Parrot Parrot

Alerts & Toxins

Please keep in mind that many of the warnings on this page are based only on my personal experience or that of others who keep parrots and other pet birds.  Since very few scientific studies have been conducted on the effects of these items on birds, anecdotal evidence is often all that remains.  In our opinion, you are better off safe than sorry. Avoid these items to prevent your pets from becoming a statistic in the growing evidence that these substances or objects are harmful to them. E-mail us to add items or stories that relate to any items already here.

Aerosols, Air Conditioner, Alcohol, Balls, Beads, Bedding/Litter, CageCage Covers, Carpet, Cats, Candles, Chains, Chocolate, Cleaners, Clips, Coffee, Common Household Hazards, Cooking Bags, Cooking Oil, Cotton Candy Toy, Cuttlebone, Febreze, Foods, Glue, Halogen Lamps, Happy Huts, Leather Sprays, Mineral Blocks/Lava Rocks, Pens, Plug-In Air Fresheners, Pine-Scented Items, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Potpourri, Rope, Salt, Scented Tissues, Swing Incident, Teflon, Toys, Toy Size Issues, Zinc

cage has zinc and leadIn February 2002, my husband and I purchased a wonderful Moluccan Cockatoo from a family who could no longer keep her due to respiratory problems. The Cockatoo, Spike, was being housed in a one-year-old cage which we continued to house her in ourselves. In November 2003, Spike self-mutilated her preen gland. At the time it was thought that she may have done so due to an infection. She was treated with antibiotics and I kept an extremely close eye on her. A short time later she appeared to suffer a “neurologic episode”. She was uncoordinated, blind, and deaf for approximately 45 minutes. It was most likely a petit mal seizure.After routine blood work came back normal I decided to have her cage tested for heavy metals just for peace of mind. I honestly did not expect the tests to show anything. You can only imagine my shock when the results came back showing that the cage contained 2,000 ppm of lead and 145 ppm of zinc. I just couldn’t believe that in this day and age any company would still use these materials in the metal and paint of an animal cage. After getting this information, I took Spike back to the vet for heavy metal toxicity tests. The vet determined that Spike had most likely suffered both lead and zinc poisoning. The lead poisoning had somehow resolved itself, unfortunately, the zinc poisoning had not. Four months later we are still making frequent vet visits and medicating our beloved pet with oral doses of Cupramine in an attempt to get the zinc out of her system. I cannot emphasize enough how emotionally and financially draining this ordeal has been!

Spike’s cage had no manufacturer information on it whatsoever. The only marking was an engraved rabbit on the latching mechanism of the cage door. Through a great deal of research, I eventually found the company that sold Spike’s cage. An employee of Parrot Playstands in Florida said the cage I described was one of theirs and that he did alot of business in Tennessee where the cage was purchased. When I asked him who the manufacturer was he said he made them himself. I told him about our bird getting lead and zinc poisoning from the cage. He then said he didn’t actually make the cages, but rather imported them from China. When I asked if he had the name and/or contact information for the manufacturer he said no. He told me that the owner of Parrot Playstands goes through a broker who goes through another broker that works for the other company.We are extremely fortunate that we still have our Too. Please, please, please be careful when purchasing a cage for your bird! Beware of generic, “no name,” and imported cages sold at bird fairs and stores. Buy a high quality cage from a reputable manufacturer only. Spending a little extra money now can save you alot of money, as well as heartache, later.  (poster wishes to remain anonymous)

Cage Death reported by Joyce’s Bird Room: “Received a phone call last night from a lady that has purchased three of my babies for pets. She advised me that the wonderful little Nanday “Fannie” she bought last fall was found dead in his cage with a broken neck. The cage was designed with a rigid piece of clear plastic on the sides that slid up and down in grooves on each corner to act as a seed skirt and that held the food cups in place. Evidently the Nanday had been picking and chewing at the top of this plastic strip and discovered he could pull it up and knock his dishes out. Nandays are always into something. She found him with the food dish knocked out of the cage, his head through the dish opening and the plastic strip had slipped down on his neck. Evidently he had become trapped and broke his neck trying to free himself. Please warn people about this danger with this type of cage.” Vera’s note: I once lost two lovebirds to escape when they managed to push the plastic up and push out the bowls on one of these type cages. I would not use this type again and would highly recommend you replace them if you are using them for your pets


