Safe/Unsafe Foods for Birds

Never give these foods to the birds:

  • Avocado – The pit and skin are the most toxic parts of the avocado, but even the flesh can kill a bird within minutes.
  • Chocolate – Contains the compound theobromine, which speeds up the metabolism. The darker chocolates containing a higher percentage of cacao, which are also the more pricey chocolates, are the most dangerous. Chocolate toxicity can be fatal.
  • Raw honey – This contains fairly high levels of botulism and should not be fed to birds or infants. Used pasteurized honey instead.
  • Caffeine – This speeds up the metabolism in an animal with already high metabolic rates. It can bring on cardiac distress and death.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol depresses the organ system and can be fatal, even in small amounts.
  • Salt/Sugar – Sodium (salt) is a necessity in all living creatures. However, too much salt can bring on dehydration and kidney dysfunction. The different foods we eat contains both salts and sugars naturally. It is unnecessary and unsafe to add these ingredients to our bird’s foods.
  • Uncooked beans – A nasty thing called hemaglutin is present in dried beans and can be dangerous for birds. 

The following is a list of those foods which are considered questionable, and are debated.

Dairy products – Birds are lactose intolerant. This is fact. However, birds do love cheese, and when given in small amounts infrequently, most do not have a problem digesting it.

  • Peanuts/peanut butter – Peanuts can contain aflotoxins, a carcinogenic substance, as can tree nuts, grains, cereals and corn. Peanut shells can also harbor fungus, I am more concerned about this factor, so I buy raw peanuts and bake them myself.  Commercial peanut butters have a lower contamination of aflotoxins than do the more natural brands. This is one of the few instances where over-processing is a good thing.  I should also point out that there are rare occasions of peanut allergies in birds. Just like similar allergies in humans, this is only discovered once it has been eaten.
  • Onion – Onions can bring on digestive discomforts in both birds and humans, especially when eaten raw. Excessive amounts can also cause anemia.
  • Garlic – Over indulgence in garlic can cause anemia. Like onion, it must be a food that is given in moderation.
  • Mushrooms – Mushrooms are a fungus. Some species have toxicity, some more than others. While birds do seem to enjoy the texture, they are worthless nutritionally. I don’t feed them to my birds because there are no benefits to balance out any potential risks.
  • Fruit seeds and pits – The seeds and pits from certain fruits: apples, pears, peaches, cherries, apricots, nectarines and plums contain low levels of a cyanide-like compound and if eaten in quantity can be fatal to your bird. Your bird should never have access to these seeds or pits. However, the seeds from the following are safe: grapes, citrus fruits, squashes, pumpkins, tomatoes, melons, pomegranate, mango and berry seeds.
  • Cabbage – Cabbage and leafy greens contain oxalic acids which interferes with calcium absorption in the meals that follow. However, kale, for instance, is one of the most nutrient rich foods we can offer to our birds.
  • Rhubarb – Raw rhubarb has very high levels of oxalic acid, especially in the leaves. It is said that once cooked, it drops to an acceptable level making it a safe food. Other sources say that the levels do not drop acceptably.
  • Asparagus –  Asparagus has been said to cause severe digestive upsets in some birds and humans.
  • Eggplant – It is also said that eggplant, due to the solanin it contains, can cause stomach upsets, although I am unaware of any instances of this happening.
  • Junk/fatty foods and snacks (crackers, chips, pizza, bread, processed foods, etc) *Rule of thumb: if it’s not good for us, its not good for them!

Safe fruits and vegetables

  • Apple, Apricot, Banana, Cranberry, Mango, Nectarine, Orange, Papaya, Peach, Pear and Pineapple.
  • Beets, Broccoli, Carrots, Celery, Corn, Cucumber, Spinach, Snap Peas, Okra, Peppers, Radish, Squash, Zucchini

Other safe foods include:

  • Whole Wheat Pasta, Whole Grain Breads, Corn Bread, Cooked Eggs, Sprouted Seeds

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