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An inquisitive black-headed caique

Bird-safe (alternatively bird-proof) objects and surroundings are those safe for captive birds. Birds are smaller than humans and other pets, and therefore more vulnerable to dangers. Bird-safe environments are particularly important for parrots, as they are inquisitive, agile climbers and tend to chew objects.

Household objects[edit]

Senegal parrot chewing a remote control device

Numerous household objects may be dangerous to pet birds. Common potentially dangerous objects include other pets (especially predatory pets such as ferrets, cats, and dogs), ceiling fans, ammonia-based cleaners (glass cleaners), hot surfaces such as heaters and stoves, electrical cords, open windows and doors, aerosol sprays, chemicals/pesticides, filled tubs, sinks, or open toilets, terrycloth towels (toe tangle), and certain kinds of applicants as well as lubricants. In some of the older buildings, those built before the 1970s, the paint can also include a certain amount of lead, which can be dangerous to birds and other animals if eaten.

Any source of open water can pose a potential danger to one's bird. Toilets are among the most common sources of water-related danger along with bathtubs, sinks, and water bowls of other pets or buckets.

Electrical cords are other potential dangers that can injure a bird. Commonly, birds are curious and they tend to explore everything with their beaks. Electrical cords that are situated close to the cage can be bitten and the electrical insulation may be removed, risking electrocution. This danger can be avoided by covering all the cords in the house, or keeping the bird away from them.

Not only are windows unsafe for birds, but also mirrors and doors can be a cause of accidents around the house. Interior doors may be dangerous if the bird enjoys sitting on the top of an open door. When the door is closed, the bird might get injured. Mirrors are tricky for birds because they are often mistaken as places to escape and a hard collision may result in injuries.

The respiratory system of birds is vulnerable to impurities in the air, which can cause a bird to choke. Impurities in the air can come from cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide, scented candles, cooking smoke such as burned oil, incense, carpet powders, or household sprays.[1] All these impurities can harm the bird's respiratory system and cause respiratory diseases.

Some plants can also pose a threat to a bird's safety. Although most types of plants do not affect the health of pet birds, there are some that might be toxic for them if chewed. This danger can be avoided if the owners get a list of toxic plants for birds from their avian veterinarian.

The self-cleaning cycle of an oven also releases toxic fumes. All self-cleaning cycles can produce deadly results for pet birds. It is recommended that bird owners use their hands and a scrub-brush to clean their ovens.[2]

Anything that is hot can endanger pet birds. These include boiling water, boiling food, fireplaces, hot light bulbs, and burning candles—anything that can cause serious burns if a bird flies into them. Some birds are attracted to shiny flames or bulbs, which makes them more prone to these dangers.

Medicines that pet owners have in their cabinet can be dangerous for birds. As birds are extremely curious, they might find an open cabinet and chew on different pills. Not only are pills intended for human use dangerous for birds, but also those that are specially designed for birds, unless the veterinarian prescribed them.

Responsible pet owners can avoid these problems through supervision of the bird when it is outside its cage and removing dangers from some rooms. Windows should be covered whenever a bird is first flying in a new location. Some aviculturists recommend wing clipping, which, properly done, reduces the ability of a bird to fly and may reduce the bird's ability to encounter dangers such as ceiling fans and windows. However, a clipped bird may be more vulnerable to some other dangers, such as other pets, and falling-related injuries.

Cage safety[edit]

Cuban amazons housed in round birdcages, which are inappropriate as there is no safe corner for a frightened bird to retreat to

Except for cages constructed of stainless steel, almost all finch and parrot cages have some kind of coating on the wires, such as a powder coating, which not only protects the bird from bare metal, but also keeps the metals from corroding in reaction to air. Exposure to metals such as lead, zinc, or tin can cause heavy metal poisoning in captive birds. Good quality powdercoated cages are made of steel or wrought iron, which are bird safe, but lower quality cages may contain traces of harmful metals or solder containing lead. Hardware, such as screws or wiring, may also be a source of toxic metals.

Galvanized (zinc plated) mesh is frequently used for outdoor aviaries; it is necessary to use only galvanized-after-welding mesh and to scrub it with vinegar to remove loose pieces of zinc, which greatly reduces any risk of zinc poisoning from the mesh. Galvanized-after-welding mesh usually must be purchased from aviary suppliers. However, some groups feel that zinc should never be used near birds—especially parrots—as they not only chew on everything, but climb using their mouths.

Rectangular cages are preferred over round cages because a round cage lacks a safe corner for a bird to hide when frightened or alarmed. Round cages may also affect a bird's psychology; when kept in round cages, birds often exhibit an unusual and repetitive stereotypical behavior whereby they twirl their heads and look round-and-round at the domed ceiling. The bar positioning in round cages can also affect a bird's feathers, particularly the tail feathers.