Cats commonly have Pasteurella bacteria as part of their natural flora. While this bacteria is ubiquitous in cats and does them no harm, it is DEADLY to birds.  Even if you cat just bats your bird or gets saliva on your bird, you could end up with a dead bird. Also, if you bird has a persistent problem with itching and other skin issues and you have a cat, this could be a cause and your vet should be asked to screen for this bacteria. If your bird is ever in a confrontation with a cat, take him to the vet immediately even if there are NO apparent wounds. The bird could still have been exposed to this bacteria. You should get your bird to a vet the same day if you think it has come in physical contact with a cat’s saliva, feces, or food. This bacteria means even friendly relationships between cats and birds are not safe. Period.

Common Household Hazards
Unclipped birds are at most risk when it comes to certain household hazards, such as open doors, open toilets,  pots and pans on the stove (burned/boiled/drowned/covered in oil), deep water in kitchen sinks or pails, ceiling fans, electrical wires, and anything the bird could chew and ingest that could cause damage to them either through poisoning or damage (glass objects). Anything that could kill a small child can kill a bird. A bird can get into the exact same kinds of trouble a 2-year-old human child can get into.  Cats are hazardous to birds. I don’t just mean that they are natural predators.

Overheated Oil.  It has been reported that overheated oil on the stovetop can be as lethal to birds as overheated teflon. Be sure that birds are removed from the kitchen immediately if you burn oil and vent the room thoroughly. Vents over ovens should be used on high at all times when cooking in a bird household.

Glass Beads. A woman reports that after making glass-bead necklaces, some of the glass beads had been lost in the rug.  Her lovebirds found them and played with them. The glass beads broke in their strong beaks and the birds must have ingested bits of the glass.  They died the next day and necroscopy revealed that the glass had torn the inside of the birds’ digestive tracts.

Pens. A woman reports that a lovebird that got ahold of a pen was made very ill by the ink.  Although treated by a vet, the bird lost its voice and never regained it. The bird’s personality also seemed to change as it was more active before the incident. Remember, that parrots love pens and pencils. They see their owners writing with them and they look like great toys. Keep pens out of your birds’ reach.

Halogen Lamps. An owner of a lovebird reported that his bird landed on the top where the exposed bulb had been burning for many hours. The bird flew off immediately, but favored the foot for a few days. It is recommended that a grating be placed above the bulb on this type of lamp. They pose both a fire hazard and a hazard to birds without this protective grate. New lamps generally have this protective feature, but older halogen lamps do not.

Foods.Chocolate, coffee, and cocoa contain theobromine, which is toxic to birds. Do not give these to your birds and do not leave them out where your bird could get ahold of them. Avocado is toxic, particularly to African species, but should not be given to any birds. A breeder related to us a story in which a sun conure baby they sold to a family was fed guacamole even though the new owners were warned about avocado. The sun conure was dead the next morning.  No guacamole.

Parrots cannot excrete salt the way we can. High-salt foods can be harmful to them. An occasional nibble from a chip might be okay, but don’t let them get into the habit.  Junk food is not good for your parrot.  Avoid high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt snacks. Once in a blue moon won’t kill them, but beware of giving foods like this. Parrots can get into bad habits just like humans.  Resist the temptation to give in to them if they “beg” for your chips.

Although it seems obvious, I will state it nonetheless. DO NOT GIVE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES to your bird under any circumstances.  It is cruel, not amusing, to get your bird drunk. Their liver cannot metabolize the alcohol.

Lanyard clips can be problematic. These are the toy/swing connector clips that open with just a bit of pressure, then slide over the cage wire, then close up when you release pressure. Some birds get beaks or toenails caught in them. A woman who bought one of my baby lovebirds had a terrible incident in which the clip actually pierced the bird’s beak and she had to use wire cutters to remove it. I’ve stopped using these in making my swings and toys and opt instead for quick links (screw-on type), which are readily available in hardware stores.

The hanging toy called “Cotton Candy” can become a noose for your bird. If you must give your bird this toy, monitor it at all times and remove it from the cage when you are not present. The strings can get tangled around the bird’s neck and choke it to death, or it can get around a leg and cause amputation.

