Adult cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) metabolically adapt to high protein diets

Elizabeth A. Koutsos, Jeanne Smith, Leslie Woods, Kirk C. Klasing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


To determine the ability of cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus), a granivorous avian species, to adapt metabolically to high dietary protein levels, adult males (n = 26) were fed isocaloric diets containing 11, 20, 35 or 70% crude protein (CP) for 11 mo. Throughout the trial, body weight and breast muscle weight were maintained by 11, 20 or 70% CP. The 35% CP diet resulted in significantly greater body weight (P < 0.05) and whole-body lipid content (P < 0.05) compared with the 11% CP diet. The 20% CP diet resulted in greater breast muscle mass compared with 70% CP (P < 0.05). Activity of the amino acid catabolic enzymes alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase and arginase as well as the gluconeogenic enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase were significantly increased with 70% CP (P < 0.05). Serum essential amino acids, urea and uric acid were also increased with 70% CP (P < 0.05), but the magnitude of their increase was similar to that found in omnivorous chickens fed a similar diet. There was no evidence of visceral gout, articular gout or renal pathology; however liver lesion severity, and specifically liver lipogranuloma severity, was significantly increased above 11% CP (P < 0.05). We conclude that cockatiels are able to up-regulate enzymes for amino acid catabolism as well as mechanisms for nitrogen excretion in response to high dietary protein levels, and that high dietary protein levels are not associated with kidney dysfunction in this avian species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2014-2020
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001


  • Adaptation
  • Amino acid catabolism
  • Cockatiels
  • Maintenance
  • Protein toxicity
  • Psittacine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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