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Don't Feed Your Pet Bird These Foods

For your pet bird's health and safety, avoid feeding avocado, celery, tomatoes, garlic, onions and mushrooms.

By Laura Doering

Don't Feed These Foods  Click on image to enlarge

I love avocado and usually pick up a couple whenever they go on sale. The funny thing about being a bird person, though, is that it’s hard to even look at an avocado without the nagging thought in the back of my mind: “Of course, my bird can’t have any.” Most bird people know that avocado can be toxic to parrots. But what about other foods you would typically find in a healthy salad, casserole or a scrumptious bowl of guacamole? Here are some other fruit and vegetables you should also keep off of your pet bird’s plate. (For a full list of bad foods, check this list here.)

The avocado’s pit contains an oil that leaches a toxin called persin into the fruit. Signs of avocado toxicity include lethargy, anorexia, breathing difficulty and sudden death. Some birds have tasted avocado with no ill affects; however, that can depend on the variety of avocado and the bird species. Avocado seems to be especially harmful to lovebirds, budgies and cockatiels, but larger parrots can also be susceptible. Most avian veterinarians recommend playing it safe and keeping avocado off your bird’s menu.

Onions, whether cooked, raw or dehydrated, contain sulfur compounds that, when chewed, can cause hemolysis or a rupture of red blood cells, which can cause anemia. According to Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, they can also potentially cause irritation to a bird’s mouth, esophagus and crop, and they can even cause ulcers.

Garlic adds flavor to our dishes but it can cause problems in parrots. Garlic is related to onions and has similar chemical compounds. Garlic contains allicin, which in rare cases, can cause Heinz body hemolytic anemia in birds.

Because tomatoes are an acidic fruit, many veterinarians recommend not offering fresh tomatoes to birds, because they could potentially cause ulcers. Larry Nemetz, DVM, of the The Bird Clinic in Orange, Calif., does not recommend, at any time, feeding birds raw tomatoes (including cherry tomatoes) because of their acidity. Dried tomatoes (the drying process takes out most of the acid) and plain spaghetti sauce (tomatoes in spaghetti sauce are cooked, removing the acid) are fine in moderation.

Mushrooms are a type of fungus. Raw mushrooms have been known to cause digestive problems in parrots, and the stems and caps of certain mushrooms can potentially cause liver failure in birds.

Celery itself isn’t necessarily bad for parrots, it’s the stringy part of celery that can cause problems; namely crop impactation. Remove the stringy parts from celery if you wish to let your bird chomp into some.

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Reader Comments
We've been giving our parrots burgers, pizza, all sorts of pastas with various tomato sauces (which containg onion and garlic), now for 26 years. They are all quite healthy. I can't comment on celery, avocado or mushrooms because I don't eat them, either, so my birds don't get any of those. Oh, I do give them an occasional peanut or peanut butter M&M. No evidence that those do any damage, either.
Dee, International
Posted: 7/4/2016 12:55:35 PM
My parrot..I have had for 17 years..loves a celery stalk ..with the levels to eat a play with...give her this for fun...every 2 days or so for all theses years...she has never been sick...ever.......
Sandra, Deming, NM
Posted: 9/1/2015 12:28:54 PM
My parrot..I have had for 17 years..loves a celery stalk ..with the levels to eat a play with...give her this for fun...every 2 days or so for all theses years...she has never been sick...ever.......
Sandra, Deming, NM
Posted: 9/1/2015 12:27:38 PM
Celery has very little nutritional value and therefore, feeding everyday is not providing your parrot much in the way of healthy nutrition. There are other more nutrient rich foods that your parrots would benefit from.

Lack of useful nutrients and potential health risks, makes this food undesirable for parrots.
Linda, San Francisco, CA
Posted: 7/29/2014 10:45:56 AM
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