In the wild, parrots and many birds spend their days with a variety of activities including social interactions, grooming, foraging and sleeping. Since our feathered friends are caged, or at least housed in some type of enclosure other than being free (i.e.- our houses), the foraging for food that would normally take them hours throughout the day, is cut short to minutes at feeding times. Foraging is a learned behavior, therefore, if your bird isn’t used to foraging, it may take some time and multiple attempts to help it see how entertaining it can be. Allow your bird to see you hiding the food to stimulate curiosity and foraging. It will be very helpful to start off with easy foraging, making food items easy to find and then gradually working towards more complicated and challenging methods of hiding food, treats, and toys for your bird to find.
One way you can easily promote foraging is by having multiple bowls for your bird to have to look in to find food or treats, and not always sticking to the normal routine. From there, gradually make it more challenging by adding a cover to the food item or treat like a piece of paper, cardboard, coffee filter, or even inedible items like beads (plastic or wooden depending on your type of bird). Start off by making holes in whatever the cover is so your bird can find the food or treat and as they get better at doing so, change the item you use to cover and gradually stop making holes in it. Depending on what materials you have to work with or can obtain, you can even hide treats in items and weave them through the bars in your birds’ cage. Another option to consider outside of feeding times would be commercially available puzzle toys or foraging trees.
There are many toys readily sold that allow you to hide small treats or “rewards” such as nuts inside for your bird to have to find and work on taking out. Foraging trees are constructed from large tree branches and have secured dishes or platforms at multiple levels, with varying locations of food and treats to encourage true foraging behavior. Always be sure to monitor your bird when introducing a new item, material, toy, or treat.