Parrots love many of the same foods as people do. However, not all food is safe for parrots. In fact, some are outright toxic and may lead to death. Other foods aren’t lethal but can result in long-term health problems or, at the minimum, stomach upset and weight gain.
Your parrot should never be given toxic foods like avocado, eggplant, chocolate, or cherry/apricot pits. Still dangerous foods include raw rhubarb and mushrooms, followed by onions, garlic, sugar-free foods, and dairy. Risky foods that are safe in certain conditions include raw meat, saltine crackers, chips, large raw beans, raw peanuts, and certain plant stems and leaves.
These foods or ingredients can harm your parrot in various ways. Certain types will become safe after they’re cooked or boiled. Others are fine if they’re fed to parrots in moderation.
What Foods Can Kill A Parrot?
These veggies and desserts can prove fatal within a few days or even immediately. Keep them out of your parrot’s reach.
Unlike other fruits, avocados are harmful to parrots. They naturally produce a fatty acid derivative, called persin. When ingested by birds, it can lead to breathing problems and an inability to perch.
When enough is ingested, it can cause fluid to accumulate around organs. However, once respiratory issues begin, death is often not far off.
It’s essential to keep avocados away from parrots. Persin can also be found in all parts of the avocado tree, not just the fruit.
Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family, so it contains solanine. This is a type of poison.
The amount is far too small to affect humans. In parrots, solanine can cause gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Its symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
Chocolate should be avoided at all costs for parrots. The reason is similar to why caffeine is toxic to birds.
Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine. Theobromine, like caffeine, also 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, a lot of chocolate is extremely unhealthy for parrots. This is because it often contains ingredients like:
- Butter, which adds too much fat to a parrot’s diet
- Milk, which is harmful since birds cannot digest lactose
- Sugar, which can lead to weight gain, lethargy, and stomach upset
Many fruit pits contain cyanide that is toxic to parrots. This is most common in apricot and cherry pits, but can include others. It can lead to:
- Brain damage
- Digestive issues and damage
- Falling blood pressure
- Aches and pains
- In some cases, death within hours or days
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 any fruit with pits, double-check if they contain cyanide.
Foods That Are Toxic For Parrots
These foods are not as immediately dangerous to parrots. However, they are still toxic in the technical sense. They may lead to health issues if fed often, prepared incorrectly, or given in large amounts.
Raw veggies are usually recommended for parrots. With rhubarb, this isn’t the case. Rhubarb contains oxalic acid, a compound naturally found in many different types of 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 nutrients, specifically minerals.
Many leafy greens or seeds contain this compound and are still safe for parrots. However, rhubarb contains a higher amount, making it dangerous for your parrot when fed raw. Cooking rhubarb will help to reduce the amount. However, it’s wise to avoid it altogether.
Besides not being able to absorb nutrients efficiently, oxalic acid has a few 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 may form when oxalates are high in the body, but urine volume is low.
Mushrooms are fungi that can easily absorb toxins in the environment they grow in. Additionally, mushrooms contain amatoxin, which can upset stomachs in some birds.
That means that raw mushrooms are more dangerous to parrots than cooked or boiled types. Some types contain higher amounts of amatoxin, making them outright toxic. This may result in digestive issues, neurological damage, and muscle aches.
Shiitake mushrooms, for example, should never be fed to your parrot. Other kinds of mushrooms, if they’re not safely farmed, may be harmful even when cooked.
Foods That Are Bad For Parrot
These foods may harm your parrot, but aren’t directly toxic. Your parrot won’t die from eating them, but could develop issues later on. If eaten in a large amount, you may still need to take your bird to the vet.
While their texture and water content seem ideal for a parrot, they can be harmful. That’s because onions contain a substance called sulfoxides. Sulfoxides do not disappear, even when cooked.
With that said, there are no studies that officially conclude that onions are toxic to parrots. Despite this lack of scientific research, there is good reason to believe that sulfoxides are toxic to birds. There are many animals that do not respond well to these compounds, namely:
- Guinea pigs
These animals are unable to consume onions in any form. These include raw, cooked, dried, or powdered onions. All other plants that belong to the Allium family are also off-limits. These include shallots, a common cooking ingredient alongside onions.
Because of this, avian experts do not recommend giving onions to parrots. 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 the green onions fed to the birds were linked to their death. Researchers also determined that onions could cause anemia and problems with the liver.
Garlic is another tasty ingredient and spice that can’t be given to parrots. That’s because garlic contains two compounds:
- Amino acid alliin
- The enzyme alliinase
These compounds are kept separate in the garlic by a cell wall. However, when sliced, the cell walls are broken, and the two compounds are mixed. When combined, they create allicin. This is the real danger to your parrot.
