Holy Liver Values, Batman! How We Lowered Our Eclectus’ Cholesterol Through Diet

Last year in July, I took my flock to the vet; she noticed the big ones’ nails and beaks were a touch overgrown, but this was especially true for Louie the eclectus. The vet recommended we get our parrots’ bloodwork done, because contrary to my earlier/misinformed belief, any bird who has a concrete perch in his cage (concrete, not sandpaper) shouldn’t have a problem keeping his beak in trim shape. You’ll need to clip their wings and MAYBE their nails, but if their beaks are growing long, there’s often a liver issue.

Those blood tests revealed that Louie had crazy-high liver values and high cholesterol. Vi’s was on the low side of high, but still generally okay (Amazons are tougher than Ekkies when it comes to diet), but also needed to be reduced.

How that was possible, I had no idea – seeds were given only for treats (though, admittedly, he did get a few every day), we cooked for him weekly and gave him a variety of fruit/vegetables in mashes served every day to ensure he ate as much healthy stuff as possible, and the pellets we used as his base diet were TOPS organic pelletsIMG_8593

With how careful we were with his diet, how was this even a thing?

Our vet wasn’t sure if the high cholesterol and liver values in eclectus parrots is just how their species is or not; the avian science surrounding Eclectus parrots is so new, and she’s seen so many ekkies with values similar to Louie’s from other responsible bird owners that she speculated it could just be the species’ normal.

Still, better safe than sorry. Eclectus’ lifespans are currently unknown in captivity (though current speculation runs anywhere from 30 years to 75 years old from my quick Google search). I once read somewhere that people used to believe these birds’ lifespans were 8-10 years (until vets started really studying the effect diet can have on these special little birds). With Louie hovering around the 9 year age mark, I didn’t want to take any chances.

The vet recommended we look at the nutrition content on the back of the TOPS pellets; whatever percentage of crude fat was in his TOPS pellets (the bag we bought had its percentage at 6% crude oils and fats) , we needed to find another pellet with the lowest possible crude fat number. Sure, it was a low number, but she was convinced that lower was out there. Seed had to be completely removed from his diet; as much as he loved sunflower seeds, we’d need to find some alternative.

Nutriberries are a parrot’s best friend.

So, off to the pet store we went; we examined several different options and the lowest fat percentage we could find was in ZuPreem natural pellets (NEVER feed an eclectus the colored pellets – the coloring they use is super bad for them) – the crude fat percentage was 4% instead of 6%. I’d also been doing some reading on Lafeber’s Nutriberries; their claim is that it’s all the health of a pellet, but with a few seeds thrown in. I looked at the back of one of their containers – 6% fat. As treats, nutriberries beat the hell out of feeding almonds and sunflower seeds (considering their fat content), and Louie LOVES nutriberries.

Could I replace the small daily snacks of seeds with one or two nutriberries instead and keep my little buddy happy?

We hesitantly and slowly switched Louie from TOPS to ZuPreem (mixing them together until we were sure he was eating both of them, then removing the TOPS a little bit at a time). My main hesitation with feeding ZuPreem was that it contains corn; Louie is allergic to it (it makes him toe-tap), so we carefully looked for any signs of his uncomfortable syndrome returning. It, thankfully, did not!

Now, the question: Could only a 2% difference in the fat in pellets and replacing seed with a couple of nutriberries really make such a big difference?

Brat broke out of his cage; this is where we always find him when that happens.

We waited a little less than a year to give it time to work. The only “seed” Louie was allowed was an almond in its shell (so he had to work for it and usually didn’t) once or twice. Otherwise, we bribed him with nutriberries, which he really enjoys.

And then, eight months after the wonky bloodwork, we got our answer.

Yes, yes, that 2% decrease in fat + nutriberries instead of seeds could make a HUGE difference.

I got the call this morning: “Hi, this is Dr. B, I wanted to let you know that everybody’s bloodwork looks REALLY GOOD this time! Vi’s looks the best, her liver value is now normal… and, Louie’s liver value is almost normal. It’s definitely significantly decreased and his cholesterol is normal. Continue with the diet for both of them; we’ll do repeat bloodwork in a year!”


Louie’s current diet looks like this:

-Free-fed ZuPreem Pellets

Fruit OR Vegetable Mashes Served Every Day (like 3/4ths of a cup, always more than he can eat), alternating between veggies or fruit every other day (take whatever bird-friendly fruit or vegetables you have lying around, add some greens like romaine lettuce, throw them in the food processor or blender, then pour over/mix in a grain base – most of these mixes have corn in them, so we just pick it out because that still makes Louie toe-tap, even if his pellet doesn’t.)

1-3 Nutriberries a day (sometimes more if he’s been awesome and deserves it) and the occasional dried fruit as treats.

-RARELY (less than once a week) he gets bites of human food, such as toast, a tiny bit of pizza crust, egg whites (never the yolk because again, fat and cholesterol content) – Louie likes carbs, lol.

NONE: Seed, french fries, fried-anything.

Could we do better? Possibly; there’s always a “perfect” to strive for. However, we’re clearly doing something right, and as two people with full-time careers, I’m pretty darn happy with his progress.

A Blue Cere in a Female Budge = A Tumor

Well, it’s official: we’re going to lose Miss Winsty-Woo in the next few months. 😦

Winston the “Attack” bird, or so the vet called her defending herself when he approached her with a towel. (Until I picked her up. She’s a marshmallow.)

For the past day or so, Winston has seemed a little… off.

She’s always been exceptionally calm for a budgie (stiff-upper-lipped-English-budgie-woman and all that), but lately she’s seemed a little sleepier.

A little more reserved.

A little less playful.

Winston is exceptionally weird for a bird in that, since she was barely feathered, she has consistently done things that generally signify illness:

being exceptionally fluffy/fluffed up (that’s her English budgie-ness),

sleeping on the bottom of her cage (she’s done this her entire life; she likes to stick her legs through the grate on the bottom of her cage and lie on her chest)

Not a super-clean vent (a product of her extra fluffy-ness/girth and sleeping on the bottom of her cage)

Our vet has consistently given her a clean bill of health in spite of her nonsense, fortunately. Hubby and I have always been hyper-vigilant with her because of it.

Yesterday, we noticed a change:

She didn’t feel like flying/couldn’t fly very well. When something startled her and she fluttered to the floor instead of making her usual awkward, haphazard trip back up to her cage, we knew something was up.

Tail-bobbing, just a tiny bit. When calmly sitting still, her tail moves up and down now with every breath–just a little–but it signifies respiratory distress in birds.

She’s still eating fine and hadn’t lost any significant weight, but we followed our philosophy: go to the vet at the first sign of avian illness.

Two years ago vs. today. Her cere has become the same color as her cheek spots.

Today, I braved the snow, and I’m glad I did: Winston has a tumor. 😦

She’s four and a half years old.

The vet cannot feel it yet, which means we caught it super early, but he said there is only one thing on God’s green earth (that he knows of) that will turn a female budgie’s cere blue: a testosterone-secreting tumor in her reproductive track. And unfortunately, there’s no doubt that she’s a girl; the four eggs she laid last summer are a testament to that.

Our avian vet could only guess, but due to the fact that it feels like she’s lost a little bit of weight across her breastbone and these new symptoms (however mild), he suspects she has only one to three months left.

He gave us some pain medication to help her deal with any pain; she will now get all the seed, millet, and otherwise unhealthy food that she wants.