Last Updated on: 28th October 2023, 06:43 pm
The main dangers of introducing a pet parrot to your home are infectious diseases, acts of aggression, and the adverse side effects of fecal waste and feather dust.
A parrot brought to the home must be quarantined for 30-40 days to minimize the risk of parasites and zoonotic diseases being transferred from bird to human.
Most parrots settle into family life well and become friendly pets, but they’re still unpredictable animals. Never leave young children and parrots together unsupervised, even if they appear relaxed.
Ensure that nobody has an allergy to parrots because birds release dust from their feathers near-constantly. While dust isn’t toxic, it can cause respiratory distress.
Can Parrots Cause Illness in Humans?
Biological Reviews explains how transferring bacterial infections from birds to humans is a risk during handling. Parrots carry diseases, especially when caged with other birds or imported from overseas.
When introduced to a new home, a new parrot must be quarantined and closely monitored.
If you buy a parrot from a reputable breeder, it’ll have been tested for illnesses and diseases by a vet, but this doesn’t negate the need for quarantine.
What Diseases Can Humans Catch from Parrots?
As explained by Veterinary Research, parrots and humans can share health concerns. The following diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed between birds and humans:
Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)
Psittacosis, or parrot fever, is a comparatively common bacterial infection.
Psittacosis is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydophila psittaci. Left ignored and untreated, the infection can be life-threatening to parrots.
Be vigilant about the symptoms, which include:
- Streaming from the nares.
- Swollen, puffy eyes.
- Loss of appetite.
- Digestive upset.
While cases of psittacosis in humans are less common than those diagnosed in birds, this disease can be passed to humans from a parrot, especially if you share a space with poor ventilation.
Common psittacosis symptoms in humans include:
- Fever and chills.
- Muscular aches and pains.
- Chronic headaches.
- Dry, chesty cough.
Antibiotics, most frequently doxycycline and tetracycline, are considered effective treatments. Symptoms should ease in humans within 24 hours, and most parrots recover within weeks.
Avian influenza outbreaks, primarily the highly contagious H5N1 strain, regularly make the news.
Avian influenza is most common in imported poultry and spreads like wildfire among nearby birds, frequently leading to the culling of a flock.
H5N1 can lead to pneumonia in immunocompromised humans, so an infected bird must be quarantined. A parrot with avian influenza can shed airborne particles through the mouth, nose, and feces.
A similar but even more serious concern is avian tuberculosis. This illness is caused by the Mycobacterium avium bacteria, which causes swelling in the lymph nodes.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal explains that cases of avian tuberculosis in humans are rare.
Take precautions to protect yourself and the parrot from this illness because conventional antibiotics are ineffective against Mycobacterium avium.
Salmonellosis is caused by the bacteria salmonella typhimurium, typically ingested by parrots in uncooked meat or caused by failure to clean a cage.
Salmonellosis is more common in the wild than in captivity because they may share tainted water.
Common symptoms of salmonellosis in birds and humans include:
- Diarrhea that’s a shade of yellow or green.
- Excessive thirst, potentially leading to polyuria.
- Lack of appetite.
- Lethargy and muscle weakness.
Parrots show generic signs of ill health, like ruffled feathers and uncharacteristic aggression. You can catch this condition from a parrot while cleaning a cage because the bacteria remain in waste.
Antibiotics will be administered for avian salmonellosis if detected sufficiently early.
Polyomavirus is a deadly infection that causes warts and lesions on the skin and feathers. While polyomavirus can lead to benign tumor growth, this concern is more commonly fatal.
An avian vaccination is available. If you get polyomavirus from a parrot, the symptoms in humans are mild and comparable to conjunctivitis.
According to the Journal of Virology, polyomavirus strains are rarely dangerous in healthy mammals.
Candidiasis is a yeast infection caused by candida, a fungus that grows within the body.
While all parrots and humans carry candida in the body, preventing levels from increasing to excess is essential. Common reasons for a parrot to develop candidiasis include:
- Antibiotic medication.
- Weakened immunity due to a different sickness.
- An inappropriate diet with excessive sugar.
- Unsanitary living conditions.
- Increased stress.
Candidiasis is likeliest to impact the digestive tract of a parrot, although it can also lead to sour crop. Clinical symptoms of candidiasis in parrots include:
- White lesions around the beak.
