Parakeets (also known as budgies) are among the most popular pet birds across the globe. They’re fairly easy to take care of, but they’re small and vulnerable to some things, including some types of foods.
If you’re considering becoming a pet bird parent, you might have asked yourself one of the following questions.
What do parakeets eat? What should I feed my parakeet? If that’s so, you’ve ended up in the perfect place as we’re answering these questions (and many others) in this article.
Table of contents
What do parakeets eat?
Parakeets eat a mix of seeds, pellets, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. All of these play an important part in some way or the other, whether that be by providing budgies with the energy they need throughout the day or adding essential vitamins and minerals to their daily diet.
There are some dangerous foods that you should never feed to a parakeet, but we’ll tackle those in the rest of this article. As a general idea, try to avoid feeding your pet birds human-grade food, no matter how much they might be interested in nibbling it.
Plus, when it comes to the perfect parakeet diet, a little goes a long way, so small amounts of everything make for a varied and healthy parakeet food list.
How much seed does a parakeet eat per day? In most cases, a budgie isn’t going to eat more than 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of seeds.
Seeds are not nutritionally complete, so they can’t replace the vitamins, minerals, but also the protein that your budgies have to get from different sources that range from vegetables to legumes.
Here’s a list of what seeds are safe for parakeets (keeping in mind that an all-seed diet is a no-go).
- Millet seeds
- Sunflower seeds (should be fed rarely as they’re rich in fat)
- Safflower seeds
- Canary seeds
A seed-only diet is not ideal for any parakeets. They can begin to suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies and develop a range of health problems from dermatitis to bone problems.
Pellets can be a good way of getting you out of a tricky situation if you’re wondering what to feed parakeets when you’re out of the house. You can place them in the parakeet feeder and not worry about your birds going hungry while you’re at work.
While they have their benefits, helping parakeets stay satiated with little to no effort on your behalf, they also come with drawbacks.
Most pellets are made of grains, so you have to be aware that they don’t compensate for the other things you have to feed to your parakeets. They need fresh fruit, seeds, nuts, and vegetables on a daily basis, even if in small amounts.
So, while pellets are a good option for when you’re away from home, they aren’t that nutritious, so you shouldn’t heavily rely on them.
What should I feed a parakeet if I’m all out of pellets and seeds? You can give them nuts. Nuts have healthy antioxidants and omega 3 essential fatty acids, but like other food groups, they have their drawbacks, too.
Here’s a list of safe nuts to give to your parakeets:
Peanuts have the highest likelihood of being contaminated with mold. The mold itself wouldn’t be as dangerous if it didn’t produce a toxin. (1)
The reason we don’t get sick when eating a moldy peanut is that our bodies are so large that they can process the toxin and release it without it causing potentially lethal consequences.
One can’t compare the body of a parakeet to that of a human being. They’re much smaller and frailer, so anything mildly poisonous can get them killed. So, while nuts are a great addition to your parakeet’s diet, try to avoid peanuts at all cost.
Also, learn how to distinguish the signs of mold on a nut so that you can feed your parakeets only the safest ones. (2)
What fruits can budgies eat? There are many, but as is the case with vegetables, you have to make sure that they are completely safe. This means both are avoiding those that might cause digestive imbalances or be dangerous because of their sugar content, but also steering clear of those that contain pesticides.
Get organic fruit from the store or a farmer’s market, if at all possible. Don’t feed too many fruits for parakeets as they should amount to just around 5-10% of their daily diet.
Here are just a few examples of safe fruit that you can give to your budgies.
You can also offer cherries, apricots, and a variety of pitted fruit to your parakeets, but you have to remove their seeds or pits beforehand. They can be a choking hazard that you want to avoid at all cost.
When it comes to vegetables, they are among the safest types of budgies food you can opt for. They don’t contain too much sugar, as do fruits, but you have to be cautious.
Leafy greens are recommended for parakeets, but some of them can contain large amounts of pesticides (such as spinach, for example).
Make sure to always do your research before adding a new type of vegetable into your birds’ diet. There are many online forums where you can get in touch with other parakeet parents like yourself or ask your vet if you’re feeling concerned.
Here are some safe veggies that you can feed to your budgies.
