Results of parrot food experiment: why a seed-only diet wouldn't have worked in period

Lady Aisin Biya has concluded a six-week test of parrot feeding habits, and concludes that parrots would not have survived in medieval Europe on a diet composed only of the seeds available locally.

Lady Aisin Biya writes:

If the results of my six week bird food experiment with cockatiels Mithril and Aragorn are any indicator of parrot food preferences in period, medieval parrots would not have accepted a purely seed diet.

Relying on data from earlier research on which seeds and grains were available to European and Asian parrots, I attempted to feed Mithril and Aragorn a seed mix from strictly period grains verses the same mix but with colored pellets (Kaytee EXACT) added in. Those grains are: oats and white millet from Europe plus safflower from India.

When given a choice between the neutral colored millets, oats, and safflower seeds and the same mix with brightly colored, but less appetizing pieces, the parrots chose to eat the pelleted mix every time. The mix without the pellets was wholly ignored, regardless where in the cage it was placed.

The data suggests that color plays an important role in parrot food choices. The colorful nature of fresh fruit and vegetables is hard-wired into the parrot brain which translates into a preference for color overall.

What is more, parrots cannot survive for more than a small percentage of their long lifespan without a highly varied diet--which includes colorful fruits and vegetables.

This discovery shows that even in granivores where seed is a dominant part of their diets, the need for color in their diets is still vital in food choices. Even with picky eaters like cockatiels, fruits and vegetables needs to be offered along with colorful pellets. For parrots in period, we now can essentially rule out that they fed their parrots exclusively seed diets. They balanced their diets with colorful foods--the most plausible options being fruits and vegetables.