15 Foods Pet Birds Should Never Eat (Explained)

Birds eat a varied diet and are generally curious about new foods, but you should be careful not to feed your pet bird anything that might include toxins.

Remember that human-safe foods are not necessarily bird-safe.

Here are 15 foods that birds should never eat:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Nightshade stems and leaves
  3. Rhubarb
  4. Dried beans
  5. High-sodium foods
  6. Avocado
  7. Onion
  8. Garlic
  9. Fruit pits
  10. Apple seeds
  11. Xylitol
  12. Peanuts
  13. Dairy
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Alcohol

1. Chocolate

Birds are drawn to chocolate, but it’s extremely harmful to their digestive and nervous systems.

The chemicals theobromine and caffeine, both found in chocolate, cause the following:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate

It’s not uncommon for the ingestion of chocolate to result in death.

2. Nightshade Stems and Leaves

The fruit of nightshade plants, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes, is safe for birds to eat, but the stems and leaves are highly toxic.

Ensure that you remove all green parts of these plants before presenting them as food, or else your bird could suffer a severe reaction.

3. Rhubarb

Rhubarb plants contain oxalate crystals, which cause kidney dysfunction in birds if ingested.

Both the stalk and the leaves contain the toxin, and so you should avoid feeding your birds anything containing rhubarb, even if it’s a prepared food safe for human consumption.

4. Dried Beans

Cooked beans are safe for birds to eat and make for a nutritious treat. However, uncooked, dry beans are toxic to birds.

Uncooked beans contain a poisonous substance known as hemagglutinin that can be deadly if ingested.

To prepare beans for your bird, soak them in water overnight and cook them for 45 minutes to two hours.

This will completely remove the toxin and make the beans safe to eat.

5. High-Sodium Foods

Birds need some sodium, but too much is considered toxic.

Ensure that your bird’s diet is low in sodium, as high-sodium foods like salted seeds or prepared foods can cause anything from excessive thirst to kidney dysfunction and death.

Even canned pasta sauce contains enough sodium to be dangerous to birds.

6. Avocado

No part of the avocado is safe for a bird to eat. The entire plant contains persin, a toxin that causes cardiovascular distress in birds.

Small birds are especially vulnerable to the effects of persin and can die within one or two days of ingesting it. 

Symptoms of avocado poisoning develop within twelve hours of ingestion, appearing as respiratory distress.

7. Onion

Onions have a very strong flavor, and when eaten in significant quantities, they can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Chronic exposure to onions causes a condition of the blood known as hemolytic anemia, which causes respiratory distress and can ultimately lead to death.

8. Garlic

Garlic can cause a severe gastrointestinal reaction in birds, especially when eaten in its concentrated form as garlic powder.

When ingested in large quantities, garlic can even cause death. 

Although small birds are especially susceptible to toxins, garlic exposure has been known to cause death in large birds, too. 

9. Fruit Pits

It is important to make a distinction between fruit seeds and fruit pits.

Where you can safely offer a bird pomegranate seeds, berries with seeds, or whole citrus fruit, you should avoid feeding your bird anything with a pit, like cherries, nectarines, or plums.

Pitted fruits need to be pitted before being offered to a bird because the pits contain a cyanide compound that can cause severe cardiac malfunction. 

10. Apple Seeds

While apples make for a good bird snack, apple seeds are unsafe.

This is for the same reason that fruit pits are unsafe; they contain a form of cyanide, which causes cardiac problems.

Apples should always be seeded before being offered to a bird to avoid causing a severe reaction.

11. Xylitol

Xylitol is a common sweetener found in sugar-free foods, and it can cause a severe allergic reaction.

In dogs, xylitol causes hypoglycemia and liver damage; in birds, the effects have not been heavily researched, but there is a high likelihood that xylitol affects birds in the same way that it affects dogs. 

12. Peanuts

Peanuts are a favorite food of many birds, but they don’t come without risk. 

While peanuts themselves are not toxic to birds, many peanut products are contaminated with a fungus that produces toxins.

To be safe, it’s best not to feed your bird peanuts, or to at least make sure that the peanuts have no signs of mold growth. 

13. Dairy

Dairy is not fatally dangerous to birds, but it can cause gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea.

Birds generally cannot tolerate lactose, which is found in varying amounts in dairy products.

Some cheeses and yogurts are relatively low in lactose and can be fed as a treat, but to be safe, it’s best to avoid feeding your bird dairy altogether.

14. Mushrooms

Mushrooms often cause digestive issues in birds. Some mushrooms are more toxic than others, and some are toxic enough to cause liver failure.

Generally speaking, cooked mushrooms that are safe for human consumption will have minimal impact on a bird, but the negative gastrointestinal effects are still possible.

It’s best to avoid feeding your bird mushrooms altogether.

15. Alcohol

Alcohol poisoning happens very quickly in birds, so you must keep your drinks covered while your bird is out and keep a close eye on it to avoid accidental ingestion.

Signs of alcohol poisoning in birds include a depression of all major organ systems, accompanied by slow, labored breathing.

What To Do if Your Bird Eats Something Poisonous

Many foods are unsafe for birds to eat, with side effects ranging from mild gastrointestinal distress to organ failure and death.

It’s important to learn what the consequences of feeding toxic foods to your bird are so that you can prevent them from happening.

If your bird has eaten something poisonous, the most important thing to do is to call the nearest avian veterinarian.

Ensure that you bring a sample of the food that’s been ingested and a sample of the bird’s recent droppings. 

While you’re waiting for a veterinary consultation, keep your bird warm and provide plenty of food and water.