Foraging is the newest trend in parrot toys and training. It involves helping your parrot entertain himself by searching for food. One of the big reasons we are encouraging foraging for our pet parrots is to help them occupy their day and to stimulate their minds.

In the wild, a typical day might look something like this: Wake up, fly to the communal morning spot with your flock mates. Socialize until everyone arrives. Then, fly off in search of food. Find food that is ready to eat. Eat food, by tearing apart pods, nuts, or fruits. Fly to the preening spot, preen yourself and others. Take a mid day nap. Fly in search of water, get a drink in rotation where someone is watching, someone is drinking, then switch. Fly to find more food. Find another food source and access the pods, nuts or fruits again. Fly to the social spot and get in one last chat or preen. Then fly to the night-time roost to sleep. Throughout the day periodically watch out for predators.

A Parrots Day

The daily activities of our parrots’ wild counterparts are very active, some species flying many kilometers a day. It is usually very social, often interacting with large flocks. And it involves searching, finding, and accessing food sources. Keeping in mind this can look very different for each species, we can make some generalizations. Namely, our birds don’t fly kilometers a day, live singly in a cage, and have food provided in bowls. None of which stimulates their species-specific behaviours that come naturally.

We can never replicate an African Savanna in our living rooms or hope to duplicate the Amazon Rainforest either. What we can do is help our birds “flex” these innate behaviours like flapping, socializing, and searching for food. We need to help them fill their day with SOMETHING. Foraging is the act of searching for food and will be the topic of the next Parrot Club meeting!

Foraging is learned. I often hear about birds that don’t know how to forage. That’s normal! They have always had food provided in a bowl! We can teach foraging by using foods your bird usually eats and offering these foods in novel ways. Start easy, like having four food dishes spread around the cage. Then SLOWLY increase complexity until searching and finding food become part of their skillset. Using muffin wrappers, paper cups, egg cartons, skewers, or baffle foragers, the possibilities are endless. We will talk about what to try, how to use them, and when to increase difficulty at the next meeting!

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I hope to see you at the next meeting to help you incorporate more foraging into your birds’ life!

– Robin Horemans

KPA CTP, IAABC, Calgary Bird School