I lost my Amber about 8 yrs. ago to a Large Rope Toy. It hung in the middle of her cage. She loved to play with it. I came home after work and looked at her cage in the living room, I couldn’t believe my eyes! Amber had got caught in the rope upside down and could not free herself. She chewed her leg off to free herself. Blood was every where and she was in shock. I got her to the vet A.S.A.P. The Bird vet said this was the worse case she had seen! Amber lost to much blood and the vet said for a bird to live with one leg would be cruel. I had to put her down. Never did I think that a rope toy would be so dangerous, after all it was made for Birds! I hope this story will make people think twice about rope toys for their birds.  Thank You, for letting me share this tragic story.  Debbie B.

Cage Covers. If your bird is chewing the cage cover they can create a hazard. The frayed areas can get tangled around legs, wings, and necks. If your bird does this, you are better off without a cage cover or need to find a way to keep it out of reach so they can’t chew it through the bars of the age.

Happy Huts and other furry items can be hazardous if your bird starts to eat them. If you notice the fluff disappearing, your bird could be ingesting it, and some birds have died due to obstructions caused by these materials. During one autopsy, the vet found large amounts of Happy Hut material had clogged up the bird’s digestive system. Remember, some hens will become territorial and aggressive when they reach sexual maturity if you give them something that resembles a “nesting” space. This is particularly true of lovebird hens so this kind of “house” is not recommended for them. Also, recent incidents with birds getting caught in the strings of these items makes me feel that they are not particularly safe for birds. While you can maintain them by trimming the loose bits, birds can pull more loose while you are at work and create a hazard before you even realize it exists. Use these items with extreme caution, particularly with destructive birds or clumsy birds that tend to get toes stuck in anything and everything.

New Happy Hut incident: A woman reported that her bird had chewed through the inside of the hut without her realizing it. The bird’s head got stuck in the shredded material and he strangled to death. This incident reminds us that strings and anything that can get wrapped around a bird’s neck can be a hazard. Trim strings on all toys and rope items and always use cage covers that do not shred.

New Happy Hut incident (July 2000): “My 1-1/2 year old Timneh grey has always slept on top of a happy hut; it gave him better balance. Yesterday morning, I found him hanging upside down with his foot twisted in threads from this item, an item so new it hadn’t even been washed yet. In attempting to free himself before I found him at 7AM, he had chewed off a large portion of his foot and two toes. He spent 2 hours in surgery and required 50 stitches to have his foot repaired as well as possible. We won’t know for some time if the remaining toe and the remnants of one other toe will survive. Needless to say, I will never use this product again.”

Balls with holes that are too large can be a problem. One woman reports her lovebird got his head stuck in the ball while she was at work. The bird could not drink water or eat all day. Although the bird was fine, it was quite traumatic and could have resulted in serious injury if the owner had been gone for too long. back to top

Polyvinyl Chloride: Many baby toys and bird toys are made with this possibly toxic material. Read the tragic story: LOSING POOH: POLYVINYL CHLORIDE DEATH?

An owner of a lovebird reports the following: “I am writing to you about a very disturbing incident that just occurred not more than one hour ago. My son has a peachfaced lovebird who is now 20 weeks old.  We have tried to be very careful in choosing his toys in his cage…Unfortunately, we did not recognize the potential danger of  the swing we had in his cage. The bird somehow got the hook that holds the swing to the cage wrapped around his little neck. I rushed to him, after hearing his piercing cry for help as he flapped and fluttered around in the cage , dragging the swing about with him. If I had not been home and nearby at the time, I am positive that he would either be severely harmed, or even dead.   In the picture, you can see the hook. It resembles the crook in a clothes hanger. “Jewel” is fine now… I hate to think what would have happened if he were home alone at the time.”

TOY SIZE: Remember that a toy that is good for one bird may be dangerous for another bird. Size is an important issue. If a bird can just fit his head through a loop, ring, or the like, they could get stuck and panic. Make sure your bird cannot get its head stuck in anything, including between cage bars (some cages are not appropriate for lovebirds or other small birds because the cage spacing is not sufficient).

Bob from recently told me about some problems he’s heard about with parrots and cuttlebones. It seems that the hard backing on the cuttlebone, if ingested in pieces, can be sharp enough to cause perforations within the bird’s digestive system. He suggests scraping the cuttlebone onto food rather than putting the whole piece in the cage.

