Last Updated on January 29, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
Although parrots enjoy the sweet taste of honey, they aren’t always bird-safe.
Parrots must never be fed wild or raw honey because they contain clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause botulism (limberneck). If a parrot has botulism, it’ll display the following symptoms:
- Limited movement and lethargy (can’t perch, stand, walk, or fly).
- It’ll struggle to hold up its head.
- The nictating membrane (third eyelid) will remain closed.
- Compromised nervous system.
- Breathing difficulties, culminating in respiratory failure.
- Flaccid muscle paralysis.
The longer the symptoms continue without medical treatment, the likelier the parrot will die. A vet must issue an antitoxin (not antibiotics) without delay. Never take a wait-and-see approach.
Birds can eat pasteurized honey because it’ll have been heated before packing. This kills the clostridium botulinum. However, the process removes many of honey’s beneficial properties.
Giving A Parrot Honey
Browse the honey section of a local grocery store, and you’ll find several varieties. Acacia, Manuka, and Buckwheat are the most common types.
Honey falls into two distinct categories:
- Raw honey (wild honey.)
- Pasteurized honey (regular honey.)
Only pasteurized honey is safe, but certain caveats remain. Raw or wild honey mustn’t be fed to parrots.
Let’s explore the main between these varieties:
Wild honey is extracted directly from flowers or beehives. Many people, especially those who reject conventional medicine, prefer wild honey for its natural health benefits.
Wild honey will also be marketed to appeal to human sensibilities. This makes it easy to identify. It’ll be sold per jar, while the contents will be multicolored and likely crystallized.
Unfortunately, a parrot’s body and immune system differ drastically from a human’s. Wild honey contains various bacteria, so the risk of botulism is significantly elevated.
What is Botulism?
Botulism is a paralytic bacterial disease caused by ingesting Clostridium botulinum spores.
The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science said that the type C strain of botulism is most commonly observed in birds (aves). However, bird species are also affected by the type E strain.
According to The Lancet, Clostridium botulinum spores are found in wildflowers, including those native to the U.S. Unfortunately, they can enter raw honey.
A parrot infected with botulism will lose control of its wings, legs, and neck. Eventually, the paralysis will spread. The muscles regulating the respiratory system will cease functioning, preventing breathing.
There’s no cure for botulism, so a parrot usually dies if it consumes a lot of spores. They may survive eating a small quantity but will need medical attention and must be weaned for several weeks.
If honey is sold in a squeezy plastic bottle, it’s likely pasteurized (check the label). Pasteurized honey is clearer and more consistent in color and has a longer shelf life than raw honey.
Pasteurization involves mildly heating foodstuffs, usually to around 212°F. Safety is the driving motivation behind this process.
By applying heat to honey, harmful toxins like clostridium botulinum are killed. Unfortunately, many potential health benefits of honey are also nullified in the process.
To introduce honey to a parrot’s diet, ensure it’s pasteurized. This involves reading the label carefully – don’t be swayed by branding terms like “pure” or “organic.”
There are different types of pasteurized honey:
|Taken from the acacia flower, grown in tropical and subtropical climates, acacia honey is the most common pasteurized honey. It’s also sold unpasteurized.
|Blended honey means the nectar used to create the honey was sourced from multiple flowers. This product can be raw or pasteurized.
|Manuka honey is imported from New Zealand and rarely pasteurized. It’s sold and priced based on its purity level.
|Manuka honey is imported from New Zealand and rarely pasteurized. It’s sold and priced based on its level of purity.
|Yukatan honey is difficult to find in any form, especially pasteurized.
Honey Safety for Parrots
Pasteurization removes almost all the goodness, leaving just sugar and carbohydrates.
Only licensed manufacturers can undertake pasteurization, so you must find pasteurized honey at grocery stores. If you buy honey from a wholesaler or beekeeper, it’ll be raw and unsafe for parrots.
One teaspoon of pasteurized honey contains 16 g of sugar, assuming no additional sweeteners are added. The worst that can happen is that a pet parrot develops a taste for it.
Parrots Drinking Honey Water
Few parrots will survive for more than 24-72 hours without water.
Parrots are attracted to sweetness, so 1-2 drops of pasteurized honey in water may tempt them into drinking. To create parrot-safe honey water, follow these steps:
- Filter some tap water and bring it to a boil. Alternatively, use bottled water.
- Leave the water to cool.
- Drop a teaspoon of pasteurized water while the water is slightly warm. Never use raw honey.
- Stir the honey into the water. Once absorbed, taste it. The water should provide a hint of sweetness, but the honey should not overpower the liquid.
- Add a second half teaspoon if necessary. Then, repeat steps 3 and 4.
- Transfer the honey to a shallow dish and encourage the parrot to drink.
Honey water shouldn’t be considered a water replacement. Only offer honey water if a parrot refuses to drink and you’re concerned about its welfare. Even then, consider a light fruit infusion instead.
Honey for Healing A Parrot’s Wounds
Manuka honey is used in wound care due to its antimicrobial qualities. According to the Swiss Archive for Veterinary Medicine, some vets use Manuka honey to clear up infections in certain animals.
If a parrot injures itself and bleeds, you may be concerned about the risk of infection. Unfortunately, even if the area is bandaged, applying manuka honey remains inadvisable.
A parrot can access raw honey. However, if it eats raw honey at home, it could contract botulism.
You may consider applying pasteurized Manuka honey to the injured area, but that is pointless. Pasteurization reduces its antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities.
While feeding pasteurized honey to a parrot has benefits, raw or wild honey must be avoided.