Ground Foraging Mat for the Little Guys

This is a foraging toy I developed for my princess parrot, Leo, and it works well for him for many reasons. First, in the wild Leo’s species are “ground foragers”. That means they spend much of their time on the ground, in the grass, searching for and eating food. If you have a cockatiel or a budgie (parakeet), you have a bird who would ground forage in the wild and who should enjoy this foraging activity.

Second, Leo is handicapped and can’t fly. He has a skeletal deformity resulting in a slightly twisted neck; he has a malocluded beak, and he is missing a toe. And, I love this bird with my whole heart, but…how can I put this…well, I’ll just tell you what his highly regarded avian vet said: “maybe he has a couple of bulbs burnt out”. Let’s just say he’s not as cerebral as my other birds who are high energy and like problem solving.

For this foraging toy you need two things: the mat and some treats. The mats are sold as ‘fake grass”. If you search Amazon for “fake grass square” you’ll find many variations. The one I have is 12″x12″ and the grass is long and very realistic.

For the treats, I use all Leo’s favorites, both dry treats and fruit and veg. Today he has millet, popcorn, safflower seed, small cubes of apple and carrot, corn kernels, pomegranate seeds, a raw cranberry, the “peas” from inside sugar snap peas, and half a cherry tomato. You can change the difficulty a little bit by hiding the more desireable “treat” items deep in the grass, and the stuff you really want him to eat right on top. Sprinkle the treats around randomly. In my experience foods presented this way -small and in a foraging toy – encourage picky birds to try them. If your foraging mat gets sticky or dirty, you can wash it in the sink and hang to dry


Notes on safety: inspect your mat regularly to ensure no stringy parts have developed or come away that can ensnare your bird. Some people have told me that on occasions these mats smell a little “artificial” when brand new. Obviously, you need to use your own best judgement when it comes to what you give your bird. At the very least I would leave the mat outside for a week to air and then wash and dry it before using.