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Foods Poisonous to Birds – Is There Such a Thing?

poisonous to birds

Believe it or not, many common foods can wreak havoc on a bird’s digestive system and are poisonous to birds.

Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “Don’t feed the birds!” What we don’t know is WHY.

The reason behind this warning is that many human foods can poison your feathered friends and make them sick or even kill them.

It’s important to understand that certain foods are dangerous or even toxic for pet birds – and that not all birds are identical in what they can and cannot eat.

Just as not all people have the same reactions to a certain food, the same is true for birds.

Food that doesn’t make one pet bird ill could kill another.

Here are some foods that poison birds – these are foods to avoid if you want to raise healthy, long-lived pet birds.

Foods Poisonous to Birds Is There Such a Thing

20 Foods Poisonous to Birds

poisonous to birds

1. Comfrey

Comfrey is a medicinal herb that many people view as a weed – but others grow in droves.

While some canary breeders rave about the benefits of feeding their birds this green leaf herb, some studies have suggested that it can cause liver damage in high doses.

You may want to steer clear instead.

2. Chocolate

This one might seem like a no-brainer – why would you give a pet bird chocolate? It’s not like that’s a portion of food they would naturally find it nibbling upon in the wild!

However, it’s widespread for pet birds to suffer from symptoms of poisoning after ingesting chocolate.

Even a nibble can be dangerous – so don’t be tempted to share that Hershey’s bar with your pet parakeet.

The reason why chocolate is so dangerous for pet birds is that it contains both caffeine and theobromine.

These are methylxanthines, which can cause hyperactivity and lead to symptoms like tremors, seizures, increased heart rate, and potentially, death if ingested at a high dose.

The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your pet bird – so keep it far, far away.

3. Onions and Garlic

For both allium family members, garlic and onions can be toxic to cats, dogs, and pet birds.

The more concentrated the onion and garlic are, the more dangerous it can be – so things like garlic powder or powdered onion soup mix are hazardous.

However, even the raw forms of these vegetables can be dangerous.

Death has been reported in birds which they fed large amounts of green onions and garlic alike.

4. Apple Seeds

Apple seeds contain cyanide, so don’t let your bird chew on them.

While it’s wonderful to feed a few apple slices here and there, make sure the seeds are removed to eliminate the risk of poisoning.

poisonous to birds

5. Fruit Pits

Don’t let your bird eat pits that are found in fruits such as nectarines, peaches, apricots, plums, or cherries.

While the fruit itself is fine, the pits can contain cyanide, which in excess has the ability to kill a bird.

6. Avocado

You might adore your morning avocado and toast, but don’t be tempted to share with your macaw.

Avocado contains persin, a toxin that is fungicidal and can be cardiac in birds. At the same time, smaller birds like budgies and canaries are more susceptible.

Clinical signs of toxicity have been observed in many other species of birds, too.

Feed your pet bird avocado, and you’ll likely notice symptoms like respiratory distress within around 12 hours after eating it.

Death can occur, too, typically within one to two days of eating the toxin.

7. Cassava

Cassava, including cassava flour, tapioca, and cassava root, should also be avoided.

This is a food that you probably don’t need to worry about too much since it’s not commonly found in households, and even if it is, it will take a lot of it to harm a bird seriously.

Like apple seeds and fruit pits, cassava contains small amounts of cyanide-inducing compounds. It’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid this one!

8. Heavy Metals

Not food, perhaps – but something you really need to be careful about in terms of it coming into contact with your pet birds.

Metals are everywhere in our environment, from old bird toys to linoleum, twist ties, to paint.

Ensure your birds are not allowed to chew on anything that might contain heavy metals like copper, lead, and zinc.

It can kill your bird quickly and lead to serious neurological damage.

9. Dried Beans

You might love giving your birds a few cooked beans, but raw beans are foods you should steer clear of.

Raw, dry beans can be extremely dangerous for a pet since they contain a toxin known as hemagglutinin that can kill your pet bird in a hurry.

Avoid exposure by thoroughly cooking any beans you plan on sharing with your bird. Don’t leave uncooked dry beans in a location that will be easily accessible, either.

10.  Caffeine

We already mentioned that chocolate was a no-go for pet birds, but caffeine by itself is another ingredient that should stay far away from your pet.

It’s not just chocolate that contains caffeine – you also need to prevent your bird from ingesting coffee, tea, and soda.

Caffeine, as mentioned earlier, can cause cardiac problems with birds and lead to arrhythmia, increased heart rate, hyperactivity, and even cardiac arrest.

11. Alcohol

As a responsible pet bird owner, it might sound obvious to you, but please do not give your bird a sip of your beer or glass of wine!

Furthermore, make sure any alcohol you have is secured.

Your bird won’t differentiate from an open pint of beer versus a pool of water and will likely take a sip the next time he’s winging it around your home.

There have, sadly, been many instances in which free-flying birds have been poisoned by alcohol that they helped themselves to while sipping from unattended cocktails.

Alcohol can depress the fragile organ systems of a bird and ultimately be fatal. If you’re serving alcohol in your house, keep it away from where your bird can reach it.

poisonous to birds

12. Salt

You might add salt a dash at a time to most types of food that you eat – you might even enjoy munching on salty pretzels, crackers, popcorn, or chips!

However, while a bit of salt won’t hurt you, it’s not the best thing in the world to give to your pet.

Even just one salty pretzel or cracker can throw off the delicate fluid and electrolyte balance in the tiny body of a bird.