It’s responsible for providing garlic with its pungent odor. It’s not immediately toxic to your parrot, but be harmful over time. Commonly, too much allicin will cause stomach upset. In extreme cases, enough allicin can cause red blood cells to burst, resulting in hemolytic anemia.
For garlic to cause hemolytic anemia in people, you would need to eat an awful lot of it. However, the toxicity dosage is much lower in parrots. Even in small, non-toxic dosages, garlic can irritate your parrot’s stomach and affect its mood.
Birds should not be given food that’s labeled as ‘sugar-free,’ even in small amounts. That’s because sugar-free food often contains alternatives to sugar that are harmful to parrots. A common example is xylitol, which can be easily found in many sugar-free foods.
You may be familiar with how xylitol, even in small amounts, is fatal to dogs. For parrots, it may not be immediately deadly, but it can lead to extreme reactions. Since birds have faster metabolisms, these effects can spiral out of control within days.
Xylitol has been known to cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. In extreme cases, it has been found to cause liver failure.
Parrots will try anything once, including milk and dairy products. While it’s not toxic, dairy should be avoided in any form, even if your parrot likes ice cream or cheese. Even smaller amounts found in baked goods or soups should be avoided.
The reason is simple: parrots are lactose intolerant. After all, parrots do not have to digest lactose in the wild. If they do eat some, it will cause stomach upset. The undigested lactose can then easily lead to diarrhea in birds.
Dairy products would provide no nutritional value for parrots. It must be digested for a certain type of food to have usable vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Since parrots cannot process dairy, it’s just empty calories that may upset their digestive tract.
Foods Not To Feed A Parrot
These foods are not toxic or harmful. However, they can lead to upset stomachs and an unbalanced diet. Depending on how they’re prepared, they may also cause more severe issues.
At the worst, they expose your parrot to a higher risk of certain bacteria or pathogens. This may lead to illness. At the least, they overdose your bird in vitamins or minerals that can be harmful in large amounts. Be sure to prepare these foods correctly, or avoid them to be safe.
Parrots can eat meat, but this food should always be cooked. In fact, 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 also do well with the usual meats, like chicken and fish. Raw meat, however, may harbor dangerous bacteria. This includes:
- E. coli
All of that can easily result in food poisoning. Your parrot only requires a little bad meat before you will need to call your vet. It may have severe effects that are especially harmful to a parrot’s smaller body, including:
- Stomach cramps
These types of bacteria are easily killed when the meat is heated up and cooked. If left raw, bacteria can live on the surface of the meat.
Aside from raw meat, you should also avoid giving your parrot reheated food. Any food that isn’t fresh can harbor the same bacteria as raw meat. The chances are less likely, but it does happen.
While they can be a good and crunchy treat for parrots, saltine crackers should be avoided. They do not contain any toxic or harmful substances for parrots. However, they do have an unhealthy amount of salt.
Aside from that, saltine crackers provide no nutritional benefits for parrots. Any minor health benefits are outweighed by the high amount of sodium.
Potato chips aren’t necessarily toxic to parrots. However, they are full of salt and other additives that make them unhealthy. Likewise, they are often deep-fried in oil, which parrots will struggle to metabolize.
If you want to give chips to your parrot, it’s better to make them yourself instead of buying commercial products. Slice potatoes thinly and bake them in an oven. Avoid adding extra salt. This ensures your parrot can benefit from the carbs and vitamins, without the side-effects.
Large Raw Beans
Cooked beans are a great addition to any parrot’s diet. However, raw beans, especially those that are large in size, can cause problems in your parrot’s digestion. Certain beans, when uncooked, are:
- Have enzyme inhibitors
- Cause gout
Not all beans contain these substances. However, it’s wise to cook all beans, just in case. Soaking the beans will also remove these substances by beginning the sprouting process.
On their own, peanuts are healthy for parrots. However, when raw or in their shells, they can be harmful, as peanuts may harbor bacteria or toxins (Aflatoxin).
Because they are located in the ground, peanuts are likely to interact with a toxin called aflatoxin. This is caused by the Aspergillus fungus, which has been known to harm the liver and is also linked to certain cancers.
Other nuts can also harbor this toxin. However, because of how they are grown, peanuts are more susceptible. You can reduce aflatoxins by cooking the peanuts, as well as storing them properly. Always check for mold before feeding peanuts to your parrot, whether or not they’re raw.
