7 toxic parrot foods you should avoid

It can be tempting to share human foods with your parrot and it’s important to keep their diet varied. But did you know there are some toxic parrot foods out there that you should avoid?

Let’s go into 7 toxic parrot foods that you should never feed, as well as 5 more that you might want to be cautious about.

Don’t feed

Alcohol

The effects of alcohol on birds are much the same as those in humans. The problem is that birds are just too small to handle even minimal amounts without their organ systems shutting down.

Remember: Ingestion of marijuana and (prescription) drugs can also cause serious adverse effects or death, not in the least due to stress.

Chocolate

Dark chocolate especially contains theobromine, caffeine and theophylline. Even in small quantities, this can potentially be deadly.

Did you know? A 2007 study suggested that a wild Kea parrot in New Zealand had passed away from ingestion of 20 grams of dark chocolate that it had somehow found and eaten.

Gartrell, B. D., & Reid, C. (2007)

Caffeine

Ingestion of coffee, teas containing theine, sodas, energy drinks or anything else that contains caffeine can cause problems in parrots.

Where these drinks give us a boost of energy, in birds it can overload their tiny hearts.

Avocado

Avocado toxicity is still a bit of a question mark, as some parrots appear fine after ingestion. Others pass away due to persin poisoning.

Better safe than sorry! Keep avocados, their peels and any parts of the avocado tree away from your parrots.

Budgies given small amounts of avocado in a study passed away in a span of 48 hours.

Lightfoot & Yeager, 2008

Fruit pits

Cyanide poisoning is a possibility with ingestion of some fruit pits, notably apple. This also applies to cherry, apricot, plum and peach.

Xylitol

Dangerous to many animals, xylitol is found in sugar-free products like candy. It can cause acute hypoglycemia in your parrot and other birds.

Onion & garlic

Although allium toxicity (from onions and garlic but also other related plant species like chives) needs to be studied more extensively in birds, it’s clear that it can be problematic.

Among other effects, anaemia and liver damage can pop up, and in unlucky cases lead to death.

Be careful

Nightshades

Many vegetables from the nightshade family can be fed to parrots just fine.

Tomatoes, capsicum and other peppers, aubergine and others should pose no problems. However: their stems and leaves will. Remove any green bits.

Peanuts

Although parrots love them, improperly stored peanuts can be infected with a mould that can cause liver toxicity: aflatoxin.

Human grade peanuts should be fine, but given that they’re also very fatty, many parrot owners just choose to avoid them.

7 toxic parrot foods you should avoid.
Peanuts tend to be viewed with suspicion by parrot owners.

Processed human foods

We all know that our parrots would sell their soul for a crisp, fry or cracker. Be careful, though: processed foods can cause salt toxicity in large amounts and they’re also very rich in fats.

Dried beans

Thoroughly softened and cooked beans are fine for your bird. If they’re raw or not cooked properly, though, they can pose a danger.

Mushrooms

Another source of discussion, some sources report that human-safe mushrooms are also safe for parrots. Others recommend avoiding all mushrooms, explaining that they cause digestive upset.

In light of ‘better safe than sorry’, we’d say there are plenty of other foods to offer to your parrot.

Conclusion

It’s important to inform yourself about parrot diet and potentially toxic foods before you add a feathered friend to your family.

Remember that this list is not exhaustive! There are other foods that are not outright toxic but might not be ideal, like rhubarb (irritating oxalic acid), cabbage (can interfere with calcium uptake) and dairy (birds are lactose intolerant).

What we’d like to see are more extensive studies done on food toxicity, as in a lot of cases, the effects of certain foods are just not really clear. Luckily, there are plenty of proven safe foods to feed your pet parrot.

Sources

Gardner, B. R., & Mitchell, E. P. (2017). Acute, fatal, presumptive xylitol toxicosis in Cape Sugarbirds (Promerops cafer). Journal of avian medicine and surgery31(4), 356-358.

Gartrell, B. D., & Reid, C. (2007). Death by chocolate: a fatal problem for an inquisitive wild parrot. New Zealand Veterinary Journal55(3), 149-151.

Lightfoot, T. L., & Yeager, J. M. (2008). Pet bird toxicity and related environmental concerns. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice11(2), 229-259.

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