Thank you to our friend Pat Pecora for these helpful suggestions Written by Carolyn Swicegood
Eclectus website: www.landofvos.com
FOODS that are dangerous to parrots include avocado, including guacamole, chocolate or cocoa, alcohol, caffeine, mushrooms, the pits of apricots, peaches, plums, prunes, and seeds of the cherimoya fruit, as well as foods containing large amounts of salt, sugar, grease, preservatives, artificial coloring, and other additives. Foods that are high in oxalic acids such as rhubarb and spinach should be avoided in favor of healthier foods. Raw or improperly stored peanuts are known to be a source of aflotoxins produced by a fungus that grows on them. Obvious dangers such as moldy foods, under-cooked meat, or raw meat should be avoided. Parrot foods should be the same quality as human infant foods.
METALS such as lead, zinc, copper, mercury and iron cause metal toxicosis if ingested by birds. Some sources of heavy metal include galvanized cages and aviary wire, hardware cloth, house keys, (especially gold colored keys), zippers, solder, putty, fish weights, lead-based paints, metallic paints, paints containing zinc, linoleum, vinyl mini-blinds, foil from champagne and wine bottles, lead weights, bells with lead clappers, stained glass, some improperly-glazed ceramics, costume jewelry, mirror backing, copper pennies, zinc oxide, artist paints containing cadmium, cardboard or paper with high gloss inks, and magnetic business cards.
LITTER composed of walnut shells or corn cobs can cause life-threatening impaction if ingested by birds. It also harbors fungal spores that when soiled or wet start to grow. Newspaper is a far safer litter material to use.
WOOD SHAVINGS like cedar and redwood are toxic to birds because they contain aromatic oils and should not be used in cages, aviaries, or nest boxes. Pine or aspen shavings are safer for nest box substrate.
KITCHENS, especially when cooking is in progress, are unsafe for birds. The obvious hazards of open flames, hot ranges, open pots of hot food or boiling water are as deadly as smoke or other toxic fumes (even from dishwashers if a plastic item falls into a heating element during the drying cycle). Remember, a stove stays hot for some time even after a burner is turned off.
OPEN WATER such as in sinks, tubs, toilets, fish tanks or open pots pose the risk of drowning to your bird especially if he is flighted. Be sure to keep these surfaces covered if your bird is out of its cage. Birds are so naturally inquisitive that even a glass with liquid in it is a potential drowning hazard to your bird especially to the smaller ones.
OPEN DOORS OR WINDOWS are an obvious danger. Your bird may fly out and be lost forever. Screens should be checked occasionally to make sure they are in tight.
MIRRORS AND CLOSED WINDOWS do not appear to be a barrier to birds. They often fly head on into them causing a severe injury to themselves or sometimes even death. Either keep your bird’s wing feathers clipped to prevent him from flying into these things or else keep them covered. You might also try placing decals on them as a visible reminder. Many birds can be trained to avoid large expanses of glass by repeatedly holding the bird on your hand and imitating flight toward the glass and then lightly pressing their beak, feet, and body against the surfaces.
OTHER BIRDS can cause injury to your bird also. If birds have access to each other, be careful when allowing them to interact with one another especially if they are different sized birds. Always provide careful supervision. Regardless of how friendly they seem to each other, that can quickly change when they are scared, hormonal etc. Keep birds off the tops of other bird’s cages. Birds are often very possessive and territorial with their cages and many a toe has been lost by having it bit off when on another bird’s cage.
PTFE treated products such as Teflon and other name brands of non-stick cookware kill birds by releasing deadly, odorless gases when overheated. PTFE is used in some space heaters, ranges, ovens, stove-top burner bibs or liners, heat lamps, irons, griddles, bread makers, woks, waffle makers, electric skillets, crock pots, corn poppers, coffee makers, roasters, curling irons, hair dryers, and more. Check labels before purchase.
SELF-CLEANING OVENS use extremely high heat to burn off oven debris. During that process, toxic fumes that kill parrots within minutes are emitted.
COOKING BAGS, especially those treated with PTFE, emit harmful fumes when heated. Any substance that releases smoke and/or fumes when heated should be avoided in homes with birds. It can be fatal.
ELECTRICAL CORDS are an obvious danger. If chewed they can cause a severe burn or fatal shock.
