Practical - Index > Companion Animals > Pet Care > Parrots > food


SPIRULINA: "'Wonder-Food for Birds
By Ronald H. Henson of Eathrise Farms with thanks to Bird World Magazine Vol. 15, #4, 1993

Bird lovers from Florida to California have been raving over a new food supplement for our feathered friends. Spirulina, (rhymes with ballerina) is a dried microscopic aquatic vegetable, and edible blue-green microalgae that can be up to 72% protein, and incredible 0.5% beta-carotene, and is the world's richest source of natural vitamin B-12. It puzzles scientists with unidentified factors that have wonderful effects on birds. Their plumage becomes glossy and color intensifies, health improves and fertility goes way up. What should you know about Spirulina?

ATTENTION BREEDERS
Spirulina works so well for increasing avian fertility that it was once patent protected. Aviaries were able to nearly double production of finches, canaries and hookbills. Now that this patent has expired, Spirulina is available for widespread use with exotic birds and poultry.

Professor Ernest Ross of the University of Hawaii and Warren Dominy of the Oceanic Institute have demonstrated that even tiny amounts caused the fertility of quail to go up to very high levels (96. 1 %), much higher than the quail on a standard breeder diet. Studies are now underway at agricultural universities to determine if it will be practical for use in commercial poultry operations. Breeders of exotic birds find it highly effective.

Scientific tests have discovered that small amounts of Spirulina, even after cooking, greatly enhance health, fertility and color in birds. In other studies it increases metabolic rate, promotes the beneficial types of digestive tract flora, has strong anti-cancer and anti-viral properties, reduces serum cholesterol, protects against kidney damage and has radio protective effects as well.

This broad spectrum of beneficial effects indicates that Spirulina possesses a very stable yet highly effective unidentified substance. The results of feeding trials are often so striking that scientists suspect several substances in this unique food may be responsible. Among these is a natural substance called sulfoglycolipid. Scientists at the national Cancer Institute announced in 1989, that the sulfoglycolipid found in blue-green algae has amazingly strong AIDS-anti-viral properties. They announced that development of sulfoglycolipid from blue-green algae, (like Spirulina) was a matter of top priority for further study and development. It has since been confirmed that many types of blue-green algae have the anti-viral type of sulfoglycolipid.

Spirulina is an especially rich source of anti-viral sulfoglycolipid. Scientists now know that Spirulina extracts can protect hamsters from herpes virus and cancer. Pharmaceutical companies are rushing to develop anti-viral and anti-cancer drugs from Spirulina. American universities are studying Spirulina to determine if it is useful for treating avian viruses such as Newcastles disease. Research currently being conducted will lead to a better understanding of this remarkable food.

WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
This blue-green algae is much different from common seaweed. Spirulina is a tiny, freshwater phytoplankton. Under a microscope it looks like loosely coiled springs. In the Great Rift Valley of Africa, Spirulina feeds huge flocks of Lesser Flamingos. The flamingos devour Spirulina growing in the warm shallow alkaline volcanic lake water, filtering it through special bristles in their beaks. The yellow/red hytopigments in Spirulina are responsible for their shiny pink featheration.

Wild Spirulina is not used in industrialized countries. Earthrise Farms, located in the remote southeastern California desert, grows Spirulina under carefully controlled conditions, then filters it from the water. The resulting paste is carefully spray dried into a fine powder. Since it is preserved by flash dehydration the delicate nutrients are not harmed. The product is then tested for purity and shipped worldwide. Not only is it used for human and pet food, NASA is working with it developing techniques for interplanetary travel and immunology companies for use in anti-cancer antibody therapies.

HOW TO FEED
Dehydrated Spirulina is quite stable and has a very long shelf life, it can be stored for years as long as it is kept in a cool, dry, dark place. It comes as a fine dusty, very dark green powder. Feed it to adult birds year round,' especially during times of stress as when prepanng for a molt and during the breeding season. The suggested serving for adult birds is only 1% or even less of the diet on a dry weight basis. Many people simply keep it in a saltshaker and apply a light dusting on cut fruit and soft food or bake it into combread. Finch breeders mix it into the eggfood or as straight powder in a dish. Some fussy parrots are, at first, put off by the intense color. If you persist in presenting it to them they will finally taste it and find that it has a good flavor and will eat it right up.

Avoid letting moistened Spirulina set out on soft food overnight. It is mostly protein, and like any protein food it can turn rancid if exposed to conditions favoring bacteria. It is never good to mix food or vitamins in the drinking water. Remember also, it is always a good idea to keep food and water dishes spotlessly clean. Handfed baby birds thrive when Spirulina is added to their regular formula at about a 2% by weight ratio. A little goes a long way, so don't over do it. It is especially good when fed together with avian specific Lactobacillus and Wheat grass powder. Babies appear healthier, seem to be more resistant to sickness, grow heavier and their coloration and feather quality will be excellent. Spirulina is used with outstanding results on all psittacines, canaries and finches.

Commercial breeders are having excellent results using Spirulina. Spirulina exhibits special properties in scientific studies. Those using Spirulina report that feathers become shiny, beaks and skin are smooth and the yellow, red, green and even blue color tones are deepened. Birds are healthier, all naturally, without synthetic vitamins, drugs or chemicals. The benefits of increased fertility and healthier birds has significant economic value in commercial aviaries, yet even pet birds can become even more beautiful and live longer, happier lives when Spirulina is a part of their diet.