The Australian Galah

 

GALAH DIET

 

Natural diet in the wild
The natural diet is varied, consisting of several foods that will vary seasonally and depend upon location, mostly consisting of seeds, oats, wheat and several grasses (button, flinders, mitchell), weeds such as cape and storksbill. Galahs also dig in the dirt or grass for insects, larvae and shallow plant roots. These cockatoos also will eat budding new growth on trees, leaves and blossoms of various shrubs, trees, grasses and plants. Also berries and occasionally fruit such as passionfruit, mango, starfruit, pawpaw, lychee, although fruit does not seem to be their most relished food. Nuts such as pandanus and casuarina can be found on the ground and fed to native pet Galahs.

 

Diet for a pet Galah:
The difference in lifestyles between a wild and a companion Galah need to be considered when you are considering a proper and nutritious diet. A wild Galah uses a tremendous amount of energy on a daily basis, flying, playing, foraging for food, raising families, avoiding predators etc. A companion Galah does not expend the amount of energy to burn up the same amount of calories and because of this can easily become obese if fed the natural/wild diet that is high in fat.

A Galah needs to be fed a diet low in fat if it is going to have a chance of keeping its waistline in shape. Therefore a diet consisting, for example of sunflower seeds, would be totally inappropriate. Not only would this not be nutritionally sound, but would be very high in fat. Sunflower seed contents 35-49% fat, depending on the variety and would lead to an obesity problem for a Galah in no time. Cockatoos in general should be fed a diet consisting of no more than 5-8% fat on average, and a galah with its propensity towards obesity, should be on a diet of about 3-4% fat. This does not mean that a galah cannot have an occasional sunflower seed, or other seeds or nuts as a treat. The concern here, is the total fat percentage of the daily diet. Fat content, calories and carbohydrate intake all need to be considered.

Also a good diet does not consist of one or two items but a variety of items and those items should vary some on a daily basis.

Suggested foods are (organic foods if available): millet, sprouted seeds, grasses, vegetables, greens, cooked brown rice, grains, cooked legumes, wheat pasta, fruits, birdie bread

 

Why organic?
Over the years our soils have become depleted, losing valuable nutrients. Organic farmers work the soil in a more natural way and the produce ends up containing valuable trace minerals and better overall nutritional content. When the digestive system lacks minerals, vitamins can simply pass through, unabsorbed. Trace minerals are absorbed through the gut and can help keep the gut working properly. Besides, if you offer your bird an organically grown vegetable and a conventionally grown one, there is a very high chance that it will choose the organically grown one.....somehow they know, possibly because organic is often fresher, or perhaps it looks different to them. Organic frozen vegetables can be served, whenever fresh is not available or is simply more convenient for you. Fresh however, is the most ideal. Also, many seasonal items can be frozen such as pomegranates, pumpkin and cranberries. Organic produce is not always available to everyone. In this case fresh produce is the next best choice, preferably using a vegetable wash (available in most produce sections) to remove pesticides.

 

Millet:
A good low fat seed (actually a grain) is millet at about 4% fat. There are several kinds of millet and your Galah might prefer one over another. Some tend to prefer the larger millets. Millet is one of the oldest and most nutritious foods we know. As a grain, it is nutritionally balanced, non acid forming and is rich in high grade protein (containing 10 essential amino acids), minerals, vitamins and lecithin. You can buy millet sprays at a bird supply store or unhulled millet at your health food store.

Mega-millet sold at bird supply stores, actually is not millet but the grain milo. Milo is approximately 4% fat, 11% protein and 2% minerals.

For variation, you can plump millet sprays by simmering them for about 10 minutes. You can also sprout millet. Also look for puffed millet in the cereal section of your local health food store, for something a little different.

 

Seeds:
Although seeds are a source of nutrition, some can be high in fat. If unsprouted seeds are fed, they should only be fed occasionally as treats. Here is a table showing averaged fat percentages of some common seeds.