- Small amounts of cabbage
All of these veggies are excellent, but they should only be fed in moderation. Due to their large water content, some veggies can create digestive distress when fed in too large amounts. (3)
There are a lot of mixed opinions when it comes to feeding parakeets grains. From a nutritional standpoint, grains aren’t as rich in vitamins and minerals as some of the other foods you can give budgies, and they don’t contain as much protein as legumes, either.
But if your pet birds seem to love grains, you can offer them as treats. There are people out there who feed their budgerigar’s bread since they seem to love it. However, not all types of bread are healthy for parakeets.
If you have to succumb to your parakeet pair’s bread-eating tendencies, we advise you to choose a healthy, whole-grain bread variety instead of one that’s packed with sugar and preservatives. Sandwich bread is the worst as it contains a wide range of additives to remain fresh for a longer time.
Cooked oats can be a better, healthier option when adding grains to your parakeets’ diet.
Here is a list of parakeet-friendly grains:
What can budgies eat in terms of treats? Pretty much all foods can become treats if your parakeets love them. Some budgies will go crazy about fruit, for example, and since fruit should never make up more than 5-10% of their daily diet, you can use it as treats.
Other types, such as the commercial treats that are readily available, are a matter of hit and miss. Some parakeets like them, but there are others that might refuse them simply because they were not stored properly.
To make matters worse, most honey sticks are too rich in sugar and also contain too many seeds stuck together. That’s why they have to be offered only once in a while. (4)
In short, fruit is the best kind of treat you can give parakeets and you can use it to help teach your birds how to talk.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential when discussing parakeet diets. They can be found in fresh fruit and vegetables, and that’s why it’s not enough for you to feed your budgies just pellets or just seeds.
Depending on your bird’s age or specific health requirements, you will have to add vitamins and minerals by means of supplementation. For example, baby parakeets have higher calcium necessities, but so do egg-laying females. (5)
Parakeets that do not get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet can develop a variety of deficiencies. In most cases, they begin to have dull plumage and express a lack of energy.
Some parakeets can have such severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies that they could develop nervous symptoms. A vitamin B complex typically solves this problem. A lack of vitamin A can lead to eye disorders. (6) Talk to your vet about what supplements you should give your parakeet pair.
What do parakeets drink?
Not just your parakeets’ feeding habits and diet matter, but also what they drink. Parakeets should only drink water and they should not be given things like soda, beer, or any other type of alcoholic beverage. All of these can be dangerous to them.
To make sure that your parakeet pair gets enough clean water throughout the day, you should make sure that the waterer works properly. If you want to spice things up once in a while, you could try a specialized tea for parrots.
If you know that your tap water contains a lot of chlorine or doesn’t come from a clean and reliable source, you should give your parakeets bottled water instead. Clean the waterer with soap and water daily or once every two days.
Balanced parakeet diet
What can parakeets eat in an ideal situation? Even though budgies are rather adaptable to new foods, they can’t have a diet that’s too rich in something and entirely lacking in something else.
That means that you should never feed your budgerigar seeds or pellets exclusively. In the wild, parakeets eat anything from insects to grass seeds, so a varied diet works best.
Seeds contain too much fat, which means that your pet birds will always be at risk of developing obesity. (7) On the other hand, pellets don’t stimulate a parakeet’s digestion enough, which means that they can cause liver or kidney health problems, gas, or digestive imbalances, in general.
What can birds eat besides bird seed? Here is an example of what the so-called best food for parakeets is on a daily diet.
- Vegetables – 20% of the diet
- Fruits – 5% of the diet
- Pellets or a mix of pellets and seeds – up to 75% of the diet
- Treats – millet spray or honey sticks once a month
- Water – changed every day
- Legumes – up to 10% of the diet
Legumes are important as they contain protein, and you can add them in the form of cooked lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, or split peas (8). Budgies can get essential fatty acids from nuts, too.
What do parakeets eat in the wild?
What do budgies eat in the great outdoors? Wild budgies are omnivores, so they will eat a variety of fruits and veggies, but they will also nibble on seeds, if they get the chance, and also eat insects. In their natural habitat (which is Australia), they have to make do with whatever is available.
What do parakeets eat in the wild when nothing is at hand? Even in this case they come up with creative solutions. Most parakeets are nomadic, which means that they will migrate for food.
