UPDATE January 26, 2013: I have altered the poster (removed the fish reference) after a message from New Life Parrot Rescue: Hemp seed is also another great essential fatty acids. We wouldn’t advocate feeding parrots fish due to pollutants in our waters and the fact that most parrots are essentially vegan and get their EFAs through a plant-based diet, including nuts and important seeds and grains.

Today, our guest blogger from FeedingFeathers, Shauna Roberts, writes about nuts and the reasons to add them to a parrot’s diet — in moderation: 

Nuts are a food that energize.They are oily kernels within a hard-shelled fruit. Technically nuts are a few different things. Almonds and pistachios are fruits, peanuts are a legume and pine nuts and Brazil nuts are seeds. In general, nuts and seeds can be a source of vitamin E, essential fatty acids, protein and some are sources of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium as well as other nutrients.


Due to high fat content, they are an excellent energy source but should be fed in moderation as not to pack on extra grams. If eaten in excess, fats challenge the liver.

Although nuts are high in fat, they contain some beneficial fats. How much and what type of fats varies per nut type. Walnuts have recently been touted as a source of essential fatty acid omega-3 and although this is true, it’s mostly a source of omega-6. Best sources of omega-3 are flax and chia seed. Hemp seeds provide both omega 6 and omega 3.

For captive parrots that are not nearly as active compared to their wild cousins, nuts should be used sparingly. Take into consideration your parrot’s species and also how active each individual parrot is. A large Macaw that is moderately active could probably have up to 6 nuts a day, where as an inactive Amazon that sits on the perch most all day may only get 1/2-1 almond or cashew.

An odd, nutty vintage postcard

An odd, nutty vintage postcard

Some highlights:

  • Pistachios contain carotenoids, hazelnuts provide a little.
  • Walnuts are a source of omega 3 and all nuts are a source of essential fatty acids.
  • Brazil nuts provide selenium.
  • Hazel nuts and pine nuts for manganese.
  • Pecans for flavanoids.
  • Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are sources of proanthocyanidins. Flavanoids and proanthyocyanidins are phytochemicals that may decrease risk of some diseases.

Nuts in their shell can be stored in a cool dry area and should last up to a year. Shelled nuts should be refrigerated or frozen in airtight containers and used up as soon as possible.

A special note about peanuts


I’ve sat through 11 years of veterinary conferences and all vets are anti-peanut (with hard corn being an even bigger threat, along with some grains).

Peanuts can contain mycotoxins (mold/fungi) and are not suggested for parrots.

Peanuts are graded for aflatoxins by the FDA. Human grade peanuts cannot contain more than 20 ppb, but pet grade (depending on the source) may possibly be as high as 200-300 ppb.

If a person decides to feed the occasional peanut to a parrot, human grade roasted peanuts are suggested, but still discouraged. Parrots are said to be up to 200 times more sensitive to aflatoxins than humans.

More from The Gabriel Foundation:

For those of you who feed peanuts to your parrots, please be aware:

  • Peanuts are often contaminated with aflatoxin, a fungal toxin. Aflatoxin is carcinogenic and causes liver damage in birds and other animals. It is often in the shell as well as in the peanut itself. Roasting peanuts reduces aflatoxin but does not eliminate it entirely.
  • Peanuts with dark spots on them should be considered suspect; but even those that look clean and perfect could possibly be contaminated.
  • Peanuts in nearly every commercial parrot/seed diet are not human-grade. Even feeding human grade/organic peanuts can be a health hazard to your bird. With better nutrition available to our birds in almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, TGF recommends that you leave peanuts out of your bird’s diet.
  • If you cannot resist giving your parrot a peanut, then feed only out of shell, dry roasted and unsalted peanuts. TGF suggests feeding them in tiny pieces for positive reinforcement when training your bird or when you want to reward your bird’s desired behavior.

