Aracari diet is incredibly important to ensure a happy, healthy bird. The basics are a diet comprised of 80% fruits and 20% low-iron softbill pellets. All softbills are prone to a condition called hemachromatosis, commonly known as iron-storage disease. The livers of these birds tend to store iron until it reaches toxic levels. There is no long-term, successful treatment for it and the end result is death. To prevent this from happening a low iron diet is required. Fortunately, most fruits are naturally low in iron. The diet that we give our birds is more complex than many breeders. It may or may not be necessary. We do it for a couple reasons. First, we think that providing as large of a variety as we can helps hit the nutritional needs of each different bird at any given point much better. We don't believe they are all produced from cookie cutters and think they may need different nutrients at different times. The second reason I do it is to help provide psychological enrichment as well. We think that having a variety helps keep them engaged and more stimulated. Again, some breeders may say they just don't need it and perhaps they don't need it, but we feel they benefit from it. Here is what we do:
Daily diet year-round:
The following fruits & vegetables are cubed into 1/2" pieces:
Cooked Sweet Potato
Thawed Mixed Vegetables- Corn, Peas, Green Beans
A few grapes are offered several times a week as well
Zupreem Low Iron Pellets are fed Free choice in a hopper style feeder. Mazuri is another good brand of pellet and either one will be a good choice. At the beginning of the breeding season we start offering cooked eggs. We usually scramble them in a bowl and then bake them in a glass dish until set. We dice that and give it daily. We bake the shells and sprinkle it over the food once We notice cloacal swelling on the hens and then continue for a week after eggs are laid. Sometimes we will just hard boil some eggs and mash them up whole- including the shells- and give them it like that. It really depends upon how lazy I feel! The keepers at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle told us they used to offer diced tofu and we tried that for a little while. We didn't notice a difference and worried about the levels of phytoestrogens in that. Perhaps it was warranted, perhaps not. We also keep chickens so have ample eggs available so it is easier for us as well.
Once chicks are due to hatch the birds will start getting crickets. Typically, we use 1/2" size and the Curl Crested Aracaris will get at least 500 per day when feeding 2 chicks. Our pair, so far, always eats the third, smallest chick. That is something we would like to try to change and are trying to figure out ways of getting them more animal protein when the chicks are due to hatch. Hopefully that will help. We really think the crickets also help get them excited to fed the chicks in addition to providing the extra protein. We think many breeders really underestimate the benefits of feeding live food to breeding pairs. We also provide organic "Spring Mix" greens to the birds during the summer. Our Ivory Bills have a Ficus tree in their flight and will feed the chicks the leaves if they have no other green food to give them. This can cause blockages and offering the greens seems to eliminate the desire to feed the fibrous leaves. Chicks we have pulled for handfeeding have passed large clumps of the fibrous leaves several days after we have been feeding them. While this is not always a problem, it is something best avoided.
It is best to use fresh fruits for the majority of the diet although frozen can be used to supplement the diet when necessary. We often use frozen blueberries during the winter months when the cost of fresh ones are prohibitive. Each bird will consume approximately 1 cup of fruit per day and pellets should always be made available in a separate feeder. When preparing the fresh portion of the diet, enough can be made up to last for up to four days and kept under refrigeration. This makes food preparation much less of a chore. Storing the fruit mix any longer than this results in too great of a degradation of the fruit. Freezing the mix also softens it excessively so refrigeration is best. There is no need to warm the fruit before feeding it to your pet. Serving it right out of the fridge is perfectly fine.