Most parakeets will not overeat, even when their food dishes are kept full and refreshed often. They may nibble something new out of curiosity, but even then they rarely eat much of it. Symptoms of eating issues are more likely caused by the nutritional value of what they eat rather than by how much of it they consume.
Overweight or Obese
Overeating shows in a parrot's weight, but it can be difficult to detect -- because, to the casual observer, a birdie looks just right when he's a little plump. If you have pictures of the bird at different ages, it's easy to see if he's gained weight. Often, such a circumstance isn't due so much to excessive eating as to eating the wrong foods. Parakeets eat often because they have fast metabolisms and burn energy quickly. They're among the species prone excess weight gain, too, so obesity is a common problem for parakeets. Ensure he's getting enough exercise by adding and rotating new toys, and taking him out of the cage to play more often.
Consuming an all-seed or mostly seed diet is most often the cause of obesity in parakeets, as seeds are high in fat. Veterinarians recommend substituting parakeet pellets for seeds, because pellets are specially manufactured to contain all the nutrients the bird needs. Birds raised on seed won't likely accept pellets, however, so alternate seeds one week and pellets the next. Start by offering pellets in a separate dish every day so the bird gets used to seeing them and, once you observe him eating the pellets, begin alternating them with the seeds. Add fresh vegetables and fruit daily to the bird's diet, in a separate dish or clipped onto the cage. Try dark green, leafy lettuces, bright green, red and yellow vegetables and all types of fruit to see what he prefers. Avoid avocado and the pits and seeds of fruit, which are toxic to birds.
By observing a parakeet throughout his day, it's possible to see whether he is eating excessively. Sometimes parakeets do hop down, take one seed and carry it up to the perch, break it, roll it around in the mouth, toss the hull, and go back for another seed. This is more of an activity than eating, since he's taking only one seed at a time. If, however, a parakeet spends most of his time at his seed dish really eating the seeds, he could be ill -- while most birds eat less when they're sick, some eat more to try to keep warm or to feel better. Birds are naturally good at hiding symptoms of illness as an instinctive protection against predators, so if he's truly "eating all day," take him to a vet.
Fatty Liver Disease
Parakeets that eat mostly seeds may develop fatty liver disease. Symptoms include obesity, rapid and abnormal beak growth, black spots on beak and toenails, bleeding that's hard to stop, and feathers that take on a yellowish-blue tinge. As fat cells take over the liver, scar tissue replaces healthy tissue, a problematic condition that can shorten the bird's life. Any signs of fatty liver are cause for a visit to an avian vet.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.