This can cause excessive thirst, kidney failure, dehydration, and death.

Skip it instead!

13. Grit

If you’ve ever raised birds like chickens, you know that grit is essential for some kinds of birds in aiding in their digestion.

With pet birds, however, you do need to be careful about how much grit you provide. It can become poisonous to birds.

Though usually fine in small doses, some pet bird species, such as lovebirds, cockatiels, and parakeets, tend to overdo it on the ground when they aren’t feeling well.

This can lead to intestinal blockages.

Similarly, you mustn’t provide parrots with grit. They don’t need it since they crack open seed hulls before they eat them.

14. Sugar-Free Candy

You might love what all that sugar-free candy has done for your weight loss efforts, but please do not feed it to your birds!

Sugar-free candy contains xylitol which has not been studied extensively in pet birds – however, it is believed to cause liver damage and dangerously low blood sugar in dogs.

poisonous to birds

15. Dairy Products

Leave the ice cream, cheese, and yogurt for yourself – your birds don’t need it.

Dairy isn’t technically poisonous to birds, but it’s not going to do your pet birds any favors.

If there’s any dairy in your birds’ diets, they can develop serious diarrhea.

Some dairy products are worse than others in producing this effect. Cheese and yogurt contain less lactose than, say, a glass of milk.

However, since these foods aren’t necessary for a pet bird’s diet, it’s best to avoid them or feed in extreme moderation.

16. Mushrooms

While many mushrooms are perfectly safe for pet birds to eat, some need to be taken off the list of potential food items for your pet bird.

Most mushrooms that people can eat are safe for birds to eat. Some are toxic to humans, though, like false morels – these are also toxic to birds.

If you don’t know how to identify the mushrooms you plan to feed your pet birds positively, don’t do it.

Even if you’re mostly sure, many mushrooms have similar toxic lookalikes.

17. Rhubarb Leaves

It’s okay to feed your pet bird rhubarb stalks – however, you should avoid the leaves.

The leaves of rhubarb plants contain oxalate, which can cause serious kidney problems in humans and birds alike.

18. Nightshade Plants

The name alone sounds ominous – but nightshade plants are widespread.

Peppers, potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes are all part of this toxic plant family. While the fruits and vegetables are fine for birds to eat, you should avoid feeding your birds any plant parts.

These can kill birds – and most other animals – in a hurry.

19. Peanuts

The jury’s out on whether peanuts are safe or poisonous to birds. However, if you can avoid them, do it.

Peanuts that have gone moldy (and products made with peanuts) can be contaminated by a fungus that can produce toxins.

Though effects tend to be rare and minimal, is it really worth risking it>

20. Anything With Lots of Sugar or Fat

Chances are if it’s not healthy for you, it’s probably not the best thing for you to feed to your pet bird, either.

Anything laden with fat or sugar can cause health problems in birds – some of these are similar to what we might suffer from as humans, like obesity!

Rather than feeding your pet bird these foods, consider some of the healthier alternatives listed below.

poisonous to birds

What Plants Are Poisonous to Birds?

In addition to the foods we’ve mentioned above, you’ll also want to avoid growing certain plants in your house that can be poisonous to birds, if you plan on raising birds.

Many of these are toxic to other pets, too, so if you plan on having your own little menagerie in your home, steer clear of plants such as:

  • Mistletoe
  • Philodendron
  • Morning glory
  • Lilies
  • Poinsettia
  • Shamrock
  • Ivy
  • Holly
  • Amaryllis
  • Daffodil

If you must grow these plants, put them in a spot in the home where your pet birds cannot reach them.

poisonous to birds

Frequently Asked Questions

What Foods Kills Birds Instantly?

Here is a quick list of different foods that you should keep away from your pet bird:

  • Anything that has caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Salty foods
  • Fatty foods
  • Cassava
  • Dairy
  • Gum
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Fruit seeds and pits
  • Avocado

You want to make sure to wash your hands if you’ve touched these foods and are going to be handling or feeding your bird.

Can Birds Have Sugar?

Birds cannot digest raw sugar. It may not be poisonous immediately, but sugar can cause health problems just like fatty and salty foods.

Better Alternatives: What to Feed Your Pet Bird

Rather than the foods listed above, that can be poisonous to birds, consider giving your pet bird healthier alternatives.

Some good fresh foods to consider include raw or steamed vegetables, soaked and cooked (or sprouted) legumes, nuts and seeds (also soaked or sprouted), small amounts of raw fruit, and raw or steamed vegetables.

Cooked whole grains and feed mixes designed for pet birds are also ideal.

Generally, fruits, nuts, and seeds should comprise no more than 20% of a pet bird’s diet. These can cause your bird to become unhealthy and overweight.

Remember that wild birds expend a lot more energy than captive birds, so you’ll want to keep sugary treats to a minimum!

Pellets should make up about 50 to 70% of a pet bird’s diet, with the rest composed of fresh foods like those mentioned above.

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  • Made in the USA: our food is mixed, formed, and packaged in small batches and under one roof on the Lafeber family farm in Cornell, IL

Feed your pet bird pellets that do not contain dyes or sugar since these can build up in a bird’s body and cause disease, potentially even shortening a bird’s lifespan.

Otherwise, by avoiding the foods that poison the birds listed above, you shouldn’t have any problems keeping your bird healthy in the long run.

READ NEXT: These Are 17 Things Only A Bird Owner Understands

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