Onions are toxic to parrots. All types of onions, raw or cooked, are dangerous to birds. At the very least, moderate consumption will make your parrot very sick. In the most severe cases, eating onion can lead to premature death.
Parrots can’t eat onions. When chewed, sulfur compounds turn into disulfide, irritating the mouth, crop, esophagus, and digestive tract. Onions cause hemolytic anemia as it damages the hemoglobin that carries oxygenated blood around the body. Onions are acidic, which can lead to mouth and stomach ulcers.
Also, keep your parrot away from the kitchen whenever you fry onions. The fumes from cooking onions, especially if you use non-stick cookware, are toxic to birds. The fumes will quickly enter your parrot’s respiratory system.
Are Onions Toxic To Parrots?
The following ingredients that are found in onions are considered toxic or damaging to birds, including parrots:
Onion contains sulfur compounds that turn into toxic disulfides when chewed and swallowed. Disulfides can irritate the lining of the mouth, esophagus, and crop.
These compounds also react poorly with the digestive system, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and appetite loss.
As described by Colorado State University, the disulfides found in onions cause oxidative harm to the hemoglobin that carries oxygen around the body and damages red blood cells’ membranes, resulting in hemolytic anemia.
Hemolytic anemia damages the red blood cells. It causes red blood cells to become fragile and burst as they circulate the body. Signs of hemolytic anemia include:
- A fast, weak pulse
- Abdominal pain
- Discolored urine
The symptoms of hemolytic anemia won’t arise immediately. It can take several days or longer after eating onion before the above symptoms start to arise, meaning that it has already caused internal damage.
Parrots shouldn’t consume acidic foods as they can cause mouth and stomach ulcers. Although unlikely in small quantities, some parrots are far more sensitive to acidic foods.
Stomach ulcers are extremely painful and can be fatal to parrots when left unresolved. Some ulcers might even require surgery. The symptoms of stomach ulcers include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Inability to eat
- Extreme lethargy
- Vomiting blood
- Bloody feces and urine
- Cold or pale feet
Onions also stimulate acid, which causes digestive problems and acid reflux.
Can Onions Kill Birds?
Onion consumption can cause hemolytic anemia, which can be fatal to birds. Smaller parrots, such as budgies, are most at risk. They require less onion to experience the same adverse effects as larger parrots, such as macaws.
As described by the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, a two-year-old Eclectus parrot died from hemolytic anemia after a four-day history of progressive lethargy, poor appetite, inactivity, and weakness.
While this was an immune-mediated condition, onions can cause the same problems. While the symptoms of hemolytic anemia are relatively specific, the signs of sickness from food toxicity include:
- Increased urination
- Falling from perch
- Lack of coordination
The severity of the symptoms depends on how much onion a parrot has consumed relative to its size and sensitivity. Regardless of how much onion has been consumed, take your parrot to the vet immediately.
Can Parrots Eat Raw Onions?
Raw onion tastes rather bitter and unpleasant, so it’s unlikely that your parrot will want to eat any onion. Raw onions are most toxic, containing more sulfur compounds than cooked onion.
Can Parrots Have Cooked Onions?
While cooking onions reduces the levels of sulfur compounds, it still contains enough for it to be harmful to parrots. The cooking process also reduces the nutritional content.
Parrots are more likely to enjoy the taste of cooked onion. Similarly, many human food dishes contain onion as it’s a popular flavor enhancer. If you regularly share food scraps with your bird, you’re inadvertently putting it at risk.
Unless you’re certain that your meal hasn’t been cooked with onion or garlic, you shouldn’t share your food with a parrot to minimize the risk of ill health or early death.
Can Parrots Eat Red Onions?
Red onions shouldn’t be fed to parrots. Red onion is commonly caramelized and added to burgers and hotdogs, which some owners like to share with their parrots. Don’t allow it to touch any part of the onion.
Can Parrots Eat Spring Onions?
Spring onions (also known as scallions and green onions)are just as harmful as any other kind of onion. They’re very young onions that have been harvested before the bulb has swelled.
Because they have a milder flavor than raw brown onions, parrots may attempt to eat them. However, like all onions, you should keep parrots away from them.
Can Parrots Eat Shallots?
Shallots are part of the onion family, but they’re smaller with coppery-pink skin. They also have a milder, more delicate flavor. Because they’re so closely related to all other onions, shallots are unsafe for parrots to eat.
What To Do If Your Parrot Eats An Onion
If your parrot eats a piece of onion, no matter how small, take it to the vet. Depending on your parrot’s size and sensitivity to the sulfur compounds, it could become extremely sick or die. Even if your parrot doesn’t seem sick, take it in for an examination as the onion’s effects are likely to arise later.
Vets will flush the toxins from the body using a crop lavage (crop wash). If you take your parrot to the vet soon enough, they may be able to remove the toxic compounds from the body before they’re absorbed.
Vets can induce sickness in birds with an injection to remove the onion’s toxic ingredients from its digestive tract.