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Can Parrots Eat Kale? Vet-Reviewed Health Concerns

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

chopped kale

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Parrots are amazing pets with long lifespans that can be great fun to raise and care for. They are intelligent enough to learn several words and can have a varied diet that contains vegetables, seeds, and fruit.

Many parrot owners often wonder if it is safe to feed kale to their pets, especially since it is extremely healthy for humans. Fortunately, kale is also safe and healthy for parrots, albeit with a few considerations. Keep reading while we list the benefits and potential drawbacks of feeding this veggie to your bird and provide tips for serving it safely. For the purposes of this article, we will be referring to bigger parrot species such as Red and Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), as parrots can refer to various species with very different nutritional requirements.

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Benefits of Feeding Kale to Parrots

Vitamin A

Bone growth, proper functioning of the adrenal gland, and normal reproductive function all require vitamin A in most species. Additionally, a bird’s colorful plumage, especially any red and yellow hues, is a result of beta-carotene pigments, and birds that don’t get enough vitamin A may appear paler in comparison with those that do.

Close up of green curly kale plant
Image Credit: BlueSky_31, Shutterstock

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the creation of elastic fibers and connective tissues and functions as a potent antioxidant comparable to vitamin E. Insufficient levels can result in scurvy, characterized by impaired wound healing, heightened bleeding due to fragile capillary walls, and weakened bones. That said, most birds produce vitamin C in their livers and don’t require it in their diet.

Calcium

Calcium is vital for the development and maintenance of strong bones and beaks in parrots. It also helps with blood clotting and muscle function.

Iron

Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It is involved in various cellular processes, including energy production and DNA synthesis.

Potassium

Along with sodium, potassium helps regulate fluid balance in and out of cells, contributing to proper hydration. It also helps with acid balance and muscle control.

Green vegetable of Kale Spinach Broccoli on white background
Image Credit: SOPINPHUSUWAN, Shutterstock

Hydration

Like many leafy greens, kale contains plenty of water, contributing to hydration and supporting overall well-being.

Variety in Diet

Introducing kale can add variety to your parrot’s diet, preventing dietary monotony and potentially encouraging a broader range of nutrient intake.

Dietary Fiber

The fiber content in kale can contribute to healthy digestion, aiding in the prevention of digestive issues.

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Health Concerns of Feeding Kale to Parrots

Calcium-to-Phosphorus Ratio

Kale has a high phosphorus content and a less-favorable calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. While it contains calcium, it’s essential to balance it with other calcium-rich foods to avoid potential imbalances that can affect bone health.

Oxalates

Like many leafy greens, kale contains oxalates that can bind with minerals like calcium, forming crystals that may impact kidney health and form kidney stones. Monitoring overall oxalate intake from various sources is crucial.

Pesticide Residues

Kale can be covered in pesticides that can be harmful to your parrot’s health. Therefore, it’s important to wash it carefully before offering it, even if it’s an organic variety.

Kale
Image Credit: Katharina N., Pixabay

Thyroid Function

Kale contains goitrogen, a compound that can affect thyroid function. While the levels are typically not high enough to cause issues, it’s wise to be mindful, especially for parrot species prone to thyroid concerns.

Individual Sensitivities

Some parrots may have individual sensitivities or preferences for the foods that they eat. Observing your parrot’s response to kale is crucial. If there are signs of digestive upset, you’ll need to stop offering it immediately.

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How to Feed Kale to Parrots

1. Introduce it Gradually

Introduce kale gradually into your parrot’s diet. Start with small amounts, and observe how your parrot responds to help prevent digestive upset and allow your parrot to adjust to the new food.


2. Choose Organic and Washed Kale

Choose organic kale to minimize the risk of pesticide exposure, and thoroughly wash it before offering it to your parrot to remove any residual chemicals and debris and ensure that it’s clean and safe.

kale on the table
Image Credit: Pixabay

3. Prepare the Kale

Remove the tough stems, and chop or shred the kale into smaller, more manageable pieces for your parrot, to make it easier for them to eat.


4. Monitor Portion Sizes

Be mindful of portion sizes. While kale is nutritious, feeding it in large amounts can lead to imbalances in the diet. A varied diet is essential for preventing nutrient deficiencies or excesses.


5. Set Up Foraging Opportunities

Encourage natural behaviors in your parrot by incorporating kale into foraging activities. You can place kale in foraging toys or hide it in various locations to stimulate mental and physical engagement.


6. Observe for Signs of Dietary Issues

Keep an eye on your parrot for any signs of dietary issues. Changes in behavior, feather condition, or droppings may indicate problems. If you notice any unusual signs, consult with a veterinarian for guidance.

Veterinarian examining sick African grey parrot with stethoscope at vet clinic
Image Credit: Lucky Business, Shutterstock

7. Consult a Veterinarian

Regular check-ups with an avian veterinarian are crucial. A veterinarian can provide guidance on your parrot’s specific dietary needs, monitor their health, and address any concerns that may arise.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I Feed Kale to My Parrot Every Day?

While kale is nutritious, you shouldn’t feed it to your parrot every day. Moderation is essential for avoiding potential imbalances in the diet. Rotate kale with other vegetables and greens to provide variety and a balance of nutrients.

How Much Kale Can I Feed My Parrot at Once?

Start with small amounts when introducing kale. Observe how your parrot reacts and adjust portion sizes accordingly. Offering it in moderation helps prevent digestive upset and ensures a balanced diet.

Kale
Image Credit: JumpStory

Can I Freeze Kale for My Parrot?

Freezing kale can be a way to preserve it, but freezing may affect the texture. Thawed kale may be softer, but some parrots may find it less appealing. Experiment to see if your parrot still enjoys it.

Are There Any Substitutes for Kale If My Parrot Doesn’t Like It?

If your parrot doesn’t like kale, you can try other leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, or Swiss chard. Providing a variety of greens ensures a diverse nutrient intake and will help keep your parrot looking forward to their next meal.

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Summary

Kale is a nutritious food for humans, and it’s perfectly safe to share a small amount with your pet parrot. It has several nutrients that are beneficial to these birds, including vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, iron, and potassium. However, kale contains a large number of oxalates and has a poor calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, so you will need to limit how often you offer it. Choose organic kale when possible, and clean it carefully to remove any pesticides before chopping it into small pieces to reduce the risk of choking.

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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