Bar spacing is an important consideration; depending on the spacing of the bars and the size of a bird it may get its head stuck between the bars, or get its head through and then injure its neck while panicking. Some caging that is safe for large birds can pose a toe-entrapment risk to small birds such as finches or parakeets. For example, a collapsible cage with hinges cannot trap a macaw's large toes, but the small spaces of the hinge can catch the nail of a tiny parrotlet.

Leg bands can be a source of accidents in the cage. The bird might become hooked by the leg band, which may cause injury to the leg including dislocations, fractures or sprains. Poor quality leg bands can become irritating and cause swelling and inflammation, or act as a tourniquet causing the loss of the leg.[3] Leg bands are not recommended by avian veterinarians, unless they are necessary in terms of identification.

Peach-faced lovebird in a cage with toys

In addition to the cage, consideration must be given to items such as bowls, toys, perches, exercisers, and other accessories. Recommended items have not been treated with dangerous chemicals or metals, are not entrapment hazards, and cannot be disassembled or broken by large birds.

Safe plants and foods[edit]

There are also many plants that may be harmful to pet birds. In some cases an entire plant can be harmful to a bird and in some cases only some parts of certain plants can be dangerous to birds [4] The toxicity of a plant to birds depends upon the plant, the amount of the plant that has been ingested by the bird and also by the specific species of bird.

There are some foods that people can share with birds but all those that contain caffeine are dangerous to these pets. The inappropriate foods range from those that are just unhealthy to those that might kill pet birds.[5] Fatty foods, foods with high concentration of sugar or salt and chocolate are toxic to birds and should not be shared. Birds shouldn't drink alcoholic beverages. Fruits such as avocado should be avoided as well. The quality of the food that a bird gets is also important, as with all pets. Fresh food is important and one can avoid the food spoiling or growing mold by removing it from the cage before it decays. Raw onions should never be fed either.[6]

Toxic foods are foods that can cause allergies and/or health problems in birds. Avocados, alcohol, and chocolate are poisonous to birds. Milk and excessively sugary, salty, and fatty foods should be avoided or fed rarely (some species of parrots do require larger amounts of fat or sugar in the diet, but this is provided with nuts or fruit and nectar, and not junk foods). Any food considered junk food for humans should also be considered junk food for pet birds.

Guacamole contains avocados and can cause almost instant death in birds. Seed-only diets are not healthy for most pet birds, contrary to popular belief. Most seeds are high in fat and low in nutrients (particularly sunflower and safflower seeds), qualities that can lead to obesity or malnutrition. A bird lives much longer if fed a healthier diet of pellets, fresh vegetables and fruit, and a limited quantity of low-fat seeds such as millet or sprouted seeds—with fatty seeds only as occasional treats.

Excessive salty foods are potentially toxic, as bird species that do not live on the shore or at sea have very low salt in their diet. Salty food can lead to a condition known as salt toxicosis.

Foods that contain the mineral iron can be toxic to certain species of softbills, such as toucans, and to a lesser extent, to lories, where iron-storage disease can come about from the consumption of such foods. Special "low iron" softbill diets are available for iron-sensitive species.

Birds are not equipped to digest milk so milk and milk products are considered a poor choice by some keepers. However, cheese and yogurt can add helpful bacteria to a bird's digestive system and offer a calcium boost, for example, when a female laying eggs. Some captive birds enjoy milk products and show no ill effect from eating or drinking them.

The following plants are safe to place in or next to the cage if not sprayed with toxic substances: ash, citrus, dogwood, elm, eucalyptus, guava, madrona, magnolia, manzanita, nut (besides chestnut and oak), papaya, pine, prune, ribbonwood, sassafras, thurlow, vine maple, and willows.[7] Many plants, however, are toxic and should not be placed in the cage or where the bird can reach them. Bird owners should check with an avian veterinarian on which plants are toxic to birds before getting a plant or a bird.

Despite the lengthy lists of foods and plants toxic to pet birds, a pet bird's resistance to toxic foods and plants varies by species, and even the individual bird. A certain amount of food dangerous for a finch or budgie may not be dangerous to a macaw due to the difference in their digestive systems and size difference. Even within species, there may be difference among individual birds in their resistance to toxic materials—a bird that is on a usually healthy diet is typically more immune to an accidental dose of toxic food than a bird on an insufficient diet. Genetic disposition also plays a role. However, prevention is better than cure, and most toxic food and plants lists are based on this rule.

Some believe that malnutrition is very common among the pet birds in the United States, though owners may not notice it. Moreover, specialists think that a deficient nutrition is one of the most common reasons why pet birds die at young ages. Therefore, pet owners should choose the right dietary plan for their pet bird, according to its species. Malnutrition may shorten the life span of a pet bird by a decade compared to the same species in the wild, and can cause disease.

