Although dietary omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids have been extensively studied in poultry, they have not yet been prospectively investigated in psittacines despite potential benefits for preventing and treating atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis and other chronic disease processes. This study investigated the incorporation of dietary n-3 fatty acids into red blood cells (RBC) and determined the effects of supplementation of psittacine diets with fish or flax oil on plasma lipids and lipoproteins in the cockatiel.

Adult cockatiels were fed a custom formulated diet containing either 4% beef tallow (CON), 3% fish oil + 1% tallow (FSH) or 3.5% flax oil + 0.5% tallow (FLX; n = 20 per diet group). Baseline measurements were obtained for RBC fatty acid composition, triacylglycerides (TAG) and cholesterol.

At eight weeks, total plasma cholesterol was lowest in FSH birds and TAG concentrations were lower in FSH birds than in FLX birds. Total n-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), docosapentaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were markedly greater in the RBC of FSH birds than FLX or CON birds. Alphalinolenic acid was greatest in FLX. Initial and final BW and non-lipid plasma chemistry values did not differ among diet groups. No adverse effects of dietary supplementation of cockatiels with 3.5% flax oil or 3% fish oil were observed during the 13-week feeding period.

Although fish and flax oils provided similar total n-3 polyunsaturated (PUFA) to the diets, fish oil caused greater reductions in cholesterol and TAG and greater total RBC n-3 incorporation. Thus, modification of psittacine diets with long chain n-3 PUFA from fish oil appears safe and may be beneficial to these long-lived companion birds.

Source : C.R. Heinze et al., 2012. Effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acids on red blood cell lipid composition and plasma metabolites in the cockatiel, Nymphicus hollandicus. J Anim Sci online May 2012. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-4450