Home » 27 Foods That Parrots Should NOT Eat (And Why!)
foods parrots can't eat

27 Foods That Parrots Should NOT Eat (And Why!)

(Last Updated On: October 15, 2022)

Parrots like eating many of the same foods as people, but not all human foods are parrot-safe.

There are foods that we eat that are outright toxic to parrots, leading to premature death. Other foods aren’t deadly but can lead to digestive problems, stomach upsets, and weight gain.

Parrots should never be fed avocado, eggplant, chocolate, or cherry/apricot pits. Other foods to avoid include raw rhubarb, mushrooms, onion, garlic, sugar-free foods, (moldy) peanuts, and dairy.

What Foods Can Kill A Parrot?

The following foods can be fatal within days or immediately:

Avocado

Avocados naturally produce a fatty acid derivative called persin. When ingested by parrots, it can lead to breathing problems and the inability to perch properly.

When enough is ingested, it can cause fluids to accumulate around vital organs. However, once respiratory issues begin, death isn’t far off.

Persin can also be found in all parts of the avocado tree, not just the fruit.

Eggplant

Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family, so it contains solanine, which is a poison. In parrots, solanine can cause gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps

Chocolate

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine. Theobromine, like caffeine, belongs to the class of alkaloids called methylated xanthine. This means chocolate can:

  • Stimulate the central nervous system
  • Stimulate the heart
  • Increase the flushing of fluids in your system

Theobromine makes chocolate toxic to birds, even in small amounts. Even without theobromine, chocolate is unhealthy for parrots because it contains the following:

  • Butter: This adds fat to a parrot’s diet.
  • Milk: This is harmful since birds cannot digest lactose.
  • Sugar: This can lead to weight gain, lethargy, and stomach upsets.

Fruit Pits

Many fruit pits contain cyanide, which is toxic to parrots. This is most common in apricot and cherry pits but can include others. This can lead to the following:

  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Digestive issues and damage
  • Falling blood pressure
  • Aches and pains
  • Premature death

The larger the seed or pit, the more cyanide it contains. Unfortunately, parrots often find fruit pits tasty and fun to crack open. Before feeding your parrot a fruit with pits, check if they contain cyanide.

what foods can kill a parrot?

Foods That Are Toxic for Parrots

These foods aren’t as immediately dangerous to parrots. However, they’re still toxic and may lead to health issues if fed often, prepared incorrectly, or given in large amounts.

Raw Rhubarb

Rhubarb contains oxalic acid, a compound naturally found in many plants. When oxalic acid is bound to minerals, it forms a compound called oxalates.

Oxalates are a type of compound that scientists call an ‘anti-nutrient.’ As the term implies, oxalates reduce the body’s ability to absorb minerals.

Many leafy greens or seeds contain this compound and are safe for parrots. However, rhubarb contains a higher amount, making it harmful when fed raw. Cooking rhubarb reduces the amount.

Besides being unable to absorb nutrients efficiently, oxalic acid has other negative effects on the body. For example, oxalic acid has been linked to the formation of kidney stones.

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, kidney stones are more likely to form when oxalates are high in the body, but urine volume is low.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fungi that can absorb toxins in their environment. Additionally, mushrooms contain amatoxin, which can upset the stomachs of some birds.

Raw mushrooms are more dangerous to parrots than if they’re cooked. Some types contain higher amounts of amatoxin, leading to digestive issues and neurological damage.

Shiitake mushrooms should never be fed to your parrot. If they’re not safely farmed, other mushrooms may be harmful to parrots, even when cooked.

Foods That Are Bad for Parrots

These foods may harm your parrot but aren’t toxic. Your parrot won’t die from eating them but could develop issues later. You may need to take your parrot to the vet if eaten in large quantities.

Onions

Onions contain a substance called sulfoxides. Sulfoxides don’t disappear, even when cooked. With that said, no studies have concluded that onions are toxic to parrots.