 

Fat Protein Carbohydrate
Canary Seed 5.6 15.6 65.6
White Millet 4.1 11.5 69.4
Groats 6.6 14.3 67.5
Sunflower (striped) 33.9 21.7 41.5
Sunflower (white) 47.0 24.0 20.2
Sunflower (black) 49.0 22.0
Safflower 34.6 15.2 43.2
Pumpkin 42 32

 

 

Sprouted seeds:
Seeds can be an important part of the diet, but must be from a clean source and be fresh. Seeds can provide vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin as well as essential amino acids and minerals. When you sprout a seed, it comes to life, changing its entire chemical composition. The fatty oils found in the seeds are converted to essential fatty acids.

Sprouts are an ideal source of protein that can also help the body to cleanse itself. Besides providing protein, sprouts are rich in almost every nutrient, vitamins (especially vitamin A, B vitamins, C, D and E), enzymes, essential fatty acids and minerals (including iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and chromium) all of which are natural antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and protect against toxic chemical buildup. The few calories that are found in sprouts come from simple sugars, which makes them a quick source of energy.

Sprouting is easily done, and there are several "how to do" articles about it on the internet. Sprouting can be safe, as long as it is done properly by washing, soaking and rinsing with an anti bacterial, anti fungal agent such as grapefruit seed extract or a diluted bleach solution. Sprouting times can vary, depending on your area of the country, time of year, room used etc. You need only sprout seeds until a tail appears. At this time the maximum nutritional value has been reached. Most sprouts that are not greened up and only have tails, can be frozen for storage. It is often easiest to sprout hulled seeds that you can buy in your health food store. There are also sources where you can buy sprouting mixes for birds. China Prairie comes highly recommended, providing a fresh clean product with easy to follow instructions.

China Prairie has had success treating fatty tumors (lipomas) in Galahs with spouts. This is what they said:

The Avian FRESH Diet Program has shown numerous times that it can "remove" (resolve) fatty tumors on Galahs without surgery. Sometimes it takes six to eight months for the tumors to completely disappear, and on one 20 year old male with very large tumors it took nearly two years. What this demonstrates also is that Galahs fed The Avian FRESH Diet Program, that do not have fatty tumors, will be free of the problem. The fat content of a diet is not the most important factor. It is the ability of the bird to process and utilize that fat. Sprouting converts fats to fatty acids and sugars. The herbs in the AFD program contribute to the utilization. Sprouting is always a good thing, but what is sprouted is more important. The components in AFD have proven to be capable of balancing the birds nutritional intake so that elements like fats, proteins, and minerals are utilized whether they be in lesser or greater amounts than what is considered correct. Of course, if detrimental elements like synthetics and other toxics are present in the birds diet, optimum health is more difficult to achieve. Remember that each bird is unique and will respond to good and bad factors in it's diet differently (just like people).

 

Birdie Bread:
Birdie bread is most often corn bread, to which whole eggs (including the shells for added calcium), several chopped vegetables, grains and fruit have been added. Often sweet potatoes or carrots are added to help supply vitamin A. There are several recipes that can be found on the web.

 

Food suggestions:

 

Vegetable suggestions:
Green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, red and green capsicum, *spinach, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, cooked white potato, cabbage, small amounts of yellow corn, only a few times per week
Orange vegetables:
Limit these vegetables to 2-3 times per week with the exception of carrots due to their carbohydrate content: cooked sweet potato or cooked yams (dark flesh),butternut and acorn squash, carrots, pumpkin.

 

Herbs:
Small amounts of the following might be enjoyed: rosemary, basil, watercress, thyme, garlic, dill, cilantro, savory

 

Greens:
dark leaf lettuces, dandelion greens, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, beet greens, *swiss chard

* spinach and swiss chard contain high amounts of oxalic acid. Whereas several other foods contain a trace or moderate amount of oxalic acid of about 200-400 mg. per 100 g. of food, spinach and swiss chard contain over 1,000 mg. per 100 g. of food. Oxalic acid may interfere with the absorption or use of calcium or magnesium present in the diet. It may combine with these mineral elements to form highly insoluble compounds. It is recommended that the amount of spinach and swiss chard in the diet should be limited.

Both of these greens are highly nutritious and oxalic acid fed in the proper amounts is beneficial for digestion. However, cooked spinach or chard should never be offered as the oxalic acid is rendered useless to aid digestion and it will still bind calcium and magnesium, preventing its absorption. So if feeding spinach or chard, feed it raw and in limited quantities. Excess amounts of cooked spinach have been linked to serious calcium deficiencies resulting in bone loss in humans. There have not been any studies done specifically on birds to know how they react to oxalic acid.