- Lethargy and muscular weakness.
- Slow and steady deflation of the crop.
- Lack of appetite.
If you believe a parrot has candidiasis, wear gloves when handling the bird and cleaning the cage. A veterinarian will treat candidiasis with anti-fungal medications.
Cryptococcosis and Histoplasmosis
Cleaning up after any animal is a vital part of pet ownership. This means you must regularly muck out a parrot’s cage, removing any traces of waste left by the parrot, ideally while still wet.
Is dried parrot poop dangerous? The hazards of parrot feces revolve around fungal infections, most notably cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis.
These diseases attack the respiratory tract, with symptoms including coughing, wheezing, and chest pain.
Somebody with a healthy and robust immune system may not notice the symptoms of these concerns. Anybody with compromised immunity can suffer significant breathing difficulties.
Can Parrots Cause Respiratory Problems in Humans?
Dried parrot feces could provoke respiratory disease in humans. Another significant risk is parrot dust, which can cause an allergic reaction in household members.
Parrot dust is a powdery substance that coats your bird’s feathers, which sheds when the parrot flaps its wings. This dust will fall from the wings throughout the year, most notably during molting season.
This isn’t a concern in the wild, as the wind carries parrot dust away. In the home, where air circulation is more limited, parrot dust may be inhaled, leading to irritation and respiratory issues.
Is Parrot Dust Harmful?
Parrot dust isn’t toxic but can trigger allergies or asthma attacks in humans.
Some breeders also develop a condition known as bird fancier’s lung due to inhaling significant amounts of parrot dust. This condition causes symptoms comparable to bronchitis.
Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology explains how the only resolution for bird fancier’s lung is avoidance of exposure to avian species. Corticosteroids are unlikely to be effective in the long term.
Do Parrots Attack Humans?
Training and taming a parrot is essential to maintaining a positive relationship.
Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice explains that biting is uncommon among wild parrots, so this behavior seems limited to human interactions.
Confirm the parrot is biting as an act of willful aggression. Young parrots are prone to bluffing at 4-12 months due to changing hormones.
Bluffing must be ignored, as any response will be regarded as attention and encourage more of the same. A parrot will grow out of this habit, but consider protecting yourself with gloves during handling.
If an adult parrot continues bluffing, you may learn what inspires this unwelcome aggression. Potential explanations include:
- Fear of humans.
- Overstimulation, perhaps due to excessive handling or intense play.
- Frustration caused by lack of exercise or inability to mate during the breeding season.
- Perceived ignoring of body language cues.
- Desire to assert dominance.
Biting in adult parrots must be resolved, calling in an animal behaviorist for help if necessary. The longer a parrot is permitted to bite, the more problematic the behavior will become.
Do Parrot Bites Hurt?
The pain associated with a parrot bite will depend on the species that attacked you and your pain tolerance. No parrot bite is likely to be wholly pain-free.
A parrot’s beak is tough enough to break nutshells, so a bite will always cause some discomfort.
If the parrot nips and backs away, it’s just warning you. Don’t put the parrot in a position where it needs to bite you again with greater force.
Are Parrot Bites Dangerous?
The bite force of an animal, including parrots, is measured by pounds per square inch, or PSI.
Larger parrots with hooked bills, like macaws, have a powerful bite force of up to 400 PSI, which is roughly as strong as a rottweiler and can break bones or sever human fingers.
In addition to the risk of injury, a parrot bite may pass diseases to a human.
If a parrot bites you, remove yourself from the situation immediately. Then, secure the bird in its cage and wash the wound thoroughly with antibacterial soap.
If you experience any symptoms of ill health following a parrot bite, seek medical attention.
You may need a booster if you have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years.
Can a Parrot Kill a Human?
There’s no recorded case of a parrot actively killing a human through a direct attack. However, this doesn’t involve sharing a space with an aggressive parrot isn’t dangerous.
Somebody very old or young will have more limited immunity to diseases passed on through a parrot bite. This can make a parrot attack deadly if treatment isn’t sought.
While parrots make loving pets, never lose sight of the risks of living with them. While it’s comparatively easy to maintain a safe relationship with a parrot, be mindful of the risks.