Despite this lack of scientific research, there’s reason to believe that sulfoxides are toxic to parrots. Many animals don’t respond well to these compounds, namely:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Guinea pigs
  • Monkeys

They can’t consume raw, cooked, dried, or powdered onions. All other plants that belong to the Allium family are off-limits, including shallots, a common cooking ingredient alongside onions.

This is supported by the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigations, which looked at two flocks of geese with a high mortality rate.

It was determined that green onions fed to the birds were linked to their death. Researchers also found that onions could cause anemia and problems with the liver.

Garlic

Garlic can’t be given to parrots because it contains two compounds:

  • Alliin
  • Alliinase

These compounds are kept separate in garlic by a cell wall. However, when sliced, the cell walls are broken, and the two compounds are mixed. When combined, they create allicin.

Allicin isn’t immediately toxic to parrots but is harmful over time. Commonly, too much allicin causes stomach upset. In extreme cases, allicin can cause red blood cells to burst, resulting in hemolytic anemia.

Even in small, non-toxic dosages, garlic can irritate your parrot’s stomach and affect its mood.

Sugar-Free Food

Parrots shouldn’t be given food labeled as ‘sugar-free,’ even in small amounts, because it often contains alternatives to sugar that are harmful to parrots.

You may be familiar with how Xylitol is fatal to dogs, and it may not be immediately deadly for parrots. Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar; in extreme cases, it can cause liver failure.

Dairy

While it’s not toxic, dairy should be avoided, even if your parrot likes ice cream or cheese. Even smaller amounts found in baked goods or soups should be avoided.

Parrots are lactose intolerant because they lack the enzyme lactase. After all, parrots don’t need to digest lactose in the wild. If they eat some dairy, it’ll cause stomach upsets and diarrhea in birds.

Foods Not To Feed A Parrot

These foods aren’t toxic or harmful. However, they can lead to upset stomachs and dietary imbalances. Depending on how they’re prepared, they may also cause more severe health issues.

foods that are toxic for parrots

Raw Meat

Parrots can eat meat, but this food should always be cooked. Animal proteins are an important part of a parrot’s diet since they’re omnivores.

Wild parrots will eat small bugs or scavenge on leftover carcasses. Domestic parrots can eat the usual meats, like chicken and fish. However, raw meat may harbor dangerous bacteria, such as:

  • Salmonella
  • Listeria
  • E. coli

This can result in food poisoning. Your parrot only requires a small amount of bad meat before you must call a vet. It may have severe effects, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dehydration

These types of bacteria are killed when the meat is cooked.

If left raw, bacteria can live on the surface of the meat. Aside from raw meat, avoid giving your parrot reheated food, as any food that isn’t fresh can harbor the same bacteria as raw meat.

Saltine Crackers

Although a treat, saltine crackers should be fed in moderation. They’re not toxic or harmful substances but contain an unhealthy amount of salt.

Chips

Potato chips are high in sodium and additives that make them unhealthy. Likewise, they’re often deep-fried in oil, which parrots struggle to metabolize.

If you want to give chips to your parrot, make them yourself. Slice potatoes thinly and bake them in the oven. Avoid adding extra salt or oil.

Large Raw Beans

Cooked beans, especially large ones, can cause problems with your parrot’s digestion. Certain beans, when uncooked, are:

  • Indigestible
  • Have enzyme inhibitors
  • Cause gout

Not all beans contain these substances. However, it’s wise to cook beans as a precaution. Soaking the beans will remove these substances by beginning the sprouting process.

Unfresh Peanuts

Because they’re located in the ground, peanuts are likely to contain aflatoxin. This is caused by the Aspergillus fungus, which has been known to harm the liver and is linked to certain cancers.

Other nuts can harbor this toxin. However, due to how they’re grown, peanuts are more susceptible. You can reduce aflatoxins by roasting the peanuts and storing them properly. Also, check for signs of mold.