 

Fruits:
pomegranates (a possible favorite), passionfruit, oranges, berries and apple (fed in limited amounts as apple is mostly fiber with little nutrition), cherries......you might also want to try - cantaloupe, organic strawberries, nectarines, peaches, apricots, pears, bananas, plums, mango, figs, papaya, kiwi, star fruit

 

Grass:
Wheatgrass can be found in some grocery or health food stores, growing live in containers. If you cannot find live wheatgrass, you can buy it powdered in capsule form and sprinkle it on food as a limited natural supplement.

Bean and rice mixtures are often greeted eagerly. These should be cooked. Homemade mixtures would consist of several varieties of legumes along with rice and grains. The mixture should be soaked for at least 6 hours, then boiled for 10 min., and simmered for 20 more min. and cooled before serving. Legumes, grains and potatoes are cooked to neutralize enzymes that inhibit digestion and also to neutralize toxins. You can find many of these bean and grain mixtures available premixed, look for the low fat ones. If you cook your own bean and grain mixture, using equal amounts of each, your mixture will contain approximately 2% fat and 10% protein.

Bean suggestions-pinto beans, black-eyed peas, adzuki, green and yellow split peas, garbanzo, black beans.

Grains-wheat, barley, triticale, brown rice, millet, oats

 

Pellets:
This is a product that is fairly new on the market . Pellets were developed partially to help combat malnutrition in birds, which were being fed a 100% seed diet and also as a convenience for bird owners. If you are feeding pellets, they are not recommended to make up any more than 40% -50% of the diet. There are also some veterinarians who have lowered their pellet recommendation to 20-30% of the total diet. Be sure to offer a wide variety of other foods as well. When looking for a pellet for a Galah, check the fat content. There are some low fat pellets with a 3% fat content available.

 

Supplementation:
A wide spectrum water soluble vitamin supplement is one choice but not necessarily needed if feeding a fresh variable diet. You can store vitamins in the refrigerator, in a salt shaker, with several holes and sprinkle on wet or green food, sparingly 3-4 times a week, if you are not feeding a pellet based diet. NEVER put supplements in the water, as this can cause bacterial growth. If you feed pellets, be careful offering supplements, as they can easily be overdone. Only offer a sprinkle of them on food one or two times a week on the average. Suggested supplements that are not synthetic are wheatgrass, spirulina, blue green algae (occasionally some birds are sensitive to spirulina or blue green algae).

Foods that should NEVER be offered are: Chocolate, Avocado, Alcohol, Caffeine

Other foods to avoid are:
refined sugar, dairy products (with the exception of nonfat yogurt and small occasional amounts of cheese), salt, fried foods

Diet Summary:
An optimal diet for a Galah would consist mostly of fresh greens and green vegetables with the additions of orange vegetables 2-3 times a week. If your bird picks through the fresh food, only eating its favorites, then chop food finely or pulse it in a food processor, making a veggie mash. This will help ensure that your Galah is eating all of the variety of produce you have fed it. Finely choppd fruits can be added. Varieties of millet can be added to the diet for the hard seed and sprouts are a wonderful nutritious addition, which are highly recommended. Also a warm cooked bean and grain mixture and a treat of birdie bread will round out the diet. Fruits can be offered daily. Cooked egg can be offered in small quantities once or sometimes twice a week. Be sure that you offer a variety of foods, not just a lot of the same foods. Make every meal is a little different from the last one, this way you should be supplying adequate nutrition.

 

Obesity:
If you have a galah that is overweight, you will need to make special considerations for its diet, along with making sure it is getting plenty of exercise. If your galah has a very sudden weight gain or loss, you should watch it carefully and consult your avian veterinarian. It should also be noted when referring to weight averages, that Australian Galahs, tend to be a bit larger than the Galahs found in the US and weights can range from 255 to 430gm, the average being 330. Males tend to be slightly larger than females. So you need to know the size of your galah, and what your vet recommends as it's individual ideal weight. The following are suggestions by a post from Sam Foster, who has bred Galahs and is now a professional avian behavioral consultant:

I have mentioned before to several people that galahs are prone to obesity in domestic and captive environments. They have such naturally high 'energy' that it almost seems impossible for us to provide enough aerobic exercise for them to burn off the calories they 'eagerly' devour each day.

