Winter as we know it in most of North America is a fairly unnatural season for the tropical birds that share our homes. Psittacines and passerines native to tropical climates would never be exposed to the lower levels of humidity, cold temperatures, winter winds, snow or variations in sunlight/darkness that occur in the more temperate climes. This presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to caring for our feathered companions.
In addition to providing birds with full-spectrum light in the winter, vitamin A is also necessary for the proper working of the uropygial gland. This can be provided by offering beta-carotene in a liquid or powered supplement, or by offering foods rich in beta-carotene, such as the dark, green leafy vegetables and also fruits, and veggies that are red, orange or yellow in color. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, and the unused is excreted unchanged, so it is much safer to offer than vitamin A itself.
Since fruits and vegetables are often seasonally available, many bird owners cut back on fresh produce in the wintertime. Offering thawed frozen mixed vegetables is a good alternative to providing a bird with fresh produce in the winter. Of course, if you can purchase fresh vegetables, those are still the best choice.
During those dark, long, cold winter nights, it might be fun to whip up a loaf of birdie bread for your flock. There are many wonderful recipes available that provide your bird with complex carbohydrates, calcium and beta-carotene. The aroma of bread baking in a warm kitchen is always a winter treat in itself.
If you keep your home on the cool side during the winter, your bird will most likely benefit from extra complex carbohydrates, which it will utilize to maintain its body temperature and keep its weight stable. Baked potatoes (no butter, please), cooked sweet potatoes, cooked pasta or brown rice are all good options.
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