If that is not possible, they will eat anything from the grass seeds that people throw on their lawn to whichever fruit or vegetable is in season. (9)
What do baby parakeets eat in the wild? At home, you’d have to give your parakeet mother or father soft food such as cooked rice or cooked lentils (10) so that they can feed it to their baby. In the wild, they will mostly be fed fruit by their parents, but also insects.
How to feed your parakeet
Now that you know what parakeets are supposed to eat, you can feed your budgies correctly. All foods, no matter if they’re seeds or fresh fruit and veggies, should be sized as per your bird. Parakeets are small, so cutting everything into tiny pieces will make it easier for them to eat.
If you want to add a new food into your parakeets’ diet, you should first do your research and find out if it is completely safe. Ask your vet if you don’t seem to find this info online. Pellets should be used as the main type of food, but you can offer your pet birds seeds on occasion and in small amounts.
How do I get my parakeet to eat fruit and veggies? Since these are important as they contain lots of vitamins and minerals, you’ll have to do your best at convincing your parakeet pair that they’re worth trying. Test out as many safe fruits and veggies as possible and learn to avoid taking no for an answer.
Your budgies’ feeder and waterer should be kept as clean as possible, so make sure you devote some time to sanitizing them every day. Add a cuttlebone or a mineral block to the cage so that your birds get important minerals by pecking at them.
What foods NOT to feed to parakeets
To start with an example, chocolate can be extremely dangerous for a variety of pets, not just pet birds — including cats and dogs. This type of food causes severe intoxication in many animals and if no medical assistance is sought out quickly, it can lead to death. (11)
You should never give your parakeet coffee, tea, fried food, any salty foods, dairy products, or alcohol.
What do parakeets like to eat, but shouldn’t? Some types of fruit can be just as dangerous as some human foods. Fruits can contain large amounts of pesticides.
For example, strawberries and cherries are in the so-called ‘dirty dozen’ (12), so they might cause more harm than good.
Check out the foods toxic to birds list that we put together below. (13)
- Onion and garlic
- Sugary, high-sodium, and high-fat foods
- Sugar-free candy (it contains xylitol, which can be toxic to animals)
- Peanuts (they can be moldy and cause severe respiratory or digestive problems in parakeets)
- Dairy products
- Coffee or caffeinated tea
- Any fruit seeds or pits
Does my bird need gravel or grit?
Doves and pigeons need grit or gravel in order to be able to digest food properly. However, that only happens because they eat seeds without removing their hull.
It was long believed that gravel or grit had to be added to a parakeet’s diet in order to help them with their digestion process.
This is a complete myth and if you have had parakeets for a while, you’ve surely noticed that they create a bit of mess while eating — specifically because they remove the hull of the seeds before swallowing the kernel.
Giving your pet birds grit or gravel can even cause health issues that range from the kidney to neurologic problems (14), and even parakeet diarrhea.
There are budgies that can suffer from obstructions of the gastrointestinal tract if they consume too much grit. This is a potentially life-threatening scenario, so do avoid giving your budgies grit.
What human food can parakeets eat?
What should I feed a parakeet if I run out of bird food? Always be cautious when giving your pet bird human food as some things, such as chips or pretzels can be very heavy in salt and can pose a real health threat to your parakeet.
You can also give your parakeet hard-boiled egg. Dairy products are a no-go in this case, as many pet birds are actually lactose-intolerant. Small amounts of greens and vegetables are usually safe.
In the end, just because your parakeet pair is interested in what you regularly eat, that doesn’t mean that your food is a healthy option for pet birds. Buying a seed and pellet mix in bulk can prevent this problem in the future.
If you have any doubts about what you can give to your parakeet, always get in touch with your vet beforehand.
FAQ (Frequently asked questions)
How often should you feed your parakeet?
What do budgies eat and how often? Since seeds make up about 90% of their diet, parakeets should always have them available in the feeder, so fill it up every morning.
How long can a parakeet go without food?
Now that we’ve tackled the ideal parakeet food list, you might be wondering what would happen to your pet bird if they had no access to food. Sadly, a budgie can survive for no more than 24 hours in this case.
How many seeds or pellets should you feed a parakeet?
Small adults have to get around .5 to 1 teaspoon and larger birds require 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of seeds and pellets. Seed mixtures can make up to 70-80% of a daily diet.
Can parakeets eat seeds and pellets suitable for other birds?