As you know, it can often be much harder to lose weight (whether human or avian) than to gain it. The objective in this situation should not necessarily be to lose the weight 'quickly', but to do so in a healthy manner that will reidentify, for the bird, his eating and exercise pattern. This is totally dependent upon the bird's owner.

I would suggest a moderate change in diet initially, and lay out a plan and goal to help the bird attain his 'normal' weight within a specific time frame. One of the keys of course will be to keep a daily chart of his weight, diet and exercise.

It will also be important to monitor his overall behavior during this time to be sure he is maintaining a normal (for him) playfulness and curiosity. If he begins to seem lethargic or reclusive, this needs to be noted and addressed immediately.

So what I suggest is that the owner, set goals realistically and with consideration for his physical and emotional health during this transition. Personally, I think a 4-6 month time frame would be an achievable goal. A weight of under 325g would be an excellent mark to shoot for, in my opinion.

If he is being fed a broad variety of healthy foods you should not see a 'sudden' weight loss. If this should happen, I would suggest consulting with your avian vet right away as there may be something else causing the problem.

 

Suggestions:

• Reduce the amount of 'nuts' to one each day, but don't eliminate it completely. Let it be the 'treat' that he looks forward to.

• Give him a number of 'treats' during the day, but make these healthy treats, low in fat, sugar, salt and calories. But this doesn't mean that they can't be 'yummy' and visually interesting.

• Instead of seed, I love to feed all my birds, but especially cockatoos, and more specifically galahs, fresh sprouts as their afternon 'tea'. This is something they usually relish, in that it is fun to eat, interesting (assuming you are using a good variety of seeds for sprouting), and one of the most natural and nutritious foods you can possibly feed. I've said this before, but I cannot recommend China Prairie highly enough. The quality is excellent and it is a very simple (which is important for all of us) process to follow.

• Bake birdie breads with a corn bread base and add healthy fruits and veggies, as well as any supplements you might want to give to help with any stress he may feel during this change.

• As for pellets, galahs will indeed eat most anything you give them, and it's wonderful that he eats them well. However, if he will eat a broad diet of other foods that are more 'interesting' and fun, this will (in my opinion) make the entire process easier.

• Warm cooked foods are also relished by most birds, so one meal each day might consist of some type of manufactured birdie soak and cook mix (look for one that has no sugar additives, and that is low in natural sugars and fats). Probably stay away from a lot of sweet potato, using carrots and other orange veggies instead.

• Watch the level of simple carbo's.

• You can supplement the protein needs with cooked beans and appropriate vegetables, to make up for reducing the pellets (should you decide to do so).

 

As far as helping 'burn' calories:

• Let this little guys natural behavior and energy work to his benefit. Make a play area on the floor and let him run, push, hide, chase and toss to his heart's content for an hour or so each day

• Chase him around the room playing "I'm gonna' get you", then turn around and run and let him chase you. ***BE SURE not to ever corner a galah, or any parrot, where he feels trapped with no way out. Always make sure there is a visible avenue of escape in order to avoid making them fearful of being trapped by a potential predator. This seems to be very critical with galahs.

• I don't know what size cage he is in, but it should be big, and most importantly 'wide', with room to exercise and navigate back and forth easily. The same principle for play gyms or trees.

• Swings, ladders, ropes and things to hang from and climb are great.

• Plenty of soft wood to chew that will keep him burning fat, even when being fairly stationary (pine cones are great, and can be easily sanitized).

 

During this time, be sure he is getting a good night's uninterrupted sleep to help keep any potential stress to a minimum.

Once the weight has been reduced and stabilized for a period of time, it will be important to maintain a continued diet and exercise program to avoid the same problem he faces now.

 

Author: Sam Foster
Available from: http://www.members.home.net/arobe/galah/Diet.html
Accessed: 26/10/2000

 


2005 © Copyright GALAHs Australia