As tomatoes are a fruit, it’s easy to assume that they’re suitable for parrots. However, unlike some other fruit varieties, they’re acidic, which means they can cause your parrot a few health problems.
Tomatoes are OK for parrots in moderation, but they can cause painful stomach ulcers due to their acidity. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, which means that the leaves and vines are toxic. However, tomatoes contain healthy levels of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K, so they do provide some health benefits. Sun-dried tomatoes are the healthiest option.
They make a tasty treat every now and then, but overfeeding tomatoes to parrots can cause more problems than they solve. As a result, you may want to avoid feeding tomatoes to parrots altogether.
Can Parrots Eat Tomatoes?
While small amounts of tomato won’t kill a parrot, they’re acidic and can cause a range of stomach and digestive problems. Also, the plants and leaves that tomatoes grow from are toxic.
That being said, parrots attack tomato crops in the wild, picking the fruit off the trees to eat. Parrots have highly acute senses when it comes to toxic substances and can detect harmful foods. Therefore, these wild instincts are a clear sign that parrots are allowed tomatoes in moderation.
Do Parrots Like Tomatoes?
Tomatoes will pique the interest of curious parrots because they are bright and vibrant in color. Functional Ecology explains how parrots use color to gauge a food’s toxicity and whether they contain any beneficial antioxidants.
They can also tell when a fruit is ripe or unripe. This is because parrots can see shades and hues with greater vividness than we do, which is an essential part of their survival in the wild.
Many parrots enjoy tomato juice as much as the skin and flesh. They also enjoy tearing through the skin and picking out the seeds inside.
That being said, not all parrots like the sharp, bitter taste of tomatoes. Many birds prefer sweeter fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries. As a result, some birds may find the tomato’s acidity unpleasant.
They might find them too messy and difficult to eat, especially as the juice becomes sticky once dry. Parrots who maintain a regular grooming and preening regime might be uncomfortable with juice on their feathers.
Nutritional Information of Tomatoes
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one whole raw tomato (125g) contains the following nutrients:
|Nutrient or Mineral||Amount|
|Lutein + zeaxanthin||154 µg|
|Vitamin C||17.1 mg|
|Vitamin K||9.88 µg|
Are Tomatoes Good For Parrots?
While acidic, tomatoes provide many positive benefits that contribute to your parrot’s health and wellbeing, such as:
Tomatoes contain lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are all healthy antioxidants. Lycopene is found in the tomato’s skin. As described by Oxford Academic, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene there is.
Lycopene helps protect against heart conditions and certain types of cancers, so it should be an essential part of a parrot’s diet.
Both lutein and zeaxanthin protect vision and preserves eyesight. They also affect the brightness of your parrot’s feathers, making them appear more vivid and beautiful.
In the wild, this is an essential part of the mating process. Male parrots with a more colorful plumage are more likely to attract a mate.
A raw tomato contains around 17.1 mg of vitamin C, which is essential for:
- Boosting the immune system
- Lowering blood pressure
- Regulating cholesterol
- Healing wounds
- Preventing cancer and bad cells from forming
- Regulating blood sugar
- Preventing kidney diseases
Incorporating the occasional tomato into your parrot’s diet is a great way to ensure that it gets enough vitamin C. However, your parrot must have access to a varied diet of fruits and vegetables so that it can get the vitamin from other sources too.
Potassium helps the bones and muscles grow strong and healthy. Without it, they can become brittle and prone to injury. Potassium also helps to:
- Regulate muscle contractions
- Regulate nerve signals and fluid balance
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce stress levels
Potassium is interconnected with sodium, so when feeding potassium-rich foods, remember to provide enough sodium in your parrot’s diet, too.
Parrots need folate to form uric acid, which is the waste product of protein metabolism. Folate deficiencies can cause:
- Impaired cell division
- Under-development of the reproductive tract
- Weakened immune system
Adding occasional tomatoes to your parrot’s diet is a good way to boost folate levels.
Vitamin K is essential for a parrot’s bone health and eggshell quality. Parrots without enough vitamin K in their bodies are likely to experience delayed blood clotting and will bleed profusely from the smallest cuts.
In the worst cases, a lack of vitamin K causes internal hemorrhages and increased hatching mortality.
Are Tomatoes Bad For Parrots?
As we’ve already mentioned, tomatoes are highly acidic and should only be given in moderation.
Too many tomatoes can negatively affect a parrot’s health. The most common tomato-based health problems are as follows:
When fed regularly, the acidity from tomatoes can cause stomach ulcers. Ulcers are excruciating and can be fatal if left untreated. Signs of stomach ulcers include:
- Vomiting blood
- Rapid weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme loss of energy
- Blood in poop and urine
- Cold, pale feet
If they’re advanced enough, some stomach ulcers will require treatment to remove them, such as surgery. But removing tomatoes from the diet can help the body heal itself and reduce some of the more painful symptoms.
