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Bad Foods For Birds: Onions & Garlic

Find out what bird foods to avoid feeding your bird, and why onions and garlic are on the list.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM

Grapes are good for birds, but some other foods should be on the "no feed" list.

Q) I have heard that onions are bad for birds. Is this true? What other foods are on the bad list?

A) Onions and garlic both contain compounds that can cause red blood cells to rupture, resulting in anemia. However, the compounds in garlic are not as strong. Because the red blood cells of birds contain a nucleus, it seems that their cells are less likely to become damaged by the effects of the compounds that destroy red blood cells. But, to be on the safe side, it is best to avoid offering any foods containing raw or cooked onions or garlic.

Onions contain compounds that can cause red blood cells to rupture.

Chocolate should never be offered to birds as the break-down products are toxic to birds.

Some species of avocado are also toxic to birds. In some cases, the skin of the avocado is toxic and in some cases, the meat is poisonous to the bird. So, to be safe, don’t offer avocado and products containing avocado to birds.

Some people list parsley on lists of toxic foods for birds, but I believe parsley is a great item to offer to birds, especially smaller birds that are fussy about eating their greens and veggies. Parsley contains beta-carotene, which is converted to active vitamin A in the body, so it is safe and yummy for many birds.

The reason that it is often on the list of bad foods is because it can cause photosensitization in some birds, meaning that if the bird consumes parsley and then is exposed to natural sunlight or ultraviolet light, it can cause the skin to redden abnormally. A bird would need to consume a large amount of parsley for this to happen, so it is not a practical concern.

To be safe, don't offer garlic to your bird.

In general, foods that are not good for you are not good for you to share with your bird. This means fatty foods, foods high in salt or preservatives or foods that are very calorie-dense are bad choices, but not likely to kill a bird.

Milk and products containing milk cannot be properly digested by birds, as they do not have the correct enzyme, lactase, to process milk sugar, lactose. Occasional small offerings of cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt are okay to offer to birds for their calcium.  They contain very little or no available lactose, as it is removed in the process of making those items.

Learn more about bad bird foods here:

Don't Feed Your Pet Bird These Foods
Bad Foods For Parrots

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Posted: April 24, 2014, 12:00 a.m. PDT

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Bad Foods For Birds: Onions & Garlic

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