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“What’s bad for my bird to smell and eat?”

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Captive Birds don’t always understand the concept of safe, so it’s up to you to keep them out of harms way. For this discussion we’re going to focus on toxins that can work quickly, or take their time killing your birds.

Look under any kitchen sink or bathroom cabinet and you’ll find it filled with lots of household dangers. If the name on the can or the bottle ends in “Sol” think Pine-Sol or Lysol – don’t use it around your bird, it’s a phenol derivative. You may want to save money by cleaning your bird cage with bleach (find a suitable bird cage disinfectant here) but bleach gives off chlorine gas which can be deadly (Remember Canaries in Coal Mines?). Spray deodorant, hair spray and scented candles are bad for bird’s respiratory systems. Even hand lotions have killed birds as well. Hand sanitizer is full of alcohol. Plug-in air fresheners, Febreeze. Ammonia, rubbing alcohol or even perfume can be deadly. Treated wood and new carpet, and even the cleaner Endust can negatively impact your bird.

That’s a pretty straight forward list of the usual suspects but let’s look at some subtle items that could be mighty interesting to your bird – file under simple sugars. The discarded sweet roll Danish or donut. Anything with the glazing, even high sugar fruit cocktail. The simple sugar problem is when a bird ingests simple sugars these items ferment in the lower bowel and change from an aerobic (something with oxygen) environment to an anaerobic (something without oxygen) environment. Most birds have a certain bacteria that is in the small intestines and the bacteria tends to grow quite well under anaerobic conditions which then creates a toxin which causes an illness that can kill your bird in 24 hours unless antibiotics and fluids are administered rapidly.

Speaking of food, let’s look at foods with low pH, low pH means the food is acidic like oranges, raspberries, pineapple and tomatoes that all can produce symptoms similar to sugar toxicity. It’s thought that when these highly acidic foods are added to the bird’s crop they lower the pH which slows or stops the crops normal function as a passageway to further down the gastrointestinal tract. So what happens is, toxic food byproducts are absorbed into the system which can cause dehydration, regurgitation, depression and sometimes even death. This also explains why we are telling people with plucking parrots not to give your bird any citrus/acidic foods or fruit.

Overall birds need more calories than humans relative to their body weight but a third to half of these calories should be made up of high quality carbohydrates. Excess fat in birds gets stored in the liver cells or goes back to the bloodstream. If too many fats enter the birds body that can’t be utilized the fat gets stored in the birds liver. If a birds liver is overloaded it will gradually degenerate which can cause weakness, paralysis, seizures and even death.

And although it might be cute for your birds take a sip of beer it’s important to remember birds have the ability to ingest more volume compared to their body weight than humans which means liver failure occurs very quickly.
  

You’d think that avoiding tobacco arround birds would be a no-brainer but even chewing tobacco and marijuana can cause things like lung disease, feather picking and heart disease. A smoker who has tobacco residue on his hands or body can transfer that residue to a birds feathers during petting which then gets ingested when the bird begins to preen.
 
Zinc can be a problem for birds, especially big birds like Moluccan Cockatoos because they are capable of chipping off pieces of metal. You have to be careful with cages that are pre -1995. The brass or bronze coating on metals can be harmful. Anything galvanized, and remember, brighter galvanized metal means there’s more zinc in it. The zinc could be found in costume jewelry and sequins, metal zippers especially the zipper key, loose screws, nuts & bolts.
 
Speaking of heavy metal, things like tin which is in aluminum foil, gum wrappers and tin cans can be fatal AND there’s no antidote. Copper – think extension cords, pennies made after 1982 which have almost a pure copper coating. Exposed copper water pipes. 
 
Iron is certainly bad, which your bird can find in anything like the rust on an old bird cage. Culprits from curtain weights to costume jewelry, ceramics, stained-glass windows, Tiffany lamps, glitter from fancy clothing and even Christmas ornaments and foils. Celebrating with some wine? The foil top of wine bottles can contain lead. Miniscule amounts of lead can kill your bird especially those from South America like Amazons because they are very sensitive to lead poisoning which cause death in as little as 48 hours. 
 
Oh those Swarovski crystals that look so good around your neck contain a good amount of lead. These crystals don’t release lead in the bloodstream so testing won’t detect the lead but your bird can die quickly from internal hemorrhaging and the only way to fix this would be to surgically remove them once they’re identified via x-ray
 
If you think you have a green thumb and have a bird you’ll not want to have a Japanese Yew, Philodendron, Oleander, Poinsettia, Dumb Cane, Redwood, Bird of Paradise, Mistletoe, Nightshade or Around-Sherry in pots around your home. The seeds and/or the pits of apples apricots. peaches and cherries are all toxic. 
 
Speaking of pits, in 1989 it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that avocados are toxic to birds and they can die within a couple of days after just one drop from avocado paste diluted in water. Avocados will cause kidney failure in birds so it’s just best not to have any avocados in your house if your bird is out of its cage and roams.
 
Birds are lactose intolerant so theoretically you should never feed a bird cheese but birds don’t know they are lactose intolerant. Even if your bird’s system is strong and can handle small amounts of milk products let’s remember a lot of cheeses have certain kinds of gums that give it shape and texture which are non-digestible which can lead to gastrointestinal inflammation and possible obstructions.
 
Coffee, caffeinated tea, soda pop, cocoa, chocolate can all affect your birds body muscles and may induce vomiting or make your bird appear tired or cause muscle tremors, seizures and possibly even death by heart attack or respiratory failure. Keep your bird away from all of these foods.
 
Most seasoned bird owners are aware of the issues caused by no stick cookware but for those of you just researching a parrot as a pet please take note. Teflon or Silverstone that’s been heated to temperatures above 530° create vapors that are emitted from this cookery which accumulate in the lungs which cause fluid production and then anoxia or the lack of oxygen necessary for a bird, so it dies in literally minutes. 
 
I never understood growing up why I wasn’t allowed to play with fire or sharp objects unless of course I was in the kitchen. Kitchens are a bad place for a bird if you’re doing cooking of any sort.

 
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Mitch Rezman
Vice President,
Windy City Parrot, Inc
Simply Everything for Exotic Birds – Since 1993

2, Gretchen Rubin. All rights reserved.

 

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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