Seed diets are normally high in fat, especially when the seeds come from sunflower, safflower and peanuts.[8] Also, they are low in calcium, low in protein and do not contain the required amount of vitamins. Most seeds are almost devoid of vitamins whatsoever.[9] To establish a balanced diet for a pet bird, seeds should be the main food, but not exceed 50% of total diet. Dairy products provide a calcium and protein source—two foods most likely to be missing from a bird's diet. Many wild birds consume fruits and, sometimes, vegetables—important sources of vitamins that birds require. Birds accustomed with a diet mainly based on seeds may be difficult to change to a balanced and nutritious diet.

To make sure a bird diet is appropriate, many bird owners buy commercial bird food made from seeds and dried fruits, often with a flavoring agent.[10]

Toxicity of overheated non-stick surfaces[edit]

Many bird owners claim their pet birds died after the owners used non-stick cookware around the birds.[11] The cause of this phenomenon is polytetrafluorethelyne (PTFE), a chemical used in the manufacture of industrial non-stick coatings. When they are overheated, the resulting combination of particles and gasses from the cookware surface is toxic, even inhaled for a short time. PTFE becomes dangerous when the surface is heated over 202 °C (396 Fahrenheit).[12] The most common source of these non-stick coatings is DuPont's Teflon, but there are other brands of similar non-stick coatings. PTFE-coated surfaces should be used carefully in households that contain birds (good ventilation and never permitted to cook dry), as there are no warnings on these products about the dangers. There are a number of safer cooking options, including stainless steel, cast iron, and enamel.

Other sources of PTFE include some wafflemakers, irons, and self-cleaning ovens, among other things. People using PTFE-coated surfaces in a household that has birds should make sure that the stove is never left unattended while something is cooking on it, and the kitchen in particular should be well ventilated. A pet bird should not be kept near the kitchen due to the proximity of these fumes when cookware is overheated.

Bird supplies[edit]

Bird supplies vary depending on the type of bird. Commonly, a pet bird requires a cage, food, and bird toys. Some people, however, more interested in wild birds, and might want to feed or observe them when they come around gardens or yards.

Purchasing bird supplies for pet birds is less complicated, because one knows the type of bird and its needs. With wild birds, however, this is more difficult, because one must identify the bird species and provide supplies accordingly. Wild bird supplies include bird baths, bird houses, and bird feeders. Out of safety reasons, one should get the best quality supplies when it comes to both feeders and foods. Quality is important, since the feeder is outside and exposed to the elements.[13] Also, people who are passionate of feeding wild birds should provide ways to protect the birds and their food from squirrels and other animals.

Introduction to strangers[edit]

Dog looking at a budgerigar
Birds of different species may fight

Strangers to a bird include new people and animals. It is recommended that a new bird be quarantined and vet checked before being introduced to existing household birds. Birds that do not know each other should always be supervised when introduced, even if they are of the same species.

Ferrets can be potentially dangerous around pet birds as they have a strong hunting instinct. Cats and dogs are also potentially dangerous to pet birds, but most can be successfully trained to get along with birds in their household. However, a pet bird should never be left unattended outside the cage around a cat or dog. Mammalian saliva contains bacteria that can cause a potentially fatal infection in birds if introduced into a wound; a bird that receives even a minor bite or scratch should be taken to a veterinarian for treatment and appropriate antibiotics.

Some people have found to their dismay and cost that although newly bought birds that they put through quarantine looked healthy, the new birds caused birds of certain species of their stock to become ill and die when they were mixed together. That is what birds known as disease carriers can end up doing to a stock. Mixing newly purchased birds with established stock without a veterinary examination can be dangerous, no matter how healthy the new birds look even after quarantine.


  1. ^ "Household Dangers and Emergency Prevention". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  2. ^ "Household Dangers". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  3. ^ "Keep Your Bird Safe". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  4. ^ Flying Gems Aviary - Toxic Plants
  5. ^ "Top 10 Household Dangers to Pet Birds". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  6. ^ "Top Ten Bird & Parrot Dangers". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  7. ^ "Toxis & Non-toxic Plants, Trees, Substances". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  8. ^ "Nutrition: Foundation for a Healthy Bird". Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  9. ^ "Nutrition: Foundation for a Healthy Bird". Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  10. ^ "Bird Food Feeders and More". Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  11. ^ Teflon kills birds | Environmental Working Group
  12. ^ Boucher M, Ehmler TJ, Bermudez AJ. 2000. Polytetrafluoroethylene gas intoxication in broiler chickens. Avian Dis 44:449-53.
  13. ^ "Bird Supplies Store". Retrieved 2010-05-28. [dead link]

14 How we kill & injure our pet birds

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