Breaking Beaks: Do Parrots Munch on Insects? Let’s Find Out!

Parrots are colorful, intelligent birds that have become popular pets. While parrots are primarily herbivores, eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, some species do occasionally eat insects and other small animals. Here is an overview of parrot diets and insect consumption in the wild.

Typical Diet of Parrots

The majority of parrots are granivores, meaning they eat grains and seeds. This includes nuts, beans, cereals, and seed-producing fruits. Their powerful curved beaks allow them to crack open hard shells. Parrots also eat soft fruits, berries, buds, nectar, and pollen.

Some parrot species supplement this plant-based diet by occasionally eating insects and other small prey. But this makes up only a minor part of their total food intake. Parrots have evolved to thrive on the abundant plant food sources found in their tropical habitats.

Insect Consumption in the Wild

Parrots living in their natural habitats do encounter insects on a regular basis. While they do not seek out insect protein, parrots may opportunistically eat insects when readily available.

Several factors lead wild parrots to consume some insects:

  • Foraging habits – When foraging for fruits, nuts, and seeds, parrots inevitably come across insects occupying the same trees and plants. The parrots may ingest insects while crunching and cracking open food items.
  • Insect larvae – Parrot species that regularly chew on wood or leaf buds, like macaws, often ingest insect larvae hidden inside the plant matter. The larvae provide extra nutrition.
  • Chick nutrition – Adult parrots may actively hunt for insects and feed them to chicks for additional protein during the breeding season. Insect prey helps ensure growing chicks get adequate nutrition.

Examples of Insect-Eating Parrot Species

Certain wild parrot species are known to eat more insects than others:

  • Mealy parrots – This South American species eats insects alongside its normal seeds and fruit. Mealy parrots forage for insect larvae hidden inside plant stems.
  • Ant-eating chat – True to its name, this small parrot native to Central America regularly consumes ants and other insects. It uses its specially adapted tongue to probe inside trees for ants.
  • Kea parrots – The Kea of New Zealand eats insects, grubs, and other invertebrates while foraging in grasses and under stones. Up to 30% of a Kea’s diet may be animal protein.

Types of Insects Eaten by Parrots

Parrots are opportunistic eaters when it comes to insects and will sample any small bugs they come across. Here are some of the most common insects wild and captive parrots are known to consume:


Small ants are eaten by lories, lorikeets, parakeets, and other parrots as they forage among flowers and fruits where ants gather. Ants provide protein and trace minerals. But some ant species may spray acidic venom so parrots should avoid eating large amounts.



Mosquitoes and other small flying insects get snapped up by parrots as they fly about. These incidental bites provide a little protein boost.



Crickets are relished by larger parrot species like macaws and cockatoos who will actively hunt and eat these jumping insects. Captive parrots also like live crickets offered as treats.


Stink Bugs

Stink bugs sometimes get mixed into outdoor parrot food bowls or foraged fruits. Conures and parakeets will sample these insects even though they release a foul defensive odor.

Stink Bug


Spiders occupy many of the same tree hollows and cliff crevices where parrots nest. Curious parrots sometimes taste these creepy crawlers, an excellent source of taurine.



Bees holding nectar or pollen are eaten by lories and lorikeets as they drink from flowers. The bees provide protein. But parrots must be careful to avoid bees’ painful stings.



Agile parrots like budgies and cockatiels enjoy chasing down grasshoppers and other jumping bugs to eat as crunchy, protein-packed snacks. It mimics their natural insect-hunting behavior.



Roaches sharing human dwellings are tempting snacks for pet parrots. Wild parrots also eat roaches which provide nutrition. But owners should limit pets’ roach intake to avoid pesticides.


Butterflies and Caterpillars

Butterflies and their larvae are consumed by parrots like macaws which adeptly catch them mid-air with their strong beaks. Their bright wings add interesting colors to the parrots’ diets.



Some African parrots like cape parrots occasionally eat small chameleons they come across while foraging. This provides calcium and vitamins.


Dried Mealworms

Pet parrots relish dried mealworms offered as nutritious treats. Mealworms contain essential amino acids and compounds like lutein for healthy feathers. They mimic wild parrot insect consumption.

Nutritional Value of Insects for Parrots

Insects provide protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids that benefit parrot health. Crickets for example contain calcium and iron. Mealworms provide nutrients like zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating insects enriches parrots’ typical seed and veggie-based diets.

Varying Insect Preferences

Parrot species have differing abilities to catch insects based on their sizes, habitats, and skills. Budgies and cockatiels prefer small insects like ants. Macaws adeptly catch larger, flying insects. Lories consume small bugs mixed into nectar and pollen. Wild parrots are more motivated to hunt insects than well-fed captive birds.