Budgie foods aren’t that specific at all. In fact, many parakeet foods share some of their ingredients with those you’d feed to a canary, finch, or even cockatiel.
Can parakeets eat grapes?
Grapes are good sources of copper and vitamin K. Many parakeets love them, but just to be on the safe side of things, you should feed your pet bird seedless grapes only.
Can parakeets eat bananas?
When given in moderation, bananas can make an amazing addition to a parakeet’s diet. They’re delicious, they contain many vitamins, and they’re seedless, so they are safe.
Can parakeets eat bread?
What can birds not eat out of the most common human foods possible? The answer is bread as it provides parakeets with almost no nutrition and it even has sugar.
Can parakeets eat strawberries?
Yes, but only in small amounts. Strawberries can contain salicylic acid and fructose, which can be harmful to a parakeet’s health when they have too much.
Can parakeets eat blueberries?
Given that blueberries don’t cause digestive issues in parakeets and they also contain high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C, they can be a great treat every now and then.
Can parakeets eat peanut butter?
Peanut butter can be a healthy source of protein and it’s also quite palatable to parakeets. But it can be unsafe if the peanuts used in it were moldy so it’s best avoided.
Can parakeets eat oranges?
Even though oranges are safe to feed to your parakeets, they require so much time and effort on your behalf that it might not be worth it. You have to perfectly peel the fruit (including the slices) and remove all of the possible seeds out of each slice.
Can parakeets eat watermelon?
As long as you remove the seeds and the rind, you can feed watermelon to your budgerigars. Make sure you don’t overdo it though, since it contains too much water.
Can parakeets eat tomatoes?
Tomatoes aren’t the best type of food to give your budgies, and that’s because they’re highly acidic. Tomatoes almost always cause digestive imbalances in pet birds.
Can parakeets eat apples?
Yes, but you do have to take the seeds out so that they don’t present a choking hazard to your budgies. They also have to be peeled and sliced.
Can parakeets eat cabbage?
You can feed cabbage to your pair of parakeets, but you always have to be careful about the amounts as it can cause problems with their digestion.
Can parakeets eat fruit?
Fruit can be used as an excellent treat for budgerigars, and the reason for this is that since it contains too much sugar, it should only be fed in small amounts.
Can parakeets eat cherries?
Cherries contain potassium, vitamin A, copper, and a variety of antioxidants. If you make sure you remove the pit, you can feed them to your budgies.
Can parakeets eat carrots?
Carrots can make a nice addition to your parakeets’ diet as they are vitamin-rich and they don’t have any seeds that could pose a risk to your pet birds’ health.
Can parakeets eat pistachios?
You can feed pistachios to your budgerigar so long that they are unsalted. Just make sure that they look perfect and are human-grade. Feed them raw only.
Can parakeets eat lettuce?
Budgies are allowed to eat lettuce, but the quantity has to be restricted as much as possible as it contains a lot of water and it makes the birds gassy.
Can parakeets eat celery?
As long as you do not feed the leaves, just the stalks, celery can be given to parakeets. It can add a bit of variety to their diet and they also like the crunchiness.
Can parakeets eat egg?
Yes, they can. It’s actually recommended that you feed them hard-boiled egg once or twice a week as it contains a healthy dose of protein.
Can parakeets eat pineapple?
Fresh pineapple can be a great treat to give to a parakeet once in a while but like with any other fruit, don’t give them too much as it might cause a digestive upset.
Can parakeets eat mango?
Yes, you are allowed to feed mango to your budgerigar. Since it is a sugary fruit, though, we recommend restricting the amounts you give to the bird.
Can parakeets eat broccoli?
They sure can. Broccoli are healthy as they contain vitamin C, but since they can occasionally cause digestive imbalances, you should restrict the quantity you give to your budgie.
Can parakeets eat crackers?
If they are completely natural, they don’t contain any sugar, salt, preservatives, or anything like this, you can feed crackers to your budgie. However, most commercial crackers are bad.
Can parakeets eat honey?
While parakeets are capable of eating honey per se, they should never have too much. Just one drop can be a rare treat, but budgies shouldn’t have too much sugar in their diet.
Can parakeets eat oatmeal?
So long as the oats don’t contain any preservatives, artificial colors or sweeteners (be they natural or not), you can give them to your budgerigar (cooked or uncooked).