When you enter the produce section of your local grocery store or peruse the vast number of aisles of a large farmer’s market crammed with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, what might attract your eye at first would be the vivid colors. The brighter the produce, the faster your eye is drawn to it.

You’ll probably notice the brightly colored red peppers before your eye is drawn to the fairly calm-in-comparison jicama. You’ll probably be more attracted to the appearance of the purple cabbage when you finally notice the pale green variety sitting right next to it.

I believe humans have a tendency to be attracted to brightly colored food because brightly colored fruits and vegetables appear to look fresher. Fresh and crisp is good and our eyes tell us that the brighter the color, the more we think it indeed tastes better.

It is pretty much the same for our flock. Those brightly colored vegetables do have attractive properties to birds just as birds in the wild are attracted to other birds that are vividly feathered. They most likely appear to be more robust and healthier which might make them more attractive to the opposite sex.

Vivid Color Screams, “Nutritious!”

A bright color in fruits and vegetables is a visual indication of nutrition in many cases. The reason? Color in produce is caused by the pigments in carotenoids that are found in the fruits and vegetables. Not unlike candy colors that might indicate flavor, these pigments found in the carotenoids signal a particular nutritional benefit offered by the carotenoids.

For instance, dark green vegetables such as dark lettuces and greens, spinach, Brussel sprouts as well as broccoli can boast of compounds that enable the liver to eliminate hazardous chemicals and assist in detoxifying the body. They aid in preventing carcinogens by introducing detoxifying antioxidant enzymes to the cells. This allows the digestive system to rapidly move them out of the body.

The brightly colored orange and red vegetables have yet another type of benefit for our birds as well as ourselves. They have polyphenols and carotenoids which are the chemicals that produce the color of the vegetable due to their natural occurring pigment. The antioxidants they contain are geniuses at removing free radicals out of the way and enable them to get naturally flushed out. Specifically, red vegetables help to protect the cardiovascular system while the orange and yellow vegetables provide good health for our eyes. This is due to the lutein it contains which is obtained by animals ingesting plants.

Carrots,  pumpkin, sweet potatoes, orange and yellow bell peppers, butternut squash and even sweet corn contain substances called carotenoids. Your body converts carotenoids to vitamin A, a nutrient that benefits your vision, skin, bones, heart and immune system. An adequate vitamin A intake may also lower your risk of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. A cup of sliced cantaloupe provides 270 micrograms of vitamin A, about 40 percent of your recommended daily intake for vitamin A.

Creating A “Tuneup” Using Color

You can actually concentrate on color by providing specific colors that are prone to providing specific benefits to your bird. Cabbage is cabbage. Or is it? Both red or purple cabbage are a great source of antioxidants as well as B vitamins, manganese, potassium, folate and Vitamin C. However, the darker of the two, the red or purple variety contains more antioxidants because of the anthocyanin, the source of that vivid color.

Red vegetables are notorious for protecting the heart, while the red-orange fruits and vegetables have been found to have properties that protect the immune system. Quite simply, the body converts the carotenoids that these produce items have into Vitamin A which benefits vision, the skeletal system, the skin, the heart and helps prop up and strengthen the immune system. According to the American Cancer Society, just the vitamin A ingestion alone might lower the risk of cancer. Cantaloupe is a tasty source of Vitamin A for your birds.

Color Matters

It has been written that your shocked “Eat A Rainbow” every day. It may be a trite way of phrasing it, but it is a good rule when making a batch of Chop for your flock or simply introducing a new food to them. That more varieties of vegetables with various shades of different colors and different textures will add visual and mouth appeal to your bird’s diet.  You never really know what colors might appeal to one bird as opposed to another. So offering a diversity of colors and textures may ensure that you are providing the widest variety of protective and antioxidant properties to your birds.

Experiment with new colors and new varieties of produce in season and see what colorful fruits and vegetables appeal to your flock. You never know what might be a hit with your bird.

Patricia Sund is the creative director of Bird Talk Magazine, and has written for a variety of avicultural-themed publications, including Bird Talk, the Bird Talk Annual, Birds USA, Phoenix Landing’s Phoenix Beakin’ and Watchbird magazine for the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA). She lives in Florida with her three African grey parrots, Parker, Pepper and Nyla, stars of the popular column, “Memo to Parker & Pepper.”

Leave a Reply