Poor reproductive performance and suspected nutritional deficiencies initiated a two-year study into food item selection and nutrition of a group of 10 palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus) at the White Oak Conservation Center (Yulee, FL). Daily food intake was measured by individually weighing food items before feeding and subtracting the remaining waste food after feeding. The actual weight of consumed food was then corrected to adjust for any change in water content that occurred over night. This data was collected for 10 days and entered into Animal Nutritionist computer software for analysis. Year one results suggest that the cockatoos were selectively eating only the larger nuts and a minimal amount of fruit and vegetables. The analysis determined that there was a dietary deficiency in most minerals. Fat consumption was seven times higher than the recommended level as determined by the Animal Nutritionist computer program data base. The diet was then modified to include a commercially prepared, pelleted, parrot ration to establish a more balanced diet. The pelleted ration, fruits, and vegetables were fed daily in the a.m., with the large nuts being fed four times/week in the p.m. One year later (Year 2) this modified diet was re-analyzed and compared to Year 1 results to see if any improvements in nutritional standards had been made.
Year 2 results indicated that, on average, each parrot was eating 15 g of the pelleted diet a day. Intake of all minerals was determined to be acceptable; however, calcium levels were still well below normal. Fat intake had decreased but was still considered high at three-times normal. The results of this study are encouraging with the improvement in the nutritional status of the palm cockatoos. Approximately one year after the improvement in diet, the first palm cockatoo chick was raised and fledged by its parents at White Oak Conservation Center. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of food item selection, especially in species that are fed a variety of food items, such as birds and primates. Food selection studies are easily repeated over time and should be considered in the development of dietary protocols.
We would like to thank Mike Taylor, Bird Supervisor, and John Lukas, Director of White Oak Conservation Center, for their assistance and support of this project.