Honey is naturally sweet, delicious, and is known to have numerous health benefits. Unfortunately, honey can make parrots sick. If you feed your parrot honey, you must get a pasteurized variety that has had the bacteria removed.
Honey in its raw and unfiltered form contains botulism spores. Not only do the spores cause lethargy, but they can paralyze parrots. Honey is also acidic and contains lots of sugar. However, pasteurized honey contains traces of potassium, antioxidants, and bioactive compounds that can be beneficial.
While honey isn’t the best food for parrots, it makes an effective ointment for helping cuts and grazes heal. If your parrot has a minor wound, cover it with honey and leave it for a few hours to allow the antibacterial properties to speed up the healing process.
Can You Feed Parrots Honey?
Honey is a controversial food in the avian world. It’s dangerous for infants under 12 months old. Because of this, many parrot owners are also reluctant to feed their parrots honey. This cautiousness isn’t unfounded.
Unfortunately, honey is problematic for parrots. If owners purchase the wrong type, their bird can end up with paralysis. Honey even causes death. That’s why it’s so important to do your research into the effects of honey to determine whether it’s right for their bird or not.
Unfortunately, honey can be harmful to parrots. Not only can it make them extremely unwell, but it can kill them if they’re fed too much. While some varieties are preferred over others, you must exercise caution when giving it to your bird for the following reasons:
Raw honey is toxic to parrots because it contains botulism spores. As described by the World Health Organization, botulism spores are dangerous toxins produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium.
The toxins are one of the most lethal substances known and can make your parrot very sick. As further explained by USGS, botulism spores bind to the parrot’s nerve endings, interfering with their muscle movements. Signs of botulism poisoning in parrots include:
- The parrot drags its wings as it walks
- Inability to fly
- Inability to hold head up
Botulism kills rapidly, so affected parrots will die in good body condition, making it hard to determine the cause of death. Parrots only need to eat a small amount of raw honey for it to kill them.
However, pasteurized honey is a better option for parrots. That’s because the honey goes through a heat treatment that kills pathogenic microorganisms, making it safe to eat.
High Sugar Content
Honey contains around 80% naturally occurring sugar. While this is less harmful than refined sugar, it’s still not suitable for parrots.
It’s also addictive. Parrots are well-known for choosing sweet, sugary foods over their pellets and will refuse them in the hopes of getting something tastier to eat.
As a result, parrots become hungry and malnourished, lacking the nutrients they usually get from their everyday food.
Similarly, the overconsumption of sugar leads to weight gain and obesity. Captive parrots spend most of their time in their cage, so they don’t have the same opportunity to burn excess fat and calories as wild birds. This causes several health issues, including:
- Fatty liver disease
- Foot and leg pain
- Heart disease
- Mineral and vitamin deficiencies
- Swollen joints
Therefore, pasteurized honey is strictly an occasional treat.
Low Nutritional Content
Honey contains virtually no fat, protein, or vitamins. As a result, honey only really provides empty calories and sugar, with very few health benefits.
Feeding your parrot too much honey also causes weight gain and nutritional deficiencies. Similarly, it fills them up, meaning they’re less likely to eat other nutritionally-dense foods, such as pellets, vegetables, and seeds.
Compared to tasty fruits, which parrots also love, honey is higher in calories. Therefore, it doesn’t make a nutritious addition to your parrot’s diet. As a result, you should replace it with healthy, low-calorie fruits and vegetables instead.
Sugarcane is also a tasty treat that’s lower in calories than honey, making it a better option.
The pH of honey ranges from 3.4 to 6.1, with the average being 3.9. This makes it a surprisingly acidic food. That’s because it contains gluconic acid.
As described by New and Future Developments in Microbial Biotechnology and Bioengineering, gluconic acid is a mild organic acid with a brown, clear appearance. It stops honey from tasting bitter and has flavor-enhancing properties. As well as gluconic acid, honey also contains:
While honey isn’t as acidic as tomatoes, too much can cause stomach pain. In extreme cases, parrots develop stomach ulcers after eating high-acid foods for a prolonged period. Symptoms include:
- Blood in poop and urine
- Cold, pale feet
- Vomiting blood
- Extreme loss of energy
- Rapid weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Most stomach ulcers heal themselves after you remove honey from your parrot’s diet. However, some require surgery to remove.