Bedding and Cage Litter
Do not use walnut shell litter or corn cob litter for the bottom of your birds’ cages. If they ingest these materials they can die. There have been reports of sudden deaths among macaws, amazons, and other parrots, including a baby senegal. In the case of the baby senegal, the owner thought the parents could not reach the bedding through the grating on the bottom of the cage.  They must have been able to reach it and fed the walnut shells to the baby. In documented cases, necropsy showed bleeding in the bowel and accumulation of the bedding in the gizzard. Also, do not use cedar bedding. It is hazardous to birds. Pine bedding shows the fewest problems, but make absolutely sure your bird is not eating it.  Carefresh supposedly is okay if ingested, but has to be changed regularly even if it appears dry as it can harbor bacteria.

Cleaners, Aerosols, Candles, Other Household Items
The following items have been linked anecdotally to bird deaths. By anecdotally, I mean that individuals have reported sudden, unexplained bird deaths after use of or exposure to these items and in cases where necropsy was performed birds were found to have lung damage such has lesions and hemorrhaging. While it cannot be definitively said that these substances were the cause of death, most avian specialists would advise bird owners to avoid exposing their companion birds to any strong chemicals, particularly aerosolized chemicals, due to the delicate nature of their lungs. If you use any sprays or scented products it is advisable that you remove birds from the environment until the smell has completely subsided (atleast 2-3 hours). Also, do not use scented cleaners/chemicals on items the bird might chew.  We have already given warnings about Teflon, nonstick cookware, and plug-in air fresheners above and below this section. Remember, lung damage from a toxic substance can be instantaneous and is irreversible!!!!

web site.  Go to the section on pets and read it carefully.  It should be noted that Febreze is not an aerosol, it is a pump spray.  Febreze reports that they are actively working with veterinarians and avian specialists to determine if there is cause for concern.   We appreciate their interest in the effects this spray might have on birds since many companies have responded to similar reports with indifference.  We will post any new information that comes available. Please remember to read the directions on any spray you use in your home and exercise common sense. Do not spray things directly on pets or their bedding or cages. Air out rooms before returning birds to them no matter WHAT you use to clean.

Here is a statement on this product:

“Veterinary toxicologists at the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center are conducting an on-going investigation into claims that use of Febreze™ in the home caused the death of several pets. All information reviewed to date suggests that there is no evidence that Febreze™ represents any risk to pets when used according to label instructions. Presently, the center considers the product safe to use in households with pets. As with any cleaning product, the center recommends that birds be removed from the room until the product application has dried and the area has been ventilated. Please call 1-800-345-4735 if you have any questions or have a pet that you suspect is experiencing problems or visit us at”

Space Heater Incident Reports
Scented candles or any candles with oils used to scent them: A woman put three different fragrances of Glade candles in various rooms. Birds were in each of these rooms. The birds died within a few minutes of lighting the candles.

Scented toilet paper and tissues: a woman used scented Kleenex in her baby brooder and the babies died soon after. Another woman gave a bird the inner cardboard of a scented toilet paper roll and the bird chewed it and died soon after.  Use only unscented rolls or tissue.

Pine-scented items: It has become more and more well known that pine-scented cleaners and other pine-scented substances are toxic to birds. A woman was taking her two cockatiels to the vet in her car. It was a 1-hour drive. The birds were not sick, they were just going in for a normal check-up. Upon arriving at the vet, the birds were clearly very ill. They both died about an hour later and necroscopy revealed hemorrhaging in the lungs. The woman reported that she had two pine-scented air fresheners hanging from her rearview mirror in the car.

Leather protectant sprays: A man took the leather coat into another room to avoid exposing his birds to the spray. He left the house for a few hours after this. He came home and all his birds were dead.

Potpourri: An English budgie found on the floor seemingly died of unexplained causes. However, on careful consideration, the owners suspected that the bird had nibbled at the potpourri that had been sitting in an open bowl on the table next to where he had been found.  Potpourri can look very enticing to a bird, but the perfumes used to give it scent would definitely be poisonous if ingested.

Wax Potpourri: A woman reports, “A few years ago, a friend’s husband left their cockatiel unattended on their kitchen  counter. The bird took a few bites of some cooled melted potpourri wax that goes into one of those cute little electric mini-crockpots. (We found the bite marks in the flat surface of the wax). The bird began vomiting a sticky black substance a few hours later, and died the next morning. A necropsy was not performed, but the  bird was fine and healthy before ingesting the wax, and dead within 12 hours of ingesting it.

