Just as there are specific foods that birds need to eat to ensure good health and behavior, there is a list of “bad foods” that should be avoided at all cost. As shown with the information provided, certain foods are both toxic and dangerous to birds. Obviously, there are distinct differences between human and mammal diets and birds are no exception since they have unique physiology and anatomy makeups.
As part of the Class Aves, there are numerous species, each with varying sensitivities to toxins. Interestingly, there are documented cases of toxic problems associated with food but for the most part, information has come directly from actual bird owners. Because of this, many avian veterinarians are forced to depend on toxicology information connected with domesticated cat and dog medicine, and in a few instances, pediatric medicine.
We also want to mention that dose is what determines the level of poison. In other words, some birds can eat very small amounts of toxic foods and never get sick but become ill if large quantities are consumed. Then there are certain species that become violently ill or even die even when eating only small portions.
Erring on the Side of Caution
Reputable avian veterinarians agree that when it comes to birds, it is always “better safe than sorry”. Below is a list of foods that bird experts have divided into three specific groups.
- Group One – Foods that should never be fed to a bird no matter what
- Group Two – Foods not recommended but sometimes consumed without any ill effect
- Group Three – Foods that should be fed with extreme caution
Group One – Foods that should never be fed to a bird – period
- Avocado – No part of an avocado should be fed to a bird because of a toxic principle called persin. There are reported cases of birds going into cardiac arrest, especially smaller species such as budgies, canaries, and parakeets. Typical signs of distress appear within 12 hours of eating avocadoes and can lead to death within just a day or two
- Chocolate – Both caffeine and theobromine found in chocolate are classified as methylaxanthines, which cause seizures, rapid heart rate, hyperactivity, tremors, and even death. Experts claim the darker the chocolate the more toxic it is.
- Onion – Raw or in concentrated forms such as soup mix and seasoning powder, onion is potentially deadly
- Garlic – The same holds true for garlic as it does onion
- Pitted and Seeded Fruits – Found in peaches, plums, apples, cherries, and apricots, pits and seeds contain deadly cyanide
- Comfrey – While a popular food among some canary breeders, human studies of this green leaf herb show it to cause liver damage
- Sugar Free Candy – Xylitol, a sugar substitute leads to liver damage and low blood sugar
- Foods high in Sugar, Salt, and Fat – In birds, foods that contain high levels of sugar, salt, and/or fat are dangerous to birds
Group Two – Foods not Recommended but Sometimes Consumed
- Dairy Products – The problem is not so much toxicity but digestion. First, the risk of diarrhea increases the more dairy a bird consumes. Second, to date no hard testing has been done to determine the long-term effect of dairy products on birds, which means there could be hidden risk.
Group Three – Foods that Should be Fed with Caution
- Old or Moldy Peanuts – While most birds love fresh peanuts, old or moldy food is typically contaminated with a toxin that produced fungus
- Some Plants – Plants belonging to the nightshade family are both good and bad. Fruit and vegetables produced by these plants to include eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes are fine but stems and leaves are dangerous.
- Rhubarb – The leaves of a rhubarb plant contain oxalate crystals known to cause serious kidney problems
- Mushrooms – When cooked, mushrooms are less toxic than when raw but in any case, they are dangerous to birds
- Grit – For smaller bird species, grit is needed for proper digestion but an over-consumption, grit causes a blockage of the intestine.