Those of us who work with parrots have presumed that it has more to do with people handling their parrots in a manner that is perceived as sexual interaction. While this may be true, the sexual behavior has seemed to become more intense and last longer than it has, I am seriously beginning to wonder if the increase in this problem is based more on diet, particularly the dramatic increase in soy in the diet. As anyone who has read anything I have written knows, I am NOT a fan of just about all of the manufactured and pelleted diets on the market today. The only pelleted diet I feed is TOPS Parrot Food which has NO Soy in the ingredients. I am pretty sure that most if not all of the other diets have soy as a fundamental ingredient.
Soy used to be considered "health food" but in the last few years soy in one form or another has been added to just about every kind of food there is from mayonnaise to pet foods. Try and find any manufactured foods without soy in them. With more experience, soy becomes more and more questionable as something that we want in our diet or the diet of our companion animals especially as a major part of the diet. Most pellet manufacturers want you to feed their products as 100% of the diet and unfortunately, a lot of people are misguided or lazy enough to trust the pet industry to do right by them. That is a lot of processed soy and most of the soy in pellets is also GMO if that concerns you. As with all foods, experts still don’t know everything there is to know about soy. But research in recent years suggests that moderate consumption of minimally processed soy foods not only isn’t bad for you, it probably has some benefits. However, when I read about cautions about foods with research behind them, I am concerned about my parrots and other companion animals consuming them.
When researchers began taking a closer look to find out what made soy so healthy, they ran into some surprises. Soy, it turned out, contains estrogen-like compounds called isoflavones. which are changed in the body to "phytoestrogens," which are similar to the hormone estrogen. And despite some health benefits, some findings suggested that these compounds could promote the growth of some cancer cells, impair female fertility, and cause problems with thyroid function.
One of the problems that are becoming more and more evident is a hormonal disruption. It has been shown that it causes girls to mature too young and may also decrease sexual function in some men, etc. I studied anatomy and physiology in college with a course in comparative anatomy. While people and parrots are very different in some ways there are also many similarities especially in the ways our bodies work. I presume that if the fact that soy is so ubiquitous in both human and parrot foods, the problems it would cause would be similar in both humans and parrots.
Since many people are relying on pellets as WAY too high a percentage of their parrots' diets and the vast majority of pellets contain soy as a fundamental filler ingredient, I am seriously concerned that it could be soy in the diet that is causing an increase in the longevity and severity of sexual behavior in so many companion parrots.
There is no doubt in my mind that pelleted diets are NOT AS HEALTHY as most people think they are and that people who feed them as a near-total or total diet are asking for health problems with their birds in the future. I think that too many people believe the hype and when their vets tell them to feed pellets as the major part of the diet, they blindly believe this information because it comes for an "authority". Not all vets are authorities on nutrition and not all veterinarians think that pelleted diets are the end-all beat all-"cure" for all that ails parrots. Unfortunately, too many veterinarians push pellets when they don't really know what is going on with a parrot and they haven't really investigated the ingredients. Most avian veterinarians actually don't receive much in the way of nutritional courses and some just believe the hype from the manufacturers of pelleted diets.
When I talk to people about relying too much on pelleted diets, some people have said, "but my parrots are doing fine and are healthy." My question is, will your parrots be healthy in 5, 10, 15 or more years? Another example of a problem with pellets is the increase in iron storage disease in parrots. I am convinced that the reason we are seeing this problem is due to the iron content in pelleted diets.
I consider soy to be another 'smoking gun' in parrot diets and think that is a problem now and will be more of a problem as people are convinced to feed pelleted diets with processed soy as an ingredient as the major part of their parrots' diet. I personally won't feed my parrots any diet that has soy in it! I feed TOPS Parrot Food as a portion of a Fresh Food Diet because it has no soy, no Menadione, no synthetic nutrients or any other questionable ingredients that other pellets have.