According to the American VeterinaryAssociation, parrots need a minimum of 8,000 IU of Vitamin A every day — that’s 2,000 IU more than the human RDA!
Vitamin A deficiencies can appear within two to five months. The first damage occurs to the liver–or, in an egg or chick, damage shows up as birth defects on the limbs. Adult birds usually exhibit symptoms in the throat, crop, and respiratory tract–including reduced cellular immunity, slow tissue healing, increased rate of infections, and problems with their mucous membranes. Vitamin A malnutrition is nearly always present in birds fed an all-seed diet.
Animal and fish tissues are the best sources, which is why some people advocate using cod liver oil in a bird’s diet. Plants don’t make Vitamin A, but they do offer carotenes (provitamins). enzymes in a parrot’s gut break carotenes down to Vitamin A but not always as efficiently. (Beta cerotene, for instance, retains about 10 percent of its potency.) That’s why it’s so important to feed substantial amounts of Vitamin A-rich foods!
The Best Sources of Vitamin A
- Sweet potoates, yams
- Squash (especially those with orange flesh–kabocha, pumpkin, Moroccan and Tahitian)
- Brocolli stems and leaves (not the parts you eat), Chinese brocoli
- Rapini or broccoli rabe
- Greens (beet, bok choy, mustard, collard)
- Red chiles
Vitamin A absorption is enhanced by the presence of zinc and vitamins E and C.