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:
- Goji berries
This is because they contain tropane alkaloids, a kind of toxin. This may cause hallucinations and delirium. If you want to feed your parrots stems or leaves, be sure to double-check its base compounds. If it contains tropane alkaloids or other harmful substances, even in small amounts, avoid it.
Tomatoes are not necessarily poisonous, but they are acidic. Too much can cause ulcers, so it should only be offered in moderation.
The stems and leaves also belong to the nightshade family and can be toxic if eaten directly. It won’t be deadly, but it could have negative side-effects.
Whole Celery Stalks
Celery stalks have a high chance of causing impaction in your parrot’s stomach or crop. A crop impact is more common, and happens when food is unable to move from the parrot’s crop to the stomach. This is very similar to intestinal obstruction in humans.
Complications from crop impactions include infections, whether they’re from bacteria, yeast, or fungi. Due to the blockage, parrots can also develop dehydration and hypoglycemia. When left untreated, crop impaction can lead to death.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can never feed your parrot celery. The stalks can cause impactions, but as a whole, celery is healthy for parrots. To avoid issues, you can finely chop the stalks to limit the chance of them getting caught in your parrot’s digestive tract. You could also juice the celery by putting it in a blender with a bit of water.
Tapioca is non-toxic for parrots, but it can still be detrimental to your parrot’s health. Tapioca is made from cassava starch, a type of flour. This means that tapioca is nothing more than pure carbohydrates.
Feeding more than a few pieces per week can easily lead your parrot to gain too much weight. Likewise, these carbohydrates can easily take the space of more nutritious food.
Spices, such as nutmeg, are best to be avoided when it comes to your parrot’s diet. Spices have been known to cause negative effects in humans, from skin irritation to liver failure.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean it is unsafe for parrots, there is also a lack of research in this area. When it comes to spices for your parrot, it’s best to stay away.
What Can Parrots Not Eat?
Aside from traditional foods, there are other kitchen ingredients your parrot should never have. Some of these drinks or ingredients are toxic. Others will upset your parrot’s metabolism or lead to illnesses over time.
Drinking alcoholic beverages, even in small amounts, can cause negative effects such as disorientation, nausea, and an increased heart rate. This is true for people, but especially parrots.
Human bodies can easily flush out the toxins from alcohol, while birds cannot. Because parrots have smaller bodies, they are also more susceptible to toxins. If given alcohol several times, this can lead to:
- Heart damage
- Liver damage
- Respiratory infections
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 specifically salted. If it does, your parrot may suffer from hypernatremia, or excess sodium. There are many effects of hypernatremia, including:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
While it may be an essential part of your day, your parrot cannot have its own cup of coffee. Coffee is not only unhealthy for birds, but outright toxic. This is because of the caffeine present, no matter the amount.
Caffeine belongs to a class of alkaloids called methylated xanthine. This compound stimulates the central nervous system, which in turn stimulates 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:
- High body temperature
Note that caffeine isn’t just found in coffee. Other beverages that include caffeine, like black tea and energy drinks. When giving your parrot beverages, always check if there’s caffeine in the ingredients.
Sugar is an ingredient your parrot should have in moderation. That’s especially true for highly-refined sugars or corn syrup, which should be avoided wholesale. Because of how they’re processed, they may lead to your parrot being unable to metabolize them. Unfortunately, carbonated beverages aren’t just fizzy; they’re sweet, too.
Aside from sugar, some carbonated beverages also contain caffeine, which parrots definitely cannot have. Carbonated beverages may even be packed with artificial colorings and preservatives. Always keep your bird away from energy drinks, sodas, or even lemonades.
Some Fruit Seeds
Seeds are an important aspect of your parrot’s diet, but not all are safe. Aside from traditional fruit pits, other types of seeds may also contain cyanide. Common examples are found in:
While the fruits themselves are very healthy for parrots, their seeds are not. For humans, these seeds are pretty much harmless, even in higher amounts. However, parrots have a much smaller bodyweight, and sometimes only eat the seeds out of the fruit. Both of these things increase the chances of cyanide poisoning.
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
Even if it improves the taste, it’s dangerous to your parrot’s metabolism and digestive tract. That’s because the high amount of oil provides an excess of fat, leading to health complications. Fried food also comes with a high amount of salt.
For commercially-bought fried food, preservatives are often added to ensure freshness and crispness. This can lead to digestive issues, weight gain, or poisoning. Be sure to avoid any fried food, including:
- Fried rice
- Fried veggies
- Fried meats
- Deep-fried desserts
All in all, these foods can be harmful to your parrot in big and small ways. Be sure to avoid toxic foods entirely. In the case of mildly upsetting foods, be sure to limit how much your parrot ingests.