Glue Guns: A woman reports, “I found my baby quaker in respiratory distress after being exposed to the fumes from the smallest of hot-glue guns. The gun did get very hot and I could smell the fumes myself. It was only seconds after he entered the room that he began to sneeze and gasp. SECONDS! Fresh air in a back room was all it took to refresh him but certainly just a few more seconds of exposure would have been irreversible.”

TEFLON FUMES ARE POISONOUS TO BIRDSDon’t forget that bird owners need to beware of nonstick cookware. I know many people will say it’s okay to use as long as you don’t overheat it, but all it takes is a few minutes of inattention for a nonstick pan to overheat, releasing fumes that are known to kill birds. Kola’s story (click) (shows how this can happen.   REMEMBER, Teflon and other nonstick coatings are found on many newer appliances. Pumpkin’s story (click) illustrates this sometimes hidden danger and the frustrating inability to get proper information from manufacturers. DuPont, the manufacturer of Teflon, recommends caution with all Teflon, but they also strongly advise against the use of Teflon drip pans (for the oven) in bird households since these often reach temperatures that are too high even in normal cooking conditions: “PTFE coated drip pans should be avoided because even in normal use they reach extremely high temperatures and can emit fumes that are hazardous to birds.” (From DuPont.comPlease note: there is no controversy regarding this danger to birds. If anyone tells you there is, they are simply ignorant!  A causal link HAS been made!

Teflon Nonstick Cookware Evidence Incident Reports:

Heartbreaking Deaths of Kola Bird and  Pumpkin

New Teflon Reported April 2000: Coco the CockatooScientific

References Confirm Dangers of Overheated Teflon

Canaries in the Kitchen: A Report from the Environmental Working Group which is fighting for better labeling on products with nonstick coating (ovens, heating irons etc) and publicizing of the health hazards of nonstick cookware back to top

Mineral Blocks – many mineral blocks contain grit in the mixture. It’s best to avoid them because grit can cause serious blockage. I also received this e-mail about lava rocksfrom a cockatiel owner recently.

Hi, my 14 year old cockatiel Penny is very ill as we speak with an impaction and iron toxicity suspected from chewing on a lava rock toy. He has had this hanging lava rock with attached bell since he was very young. He became weak and fell last weak, his poop was black with blood. X rays showed he was impacted, the vet asked about grit and she was told he never had been offered grit but I remembered this toy, which he has always been enamored with, chewing and picking with it daily. Since posting his plight on a website I frequent daily, I have heard repeated stores of the same -parrots ingesting their lava rock toys, leading to impactions and often time deaths. I am surprised to have never been warned of their danger so I thought I’d email this in. I am praying and hoping for the best for my Penny. Apparently the ingested rock chards have passed the crop now, he is no longer passing blood but is still weak from the iron overload, they are awaiting test results to start therapy on him.

My close friend Buddy died a week ago.  He was a 15 year old Cockatiel that I hand raised myself.  It was sunday evening when I noticed he was having a difficult time breathing.  I had noticed he was sleeping a bit much earlier that day but when I disturbed him then, he acted normal.
I suspected a respiratory infection and started antibiotics as there is no Avian Vet anywhere near where I live now.  The next day I had to hand feed him as he had quit eating and was loosing weight fast.  He was never a bulky bird to start with.  Tuesday he was doing much better.  His breathing was no longer so labored and he even ate on his own nearly a full crop that evening.  The next day he took a turn for the worse again and at 11:00 pm that evening Buddy died in my hands as I tried everything to save him and keep him alive.  I brought him back once giving him side chest compressions and blowing at his nostrals but a moment later he lifted his head up at me and then layed it down and died.  I remain heartbroken.
I didn’t know what had killed him and I got on your site and seen so many things that he has been exposed to over his life that seemingly should have killed him.  I do now know what happened and I thought I would share it with you so maybe you can include it on your page and prevent someone else’s heart from being broke.
Shortly after My Buddy died our air conditioner stopped blowing cold air.  A few days maybe.  It was discovered that our “A” coils were leaking inside our air conditioner, inside our house as they all are.  I’m pretty sure that the freon leak from a 2 1/2 ton central air unit over a period of days or a week killed my bird.  My wife and I remember we were coughing a bit also at the time but had no other symptoms.
Please have your System checked out and leak tested at least once a year.
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