FLOORS AND FURNITURE should be off limits to your bird. Far too many birds, especially the smaller ones, have been stepped on or sat on and crushed. Get in the habit of looking before you step or sit in a room where your bird is loose and don’t move until you locate your bird.
CAGES should be made of safe metal with non-toxic paint, no sharp points that can cause injuries, proper spacing between cage bars to prevent strangulation, and no empty cup holders. Birds have been injured or killed by getting stuck in empty cup holders in cages. Use empty dishes or fill them with toys or treats, but never leave empty cup holders in a cage. Stainless steel is the safest metal.
LEG BANDS can cause the loss of a bird’s toes, feet, legs and sometimes, lives are lost. Microchips are a safer way to identify lost birds. Leg bands should be removed only by a veterinarian.
GRIT is unnecessary for parrots and can cause impaction of the avian digestive system.
HALOGEN LIGHT FIXTURES such as torchiere-style floor lamps create extreme heat and can kill birds that land on them. Choose only bird-safe light fixtures for bird homes.
QUIK-STOP and other styptic products should never be applied to avian skin or feather follicles. Styptic products are safe for bleeding toenails when broken or cut too short, but they destroy skin and feather follicles. For broken or pulled blood feathers, cornstarch or flour are safer. Aloe gel can be applied first to help the flour or cornstarch to adhere to the wound and to help with pain and healing.
CATS, DOGS, FERRETS (and many other pets) are a danger to birds. The cat scratch can infect birds with Pasturella multocida bacteria, among others, and immediate vet treatment is required to save the bird’s life. The saliva from these animals can be deadly to a bird also. Never allow birds to interact with ANY pet without close supervision.
PESTICIDE SPRAYS, NO- PEST STRIPS, and FOGGERS poison the air and can kill birds. Safer solutions are roach traps, ant bait, and other solid insect poisons that can be safely secured in the back of cabinets and other areas that are inaccessible to birds.
FLEA COLLARS and SPRAYS emit toxins and should not be used in bird homes. The metal discs sold in pet stores to attach to cages for killing lice also poison the environment — do NOT use them! Shampoos for lice contain dangerous toxins that never should be used on birds.
STICKY PEST STRIPS for flying insects should always be enclosed in old cages or other containers accessible to insects but out of the reach of birds and other pets. Mineral oil or peanut butter can be
used to safely remove sticky substances from feathers.
WING CLIPS should be checked on the first day of each month to prevent flight-related accidents. Wing-clipped birds can often fly well enough to escape so they should be protected by a harness, leash, or carrier when taken outside. While checking the bird’s wings, also check it’s nails. Nails that are too long and sharp can easily catch on things and cause accidents. Beaks are not a job for the amateur and should only be done by someone properly trained in trimming them. Healthy birds should not need beak trims.
CEILING FANS should not be used in homes with flighted birds. Other household dangers to flighted birds are open windows and doors, hot pots and stove burners, open containers of water (sinks, toilets,
tubs, boiling water), poisonous or thorny houseplants, electrical wires, medication, insect bait traps, and many other toxic substances.
TOYS, both new and used, should be cleaned and examined for loose parts that could lodge in a bird’s throat. Loose strings and threads can trap and cut off circulation to necks, wings, legs, and toes. Use only stainless steel (not zinc) “quick links” as toy fasteners and never use strings, chains or ropes long enough to wrap around a birds’ neck or other body parts.
PRESSURE TREATED LUMBER, conventional plywood, and particle board contain a variety of toxic substances. Untreated pine boards are a safer choice.
HOUSEPLANTS and FERTILIZER including “fertilizer spikes” can poison birds so they should be kept out of their reach. Some of the most common poisonous houseplants are azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, yew plants, dieffenbachia (dumb cane), asparagus fern, flower bulbs, mistletoe, poinsettia, philodendron, and potato sprouts or “eyes”. Choose only non-poisonous plants for bird homes.
CIGARETTES, CIGARS, PIPES, AND OTHER SMOKING SUBSTANCES should never be used in air space shared by birds. Passive inhalation of smoke, including smoke from burning incense, damages the sensitive avian respiratory system, eyes and skin. Nicotine can settle on perches and other cage surfaces and cause the self-mutilation of feet and legs in sensitive birds, especially Amazon parrots. Tobacco smoke is often the cause of feather picking.
