Natural Foraging For Your Flock Before Winter Hits

Natural Foraging For Your Flock Before Winter Hits

The season of cosy jumpers and pumpkin spiced lattes is almost upon us so it’s time to stock up on natural goodies for your parrot before they disappear! I’m not sure where in the world you’re reading this from but here in Scotland the season is changing and FAST, which means the team at Soaring Wings Training will soon be running around the hills like lunatics foraging for all the natural goodies we can get our hands on before they disappear. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share with you what we look for.
Before we dive into the goodies you can find for your parrot it’s important we touch on responsible foraging, we always jump at the opportunity to give our parrots natural enrichment but it’s important to forage sustainably, stay safe and within the law. The key points to responsible foraging are:

 Minimise damage – Take no more than you plan to use, stick to paths and take care to not damage the areas you’re collecting from. It’s important we aren’t making wildlife
suffer for our own benefit.
 Seek permission – Here in Scotland it’s illegal to collect wild plants in a National Nature Reserve (NNR), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or to remove a plant without the landowners permission (Woodland Trust). This sounds a little intimidating but for us it only really means we don’t forage in nature reserves, on farm land or in a strangers garden without permission. Because of the open access laws in Scotland we’re still able to forage anywhere else.
 Know what you’re picking – Never consume or offer your parrot a wild plant unless
you’re certain what it is, if we’re unsure we use the Woodland Trust British Tree App.
Identify Trees With Our Tree ID app – Woodland Trust
 Only collect from plentiful sources – We only collect flowers, leaves, fruits and nuts
where they’re in abundance (Bowen).
 Leave plenty behind – Wild food is vital for the survival of wildlife so we take care to
ensure there’s enough left for the wild birds and bugs. We also only take a little from
multiple sources as this the plants can rejuvenate (Clark).

Now it’s time to dive into the fun stuff and what is actually safe to bring home for your parrot that you can find right here in the UK! We tend to feed all of these raw unless otherwise stated, some of our favourites include:

 Rowan – This can be whole branches for your parrots to play with the leaves and bark or just berries, they freeze well and we often continue to add them to chop throughout
 Blackberries – A delicious snack for both you and your parrot, although we would not
recommend offering the vines to your parrot as they’re quite thorny.
 Raspberries – The fruit is a great snack but you can also offer your parrot the leaves to
chew on or brewed into a herbal tea, we also include raspberry leaves in our Foraging Fusion – Chill The Flock Out! as it has proven to work wonders in calming our crazy flocks hormones in spring.
 Strawberries – Most parrots love strawberries, even our pickiest eater tries to eat the
seeds. Strawberry leaves are also highly nutritious and can even boost the immune system!
 Crab Apples – You can offer your parrot a whole branch including the fruit to keep them busy for hours, if only feeding the fruit we would recommend removing the seeds as they contain trace amounts of cyanide but we tend not to worry when offering a whole branch as the birds aren’t likely to consume a large amount of the seeds.
 Rosehips – The fruit freezes well for chop through the winter and the birds have a ball
when we offer them whole branches. Rosehips are also packed with antioxidants and other health benefits.
 Dandelions – Every part of this plant is parrot safe, when possible we grab some leaves and put them in the aviary as a free toy, this miraculous plant is also featured in our Foraging Fusion – What The Flock?! because of its amazing health benefits, this allows us to offer it all year round!
 Pine cones/needles/nuts – Pine cones make amazing natural and FREE foraging toys
for parrots, once you’ve got them home just wash them to remove any dirt and debris
and then bake them at 90℃ for 45 to 60 minutes, this kills any fungus, mould or insects
and allow you to store them for months while also making your house smell amazing.
The fun doesn’t stop there, pine needles can be brewed into tea which can prevent
respiratory infections and strengthen heart health (Staughton and Hegde). If you’re lucky enough to find closed pinecones you may also be able to harvest the pine nuts before the squirrels get to them all.
 Walnuts – Most of the walnuts you purchase from a parrot supplier will be imported but it is possible to find wild walnuts here in the UK, although our native walnuts tend to have a thinner shell that is easier to crack.You can tell they’re ready to harvest when they start to drop from the tree and the kernels begin to separate from their shells. The key is to shake the branches and only take freshly fallen walnuts as when left on the ground they are susceptible to mould. To prevent walnuts from turning bad we need to remove the outer ‘skin’ and dry them thoroughly, you can do this by spreading them in a single layer and leaving them in a sunny window until the shell turns crispy, this may take up to a month but once properly dried they can keep for years.Alternatively you can dry walnuts out in the oven, just bake them at 45℃ for 2-3 hours with the door ajar and raise the temperature to 70℃ half an hour before the end, you know they’re ready when the nut inside breaks apart easily.
 Hazelnuts – most wild hazelnuts will be young and green, our parrots can eat these
straight from the branch but for us humans they need to be mature. Since mature hazelnuts can be hard to get hold of you can pick them when they’re green and leave them to ripen in a warm, dry, dark place, turning them every few days. They’re safe to feed to our parrots throughout this process but allowing them to ripen and dry out will mean they can be stored without the risk of rotting (Cottam).

Our parrots love it when we offer them natural foraging opportunities and it’s also a very budget friendly way for us to offer them additional enrichment and keep their brains and beaks busy. You may laugh but natural foraging is an essential for any road trips with our parrots as it minimises screaming and helps in keeping us sane; although let’s face it, how sane are we to go on a 9 hour road trip with 10 parrots? While it’s amazing to be able to offer them so much from nature, some trees and their fruits/berries aren’t safe for parrots, a full list of toxic trees can be found here: Toxic Wood – United Parrot Kingdom. Some of the TOXIC berries/nuts to always avoid include hawthorn berries, acorns and horse chestnuts.

If you choose to stray from the list in this blog post it’s always important to do your research, make sure that what you’re foraging for is safe, prepared if necessary and you have correctly identified it. If you aren’t very confident in identifying plants with just the forestry commission app have a look for a foraging course in your area. That being said, happy foraging guys, go stock those freezers for a long winter!

Works Cited
Bowen, Tom. “Foraging Along Scotland’s Rivers – Dorset Bushcraft courses.” Wildway bushcraft, Accessed 21 September 2022.
Clark, Sarah. “Guide to Wild Food Foraging in Scotland | VisitScotland.” Visit Scotland, 25 November 2020, Accessed 21 September 2022.
Cottam, Laura. “Hazelnuts: Where and When to Forage.” Woodland Trust, 5 August 2019,
Accessed 21 September 2022.
Staughton, John, and Raksha Hegde. “Pine Needle Tea: How To Make It & Benefits.” Organic Facts, 20 June 2021, Accessed 21 September 2022.
Woodland Trust. “Foraging Guidelines.” Woodland Trust, Accessed 21 September 2022.

Written by Hannah Green