrous pouch. I like foods like this that combine all of the nutritional value we are keen to expose them to but also come packaged in their own `nature made’ enrichment package that requires some work and effort expenditure to penetrate to get into that seedy centre (the place where the seeds are found – not the red light district of your local capital city). Your parrot isn’t interested in the exterior and if the interior of the food is enticing enough, presenting it to them whole is a great way to increase the duration required to feed and to stimulate some highly desirable, functional behaviour.
The Okra was a hit with just about all of my parrots. They relished the opportunity to tear into the bounty of seeds within and it definitely added some interest value for the few days that it was available. It provided a timely reminder to me to keep trying out new things with the feeding of my birds. It’s incredibly easy to get stuck with routine feeding and fail to keep things variable. More variability – less predictability, the key mantra for successful environmental arrangement of parrot enclosures!
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) Like Crocodile Dundee once said... `You can eat it... but it tastes like s@#t' Darn good enrichment food for your parrots though!!!