ESSENTIAL OILS and potpourri oils should never be used in the breathing space of parrots. Perfume, hairspray, and other aerosolized grooming products also can damage the avian respiratory system or perhaps even kill your bird if used in the same area.
AIR FRESHENERS which includes plug-ins and scented sprays are considered unsafe. Bird deaths have resulted from using them. To safely freshen the air, use spices like cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and citrus rinds.
SCENTED CANDLES release toxins when burned, so only unscented candles should be used in bird homes. (Protect birds from the open flame). Beeswax and soy candles are generally safe and unscented unless they
are imported and contain lead wicks (which are illegal and rarely used.)
CARPET POWDERS AND SPRAYS such as Carpet Fresh, as well as similar treatments for upholstery such as Febreze, often contain toxins which are dispersed into the air when they are vacuumed so they should not be used in bird homes. Carpets can be cleaned safely with solutions of water and baking soda, vinegar, or grapefruit seed extract.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PRODUCTS like pine oil, ammonia, mold and mildew cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, furniture polish, oven cleaners, dishwasher detergents, furniture polish, car
cleaning products, and laundry products, including bleach, can irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract of birds when used in their air space. Spray starch is also toxic to birds.
HOLIDAY HAZARDS are another potential threat to our birds. Live trees are often coated with chemicals such as fertilizer or insecticide. Lights pose dangers also since they are hot and if the bird chews the electrical cord he may receive a severe burn or fatal shock. Ornaments are often fragile and toxic if pieces are ingested and tinsel with its bright finish and flexibility is an attraction to birds and can easily wrap around them causing strangulation. Use extra caution with your bird at holiday time.
HOME IMPROVEMENT PRODUCTS that create fumes include fresh paint, new carpet, drapes, furniture and flooring that uses toxic glues. The out gassing of toxic chemicals from new furnishings, paints, solvents, adhesives, various finishes, and other building materials are sometimes described as the “new smell” and can damage the sensitive avian respiratory system of even kill your bird. If you are having new carpet installed ask the carpet company to “air” your new carpet for a week before installing it.
MEDICATION and natural remedies containing tea tree oil, which contains the oil of the melaleuca tree, as well as all over-the-counter medications, should be kept out of the reach of parrots.
MOLD on food or in the air is dangerous to parrots. Aspergillus mold spores can cause the deadly disease, aspergillosis. It can grow on improperly handled and stored foods, especially grains such as corn as well as in the environment around the bird. Peanuts, because they grow below ground are often another source of fungal toxins and aspergillus. Excessive moisture in bathrooms promotes the growth of various molds in homes.
CARBON MONOXIDE is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas produced by furnaces and other heaters. Birds in poorly ventilated, heated areas are at high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It robs the blood of oxygen and can be particularly harmful to animals and humans with heart ailments when inhaled at levels often found indoors. Be sure to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and check them regularly to assure that they are working.
MOTHBALLS and moth-repellent cakes and crystals contain paradichlorobenzene, which also is found in toilet disinfectants and in deodorizers, and it causes cancer in lab animals.
DRY CLEANED CLOTHING should be aired outside or in airspace not shared by birds until there is no remaining odor. The chemical “perc” (perchloroethylene) causes cancer in lab animals.
HUMAN SALIVA contains pathogens that are deadly to birds. Never allow a bird to place its beak in your nose or mouth. Do not allow them to “clean your teeth”.
CLEANLINESS is important to the prevention of bacterial infections. Wash your hands frequently when working with birds and preparing their food and dishes. Be sure to wash all produce extremely well before feeding it to your bird.
DISEASE EXPOSURE should be avoided by quarantining all new birds from your existing flock or companion birds for one to three months. Taking birds to pet stores, bird fairs, and other bird gatherings with birds can expose them to deadly diseases. If you go on vacation or need to be away for an extended period of time it is far safer to have a friend or relative come into your home and care for your birds.
AVIAN FIRST AID KITS are a must have item for all bird owners and should be kept stocked and readily accessible at all times. They are not intended to replace vet care but rather to help stabilize your bird until getting him to the vet.
EMERGENCY INFORMATION such as your vet’s contact numbers and the animal poison control center should be kept handy at all times.