Stems and Leaves

Even if a vegetable is safe to eat, this isn’t always true for its stems and leaves. For example, any plant that belongs to the nightshade family, like:

  • Okra
  • Goji berries

They contain tropane alkaloids, which may cause hallucinations and delirium. Check its base compounds if you want to feed your parrot stems or leaves. If it contains tropane alkaloids, avoid it.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are acidic, and too much can cause ulcers. The stems and leaves also belong to the nightshade family and can be toxic if eaten directly.

Whole Celery Stalks

Celery stalks can lead to the impaction of your parrot’s stomach or crop. A crop impaction is more common, and it happens when food can’t move from the crop to the stomach.

Complications from crop impactions include infections, whether they’re from bacteria, yeast, or fungi. Due to the blockage, parrots can develop dehydration and hypoglycemia. When left untreated, crop impaction can lead to death.

However, this doesn’t mean you can never feed your parrot celery. The stalks can cause impactions, but as a whole, celery is healthy for parrots.

To avoid issues, finely chop the stalks to limit their chance of getting caught in your parrot’s digestive tract. You could also juice the celery in a blender with some water.

Tapioca

Tapioca is non-toxic for parrots but can still harm your parrot’s health.

Tapioca is made from cassava starch, a type of flour, which means that it’s nothing more than carbohydrates. Feeding more than a few pieces of tapioca per week can lead to weight gain.

Spices

Spices, such as nutmeg, should be avoided. Spices can negatively affect humans, ranging from skin irritation to liver failure.

foods that are bad for parrot

What Can Parrots Not Eat?

There are other kitchen ingredients your parrot should never have. Some of these drinks or ingredients are toxic, while others will upset your parrot’s metabolism or lead to illnesses over time.

Alcohol

Drinking alcoholic beverages, even in small amounts, can cause negative effects such as disorientation, nausea, and an increased heart rate.

Human bodies can flush out the toxins from alcohol, while birds can’t. Because parrots have smaller bodies, they’re more susceptible to toxins. This can lead to the following:

  • Heart damage
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory infections
  • Cancer

Salt

The amount of salt a parrot ingests should be kept to a minimum. This means that parrots can never eat pure salt or food that has been salted. If it does, your parrot may experience hypernatremia or excess sodium. There are many effects of hypernatremia, including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Death

Coffee

While it may be essential to your day, your parrot can’t have a cup of coffee. Coffee isn’t only unhealthy for birds but outright toxic due to the caffeine, regardless of the amount.

Caffeine belongs to a class of alkaloids called methylated xanthine. This compound stimulates the central nervous system, stimulating the heart and muscles.

Methylated xanthine is harmful to parrots when ingested and can lead to tachycardia or a too-fast heartbeat. The increase in motor activity can lead to the following:

  • Seizures
  • Dehydration
  • High body temperature
  • Death

Note that caffeine isn’t just found in coffee. It also applies to caffeinated beverages, such as black tea and energy drinks. When giving your parrot beverages, check if there’s caffeine in the ingredients.

Carbonated Beverages

Sugar is an ingredient that should be moderated, especially refined sugars or corn syrup. Because of how they’re processed, they may lead to a parrot’s inability to metabolize them.

Aside from sugar, some carbonated beverages contain caffeine, which parrots can’t have. Carbonated beverages may contain artificial colorings and preservatives.

Some Fruit Seeds

Seeds are an important part of your parrot’s diet, but not all of them are safe. Aside from fruit pits, other types of seeds may contain cyanide. Common examples include:

  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Plums

While the fruits themselves are healthy for parrots, their seeds aren’t. Parrots have low body weight and sometimes only eat the seeds out of the fruit, increasing the risk of cyanide poisoning.

Fried Food

You should never feed your parrot food that’s been fried, whether that means:

  • Sautéing it
  • Deep frying it
  • Battering and frying it in a pan

Preservatives are often added for freshness and crispness to commercially fried foods, leading to digestive issues, weight gain, or poisoning. Avoid feeding your parrot any fried food, including:

  • Fried rice
  • Fried vegetables
  • Fried meats
  • Deep-fried desserts

The above human foods are bad for parrots, and some are deadly. Your parrot’s diet should mainly consist of pellets, but parrots can eat certain fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.