Safely Introducing Insects

It can be healthy to offer captive parrots living insects like crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms. Start with small amounts to accustom your bird. Supervise them when eating insects and limit portions to avoid excessive insect protein. Only offer insects from reputable sources to prevent pesticide exposure.

Insectivorous Delight: How Eating Insects Enhances Parrot Health

Eating insects provides:

Protein for Muscle Growth and Repair

Insects are a rich source of high-quality protein. Parrots, like all animals, require protein for essential functions such as muscle growth and repair. Incorporating insects into their diet provides them with the necessary building blocks for maintaining strong muscles, and supporting overall vitality.

Chitin for Healthy Digestion

Insects contain chitin, a fibrous substance that can be especially valuable for parrots’ digestive health. Chitin acts as a natural fiber, aiding in digestion by promoting proper gut motility and preventing constipation. It also serves as a prebiotic, fostering a healthy gut microbiome.

Minerals like Calcium, Iron, and Zinc

Insects are a natural source of essential minerals, including calcium, iron, and zinc. These minerals are vital for various physiological processes, such as bone health, oxygen transport in the blood, and immune system function. Incorporating insects into their diet ensures parrots receive these crucial nutrients.

Vitamins like A, C, B6, and B12

Insects are a rich source of vitamins that are essential for parrot health. Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining healthy eyes and skin, while vitamin C supports the immune system. Vitamins B6 and B12 are important for metabolism and neurological health. By consuming insects, parrots can obtain these vitamins naturally.

Carotenoids for Vibrant Plumage

The vibrant colors of a parrot’s plumage are a sight to behold. Insects contain carotenoids, pigments that can enhance and maintain the vividness of a parrot’s feathers. These compounds not only contribute to their visual appeal but may also indicate good health.

Enrichment of Nutrient Diversity

A diverse diet is key to ensuring that parrots receive all the nutrients they need. Insects add an important layer of diversity to their diet, complementing the nutrients found in seeds and fruits. This diversity can contribute to overall health and well-being by reducing the risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Risks of Insect Consumption

Eating wild insects carries some minor risks:

Pesticide/Toxin Exposure

Wild insects may come into contact with pesticides or other toxins from their environment. When parrots consume these contaminated insects, they can ingest harmful chemicals that may lead to health issues.

Pesticide exposure can result in acute toxicity or accumulate over time, affecting the parrot’s overall well-being. It is crucial to source insects from pesticide-free areas or consider breeding insects specifically for bird consumption.

Parasites from Uncooked Bugs

Consuming raw insects can expose parrots to various parasites, such as mites, ticks, or intestinal worms, which might be present in the insects’ bodies. These parasites can establish themselves in the parrot’s digestive system, causing infections and discomfort.

To mitigate this risk, it’s advisable to either cook the insects before feeding them to the parrot or purchase commercially bred and sterilized insects.

Allergic Reaction in Sensitive Birds

Just like humans, parrots can have allergies, and some individuals may be sensitive to specific insect species. Allergic reactions in parrots can manifest as respiratory distress, skin irritation, or gastrointestinal upset. To identify potential allergens, introduce new insects cautiously and monitor the parrot’s reaction. If signs of allergies occur, it’s best to avoid that particular insect type.

Intestinal Blockage from Eating Rigid Wings/Legs

Wild insects often have hard exoskeletons, including rigid wings and legs, which can pose a choking hazard or lead to intestinal blockages if not properly chewed and digested. Parrots that are not accustomed to consuming insects may be at higher risk.

To reduce this risk, ensure that insects are appropriately sized for the parrot’s beak and consider crushing or cutting the insects to make them easier to ingest.

Feeding Guidelines

When offering insects:

  • Start with small amounts and monitor reactions
  • Only use pesticide-free, captive-raised insects
  • Remove rigid wings, legs and stingers
  • Supervise your parrot while eating to prevent inhalation


Parrots are omnivorous birds that will eat a wide variety of foods, including insects. Both wild and captive parrots are opportunistic insect eaters, able to gain key nutrients from these small prey items. Intentionally hunting insects or accidentally ingesting bugs while foraging enriches parrots’ diets.

Different parrot species have preferences for certain insects based on size, habitat, and foraging skills. Offering captive parrots occasional treats like mealworms, crickets, or grasshoppers can provide benefits like protein, vitamins, and minerals. Eating insects promotes good health and mimics natural behaviors in the wild. With proper precautions to avoid risks, insect consumption can be a healthy supplemental food for pet parrots.

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