Nutty ideas from around the web

Winning foraging toy designs from Creative Bird Toys

Winning foraging toy designs from Creative Bird Toys


Some great foraging toys from Creative Bird Toys (thank you, Dena for your email telling me about your wonderful toys!)


Nut Cage idea from Foraging for Parrots

Nut Cage idea from Foraging for Parrots

Nut-treat Cage idea, found on Foraging For Parrots

Pleeeeease share your Palmnut with me!

Pleeeeease share your Palm Nut with me!

A cute photo story about one Palm Nut and two parrots, found on

A Cape Parrot shows off his Foraging Tower prowess. More photos here.

About Shauna Roberts:

Shauna has had an interest in nutrition since the mid late 1960s. She renewed that interest in 1997 when a cockatoo wasn’t doing well on pellets, and she realized a fresh diet was needed. The bird is now over 17 and doing well, as is the rest of her flock – now 16 – some of which arrived with dietary health issues. She is also a diet consultant for the parrot welfare organization, The Gabriel Foundation. Her research has taken her to various conferences to listen to nutrition experts as far as Japan and EU, as well as attending AAV (Association of Avian Veterinarians) conferences since 2003 in her mission to learn.

After retiring as a veterinary assistant, she discovered the internet and has been learning from and helping bird owners since 1995. In 2003, a parrot food list was founded named FeedingFeathers and now has over 3,700 members.

Further information:

Download the poster here

Creative Commons  License

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5 Responses to Nuts!

  1. Nancy Hijar March 28, 2013 at 5:12 am #

    Thank you for this most important information. I use peanuts in
    my parrots diet, and appreciate this very informative information.

  2. Dena March 7, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    ARE YOU KIDDING in showing a ziploc plastic bag containing nuts as a suggested foraging bag??? It’s seen in the image above with a lesser sulfur-crested too’s head through the cardboard & making holes in the plastic bag with nuts in it plus it’s noted below that the photo is: “From Kris Porter’s Parrot Enrichment site”. REALLY???

    • Cheryl March 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

      Hi Dena,

      Thank you very much for pointing this out. You are absolutely correct, and I have removed the image from the post. Do you make bird toys (wondering because of your email)? If you have an example of a toy you make showing foraging with nuts, I would be pleased to take a look and put it in the post.

      Thank you again for caring enough for parrots to call me on the image.


      PS Image aside, Kris’ site is full of great ideas, and I encourage people to check it out.

      • Dena March 9, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

        Hi Cheryl,
        I have lots of foraging bird toys!! I have been creating them before there was a buzz-word & for over 15 years now…’GFBToys’ I create foraging toys for canary-finch, keet (seeds can be added to forage) all the way up to large macaws/cockatoos (seeds to nuts can be added). I don’t create any toys that go out containing any seeds or nuts in them but they can be added. I don’t include the seeds or nuts because of:
        -during transit (UPS or USPS), if it’s hot &/or humid could create issues, bugs, etc
        (I have handmade paper hearts that contain seeds, during the heat/humid parts of the summer I do not ship any toys containing them…grain worms).
        -someone could have an allergy to the nuts or seeds that are in the toy
        -nut cost being added to the toy cost & they are on the rise!! Plus I would only use Grown in the USA nuts.
        -Nor would I ever drill through the nut either, that’s creating an opening for issues or contamination to enter easily.
        My GFBToys for foraging range in products they are made from, such as paper, cardboard boxes, rubber, etc… (If you send me your email address, I can send you images of a variety of foraging toys).
        Please take a moment to look at my website:
        On the retail site I have a section on info on the parts used on GFBToys:
        My toys, GFBToys have won awards for designs:
        Thank you, Dena

  3. Caroline W.P June 7, 2016 at 6:22 am #

    This information concerns me, as a lot of the food i buy in pet stores contain hard corn and peanuts! I also bought baking grade almonds for my birds, no additives, just sliced and hopped almonds whitout their “shell”

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