Quinoa: A Nutritious Grain for Birds

Quinoa (pronounced “kee-nwa”) is a South American grain that looks somewhat like millet, but has a lighter, more golden color. It was the favored grain of the Incas of Peru before the Conquistadors arrived in the 16th century. It was “re-discovered” in the 1980s by a couple of Americans, who proceeded to grow and study the plant in the United States. Generally, the grain is found in health food stores. You can buy the grain itself or a variety of foods that are made from it (cereals, pasta, bread). Birds relish quinoa.

This grain is an excellent food for pet birds as its nutritional content exceeds most other grains, particularly in terms of protein. It has more than twice the protein of grains such as corn, rice, and barley. Quinoa also provides some calcium, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamin E, and B vitamins. The grain has a nutty taste. It can be sprouted or cooked.

When you cook quinoa, it seems to go “clear” then sprout a little “tail”. It cooks quickly (10-12 minutes), so it makes a great last-minute meal. When I put the bowls in my birds’ cages with just plain quinoa or with some vegetables mixed in, their heads are in the bowl, tails straight up, for the longest time. They emerge with the funny tail-sporting grains covering their beaks. This is a particularly excellent source of nutrition for South American birds, since we can be relatively sure these birds ate this grain in the wild. It grows freely in the Andes and throughout many parts of South America. Birds take to it quickly and rarely turn it down because it has such a seed-like appearance. The basic recipe for quinoa is very simple; you put two parts boiling water to 1 part quinoa and boil for 10-12 minutes. You can add most anything to it and your birds will dive in and nosh contentedly.

Quinoa Breakfast Treat
1 part quinoa
2 parts water
Unsulphured raisins
Cinammon stick
Frozen corn

Bring water with the cinnamon stick added to a boil. Add quinoa. Cook for 8 minutes, add raisins. Cook 2-3 more minutes or until the sprouts become “clear” and sprout their “tails.” Add corn just at the end to warm it up. Drain (you will need a fine mesh strainer for this).

Cool until just warm and serve.