While tomatoes are safe for parrots to eat, the vines and leaves from tomato plants aren’t. This is because they’re part of the nightshade family, which is a group of around 2,500 plants and flowers.
They’re so toxic because they contain a diverse range of alkaloids, which are used to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs. When eaten, they can affect a parrot’s:
- Digestive system
- Joint function
Parrots who consume tomato plants and vines may exhibit the following signs:
- Muscle twitching
- Difficulty breathing
They can also destroy red blood cells, leaving parrots vulnerable to serious diseases and infections.
While vitamins are a good thing, many members of the nightshade family – including tomatoes – have copious amounts of vitamin D3.
Too much D3 in a parrot’s body can cause the tissue to absorb too much calcium. This results in:
- Abnormal calcium deposits (calcinosis)
- Mineralization in the walls of veins and major arteries
- Increased bone density
While parrots need small amounts of vitamin D3 to allow the intestines to absorb calcium into the body, too much has an adverse effect.
As a result, to reduce the risk of a vitamin D3 overload, tomatoes shouldn’t make up a large part of your parrot’s diet.
Can Parrots Eat Raw Tomatoes?
A tomato’s acidity is at its highest when raw. Tomatoes contain more than ten types of acid, including citric acid, malic acid, and ascorbic acid. They also have a pH level of between 4.3-4.9. To put this into context, seven on the pH scale is neutral – anything below this is considered acidic.
However, ripe tomatoes contain lower levels of acidity and have a sweeter taste. As a result, ripe tomatoes are OK to feed your parrot in moderation as an occasional treat.
Because parrots can see ripeness in food, they would likely reject orange, under-ripe tomatoes anyway. Similarly, the taste is too unpleasant for some birds.
Can Parrots Eat Cherry Tomatoes?
Because of their smaller, more manageable size, cherry tomatoes are much easier for parrots to eat. Cherry tomatoes also have a sweeter taste that many parrots prefer to larger tomatoes.
However, cherry tomatoes offer the same health issues as raw tomatoes, as they’re highly acidic. It’s also easier to overfeed parrots with multiple cherry tomatoes than it is with one large tomato. As a result, your parrot is at risk of ingesting too much acid in a short period of time.
If you’re able to limit your parrot’s cherry tomato intake to one or two every once in a while, they’re a safe and nutritious addition to a parrot’s diet. Any more will cause problems.
Can Parrots Eat Canned Tomatoes?
Canned tomatoes must be avoided as a parrot snack. The canning process involves the addition of acid to prevent the tomatoes from going moldy inside the can. It also prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which is the bacteria responsible for food poisoning.
Homemade canned tomatoes require lemon juice or powdered citric acid added to the jar to keep them fresh. As a result, even canned tomatoes you’ve made at home can be harmful to parrots.
Eating them speeds up the development of stomach ulcers, so avoid them altogether.
Can Parrots Eat Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Sun-dried tomatoes are one of the safest tomato varieties for parrots to eat. During the drying process, most of the acid gets neutralized, reducing them to safer levels.
They also have a sweeter taste, which many parrots enjoy more than raw, acidic tomatoes with a more bitter flavor. Sun-dried tomatoes are known to protect parrots from inflammation and markers of oxidative stress.
One thing to watch out for with sun-dried tomatoes is the level of sulfur dioxide and salt they contain, which they’re sometimes pre-treated with. Too much can be harmful to your parrot’s health.
If this is a concern, you can create your own sun-dried tomatoes at home by following these steps:
- Slice a batch of cherry tomatoes (or any other small tomato variety) in half-length ways.
- Spread them out cut-side up on a baking tray lined with parchment.
- Slow roast them in the oven for around 2.5-3.5 in the oven at 250°F, keeping an eye on them, so that they don’t burn.
- Leave them to cool down and feed them to your parrot a couple at a time.
Your parrot will love the sweet taste, but avoid seasoning them with salt to ensure they’re safe for your bird to eat.
Can Parrots Eat Tomato Sauce?
Ketchup is packed with refined sugar, which is harmful to parrots. It causes weight gain and can lead to obesity quickly if not stopped.
However, tomato products such as ketchup, tomato sauces, tomato paste, and tomato juice are rich in the antioxidant lycopene.
Lycopene levels are higher in processed tomato foods than they are in raw tomatoes. As described by the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, thermal treatments and food preparation, such as boiling, cooking, chopping, and agitation, had little effect on the presence of lycopene.
Ketchup contains 10-14 mg of lycopene per 100 grams. In comparison, a small tomato weighing 100 grams contains 1-8 mg of lycopene.
That being said, it’s unlikely that tomato sauce is consumed in such high quantities in one go, so providing raw tomatoes is an easier way to increase your parrot’s lycopene intake.
Other foods are more nutritious and safer for parrots to eat. Similarly, there are various other fruits and leafy greens that parrots can tear and break pieces off, providing the same mental stimulation as tomatoes.