Is Honey Good for Parrots?
While honey isn’t a good food for parrots, it’s not all bad. In fact, honey contains a few things that can actually benefit them, including:
Antioxidants And Bioactive Compounds
As described by Molecules, honey contains bioactive compounds that have both antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Honey’s loaded with polyphenols, which is a healthy micronutrient that helps prevent disease.
Flavonoids are also found in honey. Scientists have found a link between flavonoid consumption and stronger immune systems. This finding is reported in a journal by Functional Ecology. Flavonoids also have various other benefits, including:
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Good heart health
- Free radical (oxidation) control
Potassium helps bones and muscles grow healthy and strong. Without enough potassium in the body, they become brittle and soft, leaving them prone to injury.
Potassium also regulates muscle contractions, nerve signals, and fluid balance, while reducing blood pressure and stress levels. Parrots that are deficient in potassium develop behavioral problems born out of stress and agitation, such as feather plucking.
Nutritional Information of Honey
According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon (20 g) of honey contains the following nutrients:
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Can Parrots Have Raw Honey?
As we’ve already mentioned, raw honey isn’t suitable for parrots at it contains botulism spores.
While it’s impossible to tell whether these spores have developed in the raw honey you’ve picked up, it’s too dangerous to risk. The spores kill quickly and without warning, leaving you without a chance to rush your parrot to the vet for treatment.
The same goes for organic raw honey. While organic foods are normally suitable for parrots, organic honey varieties contain the same botulism spores as regular raw honey. As a result, you should avoid giving them to your parrot.
That being said, organic pasteurized honey is far safer and generally better than all other types, so not all honey is bad.
Can Parrots Have Yucatan Honey?
Also known as Mexican honey, Yucatan honey is made by Mayan beekeepers and is prized for its high-quality taste. Unfortunately for parrots, it’s raw and unfiltered, which means they can’t eat it.
However, Yucatan honey comes in jars that are sold in most grocery stores. As a result, it’s easy for parrot owners to pick it up by mistake, naively not realizing that it could harm their parrot.
So, as a rule of thumb, avoid all Yucatan honey varieties as they’re made in very similar ways. Similarly, it’s not as sweet as other kinds of honey, so parrots may not like the smoky taste anyway.
Can Parrots Eat Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey comes from New Zealand. Unlike the Yucatan variety, Manuka honey isn’t raw.
It contains an ingredient that other honey lacks, called methylglyoxal. This gives it a natural resistance to bacteria, preventing harmful germs from building up, making it safe for parrots to eat.
Not only that, but Manuka honey has several parrot health benefits, including:
- Improves digestion
- Sooth stomach pain
- Boosts the immune system
- Provides energy
It can also be used to treat scrapes and cuts and helps clear infections. If your parrot suffers from a wound, rub some honey over it and cover it to allow the antibacterial properties to heal the injury.
As a result, manuka is arguably the best honey for parrots to eat.
Can Parrots Drink Honey Water?
As long as pasteurized honey is used, honey water is safe for parrots to drink. If your parrot feels unwell or needs a boost of energy, honey can help your bird perk up and feel a bit better. To make honey water:
- Boil distilled water in a pan. Pour it into a mug and leave it to cool until it becomes warm.
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey into the water, stirring it until it dissolves.
- Taste a little bit of the honey water before feeding it to your parrot. If it’s too sweet, balance out the taste with more water. If you can’t taste the honey, add a touch more.
- Serve in a shallow bowl and replace it after a few hours so that your parrot has a fresh supply.
Can Parrots Eat Flower Honey?
Flower honey is made from the nectar of the flowers collected by honey bees. Flower honey comes in several different varieties that vary in color, flavor, and sweetness.
Most flower honey is sweet and delicious, which parrots enjoy. It’s also fine for them to eat, as long as your chosen variety isn’t raw. Most commercial flower honey is pasteurized but check the label carefully before giving it to your parrot.
Honey isn’t the healthiest thing for parrots to eat. Raw honey is even deadly. Similarly, because pasteurized honey is stripped of all its beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, it offers no real health benefit for parrots. As a result, you should regard it as a sugary treat and limit your parrot’s intake. Some owners prefer to avoid altogether.