Home / BeWell / 16 Foods That Are Harmful or Poisonous to Pet Birds
Sharing your food with your pet bird can be a bonding experience and helps reinforce that your bird is part of the flock. But do you know which foods are safe to feed birds and which ones to avoid?
We spoke to several veterinarians to find out which foods to be cautious of when your bird is around so your special time together stays safe and positive.
Photo: iStock.com/Chris Gora
While you might enjoy a cocktail now and then your pet bird should never be allowed to imbibe. Alcohol can depress your pet bird’s organ systems and lead to death. Make sure to keep any kind of alcohol out of reach, including wine or beer.
Photo: iStock.com/Olesia Shadrina
Avocado toast is brunch staple, but did you know that all parts of the avocado, including the skin and the pit, contain persin, which is toxic to birds? This fungicidal toxin can cause breathing problems, weakness, and heart failure in birds. Small birds, like canaries and parakeets, are even more at risk. Best to keep that guac to yourself.
Your daily coffee or tea may be a welcome ritual for you, but for your bird? That’s a solid “no.” In fact, birds shouldn’t have any caffeine at all. Coffee, tea, soda, coffee beans and grounds all could make your bird quite sick, causing increased heart rate, arrhythmia, hyperactivity and even cardiac arrest, so never leave your favorite caffeine-fueled drinks unattended.
Photo: iStock.com/Barbara Lopez
No matter how you like to enjoy your chocolate, don’t be tempted to share a sip of cocoa or a square of your candy bar with your bird. Chocolate contains substances that can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and eventually more severe issues such as a fast heart rate, tremors, seizures, hyperactivity and even death.
When it comes to dairy products, you need to be careful of how much you share with your pet bird. In large amounts, dairy can cause diarrhea in birds because they can’t digest the lactose found in dairy. Small amounts, like a nibble or two, are generally OK—even better if the product is low in lactose, like hard cheese.
Photo: iStock.com/art Photo
While foods high in fat aren’t necessarily toxic to birds, they aren’t healthy and can lead to obesity. For that reason, it’s best to avoid sharing them with your feathered friends. In fact, you even need to use caution if you feed your bird nuts as they contain a high amount of fat. One unsalted nut a day is plenty for a larger bird, while smaller ones should only have a sliver or two of an almond.
Garlic can be a healthy and flavorful addition to many of your favorite dishes, but for birds? Not so much. Both fresh and powdered garlic, which is even more potent, can cause vomiting, diarrhea and other digestive problems. If fed routinely, garlic can lead to hemolytic anemia (a blood condition that results in low red blood cells), respiratory distress and even death.
While not all varieties of mushrooms are toxic to birds, and those that are safe for people are generally safe for birds, experts recommend avoiding them altogether. Some of the more “exotic” varieties can be toxic, some have been known to cause digestive problems in parrots, and the stems and caps of certain mushrooms can potentially cause liver failure in birds. Go ahead and enjoy your mushrooms but make sure your bird is safely out of snacking range.
Whether served cooked, raw or dried, onions can cause your bird to suffer diarrhea, vomiting and other tummy problems. Similar to onions, they can also lead to hemolytic anemia (a blood condition that results in low red blood cells), trouble breathing or even death.
Photo: iStock.com/Anton Skripachev
It’s well-known that birds love nuts, but peanuts in the shell should be avoided because they can grow mold inside of the shell if they get wet. Since birds put the whole caboodle in their mouths when they eat nuts in the shell, they might accidentally be eating mold, which can make them sick. So only serve shelled nuts, and in moderation like we talked about in the high-fat food section.
11Plant Parts from Nightshade Vegetables
Photo: iStock.com/Vasin Hirunwiwatwong
Potatoes, bell peppers and eggplant are fine for your bird to eat, but avoid giving them the leaves or any part of the plant, for that matter. Ingesting these plants, which belong to the nightshade family, can cause kidney problems.
While pet birds (and humans) do need regulated amounts of sodium in their systems, too much salt can lead to dehydration, kidney and/or liver dysfunction and potentially death. Most bird diets already have plenty of sodium, so keep those salty snacks to yourself, if you must indulge.
13Seeds or Pits from Rose Family Fruits
Photo: iStock.com/Marina Komrakova
Cut up fruits from the rose family (apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums) are healthy and delicious bird-approved treats, but the seeds and pits are toxic, containing trace amounts of a compound that can be problematic for your bird’s heart functions. So skip the seeds and pits—and make sure to wash the fruits before you cut them up because you never know what herbicides or pesticides could be lingering on the surface.
While fresh tomatoes are not actually toxic to birds, many vets recommend not feeding them because they are acidic and can irritate a bird’s digestive system. Lots of bird parents also skip tomato products like ketchup, salsa and all the other ways tomatoes make their way onto our plates.
Photo: iStock.com/Diana Taliun
Uncooked beans can be a choking hazard and they also have a toxin called hemagglutinin in them. If you have dried beans in your pantry, make sure they are in a well-sealed container, so they don’t find their way into curious beaks. Cooked beans, on the other hand, generally are fine.
Eating less sugar is a goal for many people. However, the artificial sweetener xylitol, often found in sugarless gum and many diet foods, is a pet bird no-no. While the exact effects of this sugar substitute have not been studied in birds, it is known that if ingested by pets, it can result in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), liver damage and possibly death.
Providing treats is an important part of enrichment and bonding with your feathered bestie. (And sometimes they just don’t want to take no for an answer!) But to keep your pet safe, avoid foods that are harmful or potentially poisonous to birds whenever you are tempted to share snacks.
Screenshot and save this list of foods to avoid:
PLANT PARTS FROM NIGHTSHADE VEGGIES
SEEDS OR PITS OF ROSE FAMILY FRUITS
If you have questions about which foods are safe to feed, be sure to give your vet a call. It’s may also be good idea to learn more about what birds can eat
Expert input providied by Dr. Laurie Hess, Manager, Veterinary Services – Special Species - Chewy; Margaret A. Wissman, DABVP, exotics consultant at Antech Diagnostic Labs, and Dr. Byron de la Navarre, DVM, Owner and Chief of Staff at Animal House Animal Hospital Complete Veterinary Care.
Brush up on bird nutrition: