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TOXIC AND QUESTIONABLE FOODS FOR PARROTS
Including Myths About Foods That are Actually Fine for Parrots

This is the most extensive list you will find anywhere. Thoroughly researched and written by Sally Blanchard

COLOR CODE: TOXIC/DANGEROUS    READ CAUTIONS   HEATHY WITH CONSIDERATIONS   HEALTHY FOODS FOR PARROTS

ALCOHOL: There is no other way to say it, alcohol is toxic to parrots even if it even just a sip once and a while. This includes anything with any alcohol in it; beer, wine, cocktails, fruit coolers, Saki, etc. When I was a kid, we had an incredible Budgie who talked incredibly well. He was my love. My father shared his cocktail with him just about every night when he came home. My first intense feeling of grief was when Mickie died. In retrospect, I am sure that it was because of the alcohol but even larger parrots can develop fatal liver problems from consuming alcohol. If you are having an alcoholic drink, don't share it. Plan to give him a few sips of 100% fruit juice so he can share a drink with you and not want what you have.
- APPLE SEEDS AND FRUIT PITS: Apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums are all fine for parrots to eat. Make sure you remove the seeds or pits because they contain cyanide. Although it would take quite a few to actually poison a parrot, it is best to avoid them.
ARTIFICIAL ANYTHING, SWEETENERS, FOOD COLORING, FLAVORS, ETC: Anything that is “artificial” is chemical and should never be fed to our parrots. This is especially true of pelleted diets that are full of synthetic chemicals of one kind or another.
- AVI-CAKES (see Nutri-berries)
- AVOCADO: We have known not to feed avocados to parrots for many years. The reason is that it contains a fungicidal toxin called persin which is toxic to birds. This toxin can cause increased heart rate, myocardial tissue damage, labored breathing, disordered plumage, unrest, weakness, and apathy. High doses cause the inability to breathe and death usually 12 to 24 hours after consumption. The smaller the bird, the more toxic it is. Avocado is also so "greasy" that it would be very difficult to digest.
BEANS: Make sure that all beans are well-cooked before you feed them to your parrots. Raw beans contain hemagglutin that causes red blood cells to clump together.
-BHA, BHT: Still in many processed foods and in some pelleted pet diets. Still in Pretty Bird pellets. Pets can exhibit reactions to these preservatives such as skin blisters, hemorrhaging of the eye, weakness, discomfort in breathing, a reduction of the body's own antioxidant enzyme and may cause cancer.
BRAZIL NUTS: A raw unshelled Brazil nut has about 100mcg of selenium. Selenium is a chemical element (atom) which the human body needs to survive, and some scientists believe that insufficient selenium may leave the body prone to cancer. However, Selenium is considered a trace element and the body’s tolerable upper intake level is only about 400mcg. That’s equal to roughly 4 raw Brazil nuts. Anything more can give you selenium poisoning. The symptoms of mild selenium poisoning are hair loss, fatigue, neurological damage, gastrointestinal disorders, and garlic breath. Higher levels of selenium poisoning can result in liver cirrhosis, pulmonary edema and even death. So don’t ever binge on Brazil nuts. I imagine that this information also applies to parrots.
CANNED AND FROZEN VEGGIES AND FRUITS: Read the labels. Many canned and frozen fruits and veggies, etc. have way too much salt, sugar, or added fat especially the ones with sauces. It easier now to find organic fruits and veggies without unhealthy additives.
- CANTALOUPE: See Melons – Cantaloupe is a healthy food for parrots. 
CELERY: Buy organic because the non-organic has high pesticide residue in the flesh.
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 CHICKEN: Way back in the 1800s people thought that chicken or any meat caused parrots to become aggressive or feather pick. This is nonsense but it is still in the popular mythology. I like to give my parrots a square (Amazons about 1”x1”x1") of well-cooked white meat chicken a couple times a week because it is a complete protein with all of the necessary amino acids. I cook it longer than I cook my own chicken and don't feed them leftovers. No more than once a month or so, if I am having a nice lean piece of beef, I will cut off a small piece and cook it longer and feed it to my birds as a treat. It is not a great food for them but as a very rare treat they do enjoy it. I try to keep the protein level below 20%. Another excellent complete protein that is plant-based is cooked Quinoa, which has become very popular as a quality parrot food in the last few years.

- CHEESE: In the manufacture of many cheeses, especially white cheeses like Swiss cheese (high in vitamin B12), the lactose is lost or dramatically lessened. It is lactose that causes parrots problems in milk and some other milk products. Occasional cheese is fine for parrots. It is best to find a low-salt white cheese. My parrots love low-salt Swiss Cheese as a special treat. I will also occasionally put Cottage Cheese in their mashes because it also has little or no lactose. Yogurt also has little or no lactose and causes no problems in parrots - stay away from yogurts with added fruit that normally has a lot of sugar. 
- CHEWING GUM: I only include this because I was told by someone that their parrot loved chewing gum. This is a horrible thing to give parrots for so many reasons including artificial sweeteners, digestive impaction, getting stuck to their beak … ARGH!!
CHOCOLATE: Contains Theobromine and a high amount of caffeine. These can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, arrhythmia, tremors, seizures, and even cardiac arrest if consumed especially in large amounts for the size of the bird. Dark chocolate can be even more toxic to parrot-family birds.
CITRUS: Some citrus like grapefruit, limes and lemons may be very acidic. However, the nutritional benefits of citrus like oranges and tangerines make a little acid worth feeding a couple times a week. My parrots have loved an orange or tangerine slice a few times a week for many years. They love Clemntines. I buy organic when I can because the inner skin of these fruits is one of the healthiest parts. It is true that citrus can help metabolize iron in any high iron food they eat at the same time. So if you are feeding greens or any other high iron food, don't feed it with citrus. 
COFFEE AND BLACK TEA: The high amount of caffeine in these drinks can cause the same problems that are associated with chocolate. I do however recommend a dilute of brewed green tea (about half and half) 2 to 3 times a week. Green tea has half or less of coffee and black tea and has amazing nutrition. It contains tannin which blocks excess iron and with Iron Storage Disease (hemochromatosis) becoming a problematic with some parrots, green tea can be a great  benefit. See Green Tea.
COLA AND OTHER SODA POP: Beside problems with caffeine, these products contain way too much sugar and carbonation is not healthy for parrots. Have you ever heard a parrot burp or fart? They don't because they don't build up gas, have very short digestive systems, and poop often.
COLD CUTS, HOT DOGS, BACON AND HIGHY PROCESSED MEATS The nitrates in these products are not healthy for parrots.
COMFREY: Contains toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, brain, smooth muscles, lungs, DNA, lesions all over the body, and could be a potential cause of cancer. There are many herbs that are safe for parrots but there some besides comfrey that are toxic. Please check for a list on the Internet under 'toxic (or safe) herbs for parrots'.
DOG, CAT AND OTHER FOODS FOR MAMMALS: These foods are too high in iron and vets are finding more Iron Storage Disease (hemochromatosis) in parrots which is a severe problem for parrots. The protein/ratio is not correct for parrots. And since mammals seem to be able to deal with some minor bacterial problems, the bacteria content can be very dangerous of parrots.
FAT, SUGAR, and SALT: Fat, sugar, and salt are necessary in a parrot's diet but most can be provided in healthy ways like nuts, fruits, and fresh foods. We don't need to add these ingredients that can cause serious problems if parrots get excessive amounts. If you feed your parrots foods that you eat put the butter, salt and/or sugar on after you feed them. Over the years I have reached the conclusion that too much salt in a parrot’s diet can be a definite cause of feather destructive behavior.
FOOD THAT HAS BEEN IN YOUR MOUTH: Your mouth and saliva contain bacteria and yeast that aren't natural to parrots and can cause illness.
- GRAPES, GRAPE LEAVES, AND GRAPE VINE: Grapes don't have a lot of nutrition compared to some other fruits, but most parrots love them and they make a great treat or reward for good behavior. Grape leaves are used as human foods and I have found nothing that says parrots shouldn't eat them. They are not high in nutrition but do have some Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C,  Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Magnesium, minimal Protein and have a mild inflammator effect. When I lived in Californis, I had a grape arbor and would make Dolmas with grape leave with their parrot mash in them. They loved them.
GREEN TEA: I recommend a dilute of brewed green tea (about half and half) about 2 -3 times a week in the water bowl. Green tea has half or less the caffeine of coffee and black tea and has amazing nutrition. It also contains tannin which blocks excess iron and with Iron Storage Disease (hemochromatosis) becoming a problematic with some parrots, green tea can be a benefit.
- GRIT/GRAVEL: Parrot family birds don't need grit to aid their digestion. Hookbills shell their seeds and nuts and have a very effective digestive system to grind the toughest foods. I have known of several birds from budgies to Amazons who suffered from grit impaction. It erodes the lining of the digestive and also cause intestinal blockage. This can hinder the metabolism of nutrients and make parrots very sick. On the other hand, birds like pigeons and others that ingest seed whole can be given grit to help grind the seed hulls in digestion.
- JUNK FOOD: Fast food and junk food is full of all sorts of ingredients that parrots shouldn't have – mostly fat, salt and/or sugar. French fries, tacos, hamburgers, etc. are not healthy for parrots. I often hear about people giving their parrots their pizza crust. That has often seemed a bit stingy to me. I prefer veggie pizza and I have always given my parrots a small piece of the very tip of the slice. If there is something on it that isn't good for them, I remove it. If I have a pizza with meat on it, I always remove the meat so the birds don't eat it because it is usually highly processed. I think our parrots pick up our energy and that is why they get excited about pizza. A small piece of pizza every now and then isn't going to hurt them and actually the tomato sauce with a little Mozzarella and some veggies is healthier than the crust.
KOMBOUCHA: There are at least a few situations when this drink made with a combination of yeast and bacteria was fatal to parrots because it developed aspergillus. We need to be very careful about fad foods or health foods for people. They need to stand the test of time before we experiment with them on our parrots.
-MELONS: I recently read that cantaloupe and other melons weren't healthy for parrots. Nonsense. I think it is just something someone made up like a lot of stuff about feeding parrots. Cantaloupe is great for parrots. Maybe the myth started because some fruits with high water content make a parrot's droppings more watery and some people don't know the difference between polyuria and diarrhea. Polyuria is just more urine in the dropping due to what the bird has eaten and has nothing to do with any disease process like diarrhea. This was the stupid reason that Hartz Mountain told their customers not to feed veggies and fruits to their budgies many many years ago. 
- MALTODEXTRIN: This is an ingredient in human foods and some pet foods including parrot treats.Maltodextrin is used as a thickener, filler or preservative in many highly processed foods. It’s an artificially produced white powder that can be enzymatically derived from any starch, most commonly made from GMO corn, rice, potato starch or wheat. It can spike blood sugar, suppress the production of natural probiotics, can cause allergic reactions, and has no nutritional value. Generally speaking, if a food additive is a problem for people, it is a problem for other animals including parrots.
- MENADIONE: This is a questionable, and even toxic, chemical substitute for vitamin K that is used in most parrot, dog and cat food products. It is banned in human food and in pet foods in many countries in Europe because, among other aspects, it is considered to be carcinogenic. Alfalfa is a much better source of vitamin K in companion animal food but it is more expensive. 
MILK PRODUCTS: When a statement is made that all milk products are bad for parrots, it is a mistaken generalization. It is the lactate that parrots can't digest. Yogurt is essentially pre-digested and doesn't have lactate. Because of the process of making cheese, it also has no lactose but most cheese is high in fat and salt so if you want to feel a little bit of cheese now and then, find one that is low in both. I prefer to feed cheeses like Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Mozzarella and others that are white. I also like to feed Almond cheese now and then but it may be difficult for some people to find.
MUSHROOMS: There seem to be mixed opinions on mushrooms. They are included on some toxic-food lists and not others. The one that I believe states that mushrooms that can be eaten by people are also considered safe for pets so supermarket mushrooms would be OK. Another states that the stems and caps of “certain” mushrooms are toxic. I wouldn't recommend a hike in the woods to find mushrooms for your parrot. I sometimes make healthy stews and my parrots have eaten mushrooms in them. I read on one list that people shouldn't feed anything that grows in the ground as a reason not to feed mushrooms?? Nonsense – ultra-nutritious carrots grow in the ground. People need to be logical before that make a blanket statement like that.
NIGHTSHADE FAMILY: Birds can eat the “fruit” of nightshade foods like eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes. The food is safe to eat, but the stems, vines, and leaves of the plants are toxic. Eating the leaves of the rhubarb plant are particularly toxic because they contain so much oxalic acid they can cause kidney problems.
- NUTRI-BERRIES AND AVI-CAKES:  I am not a big fan of Nutri-berries or Avi-cakes because they are highly processed foods with some questionable ingredients. Some of their literature promotes these foods as being a total diet. ARGH!!! Nutri-berries lists maltodextrin as its 8th ingredient which is problematic for humans as shown in the graphic below. Maltodextrin is used as a thickener, filler or preservative in many highly processed foods. It’s an artificially produced white powder that can be enzymatically derived from any starch, most commonly made from corn, rice, potato starch or wheat. Generally speaking, if a food additive is a problem for people, it is a problem for other animals including parrots.
ONION AND GARLIC: I wouldn't recommend feeding raw onion or garlic or putting raw onion or garlic powder on any pet foods. A small amount of cooked garlic or onions occasionally in a stew or cooked beans and rice, etc. shouldn't be a problem. Some literature actually refers to garlic as medicinal for parrots. 
PEACHES: Peaches are a very healthy food for parrots but buy organic because the non-organic has high pesticide residue in the flesh.
PEANUTS: Peanuts and peanut products can be very dangerous to parrots because of aflatoxins. I read many years ago in Science magazine that the aflatoxins in peanuts can cause brain lesions in humans. That was when I stopped feeding any peanuts. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Aspergillus can form spores in the respiratory system that can become fatal to parrots. One of the major problems with peanuts is that they grow in the ground. While peanuts, which are actually a legume and not a nut, are the most problematic and should not be fed to parrots, all tree nuts, corn, and any food should be checked for any discoloration caused by mold and if it is questionable throw it out. Make sure all food is fresh and not stored in a humid environment where mold can become a problem.
PELLETED DIETS: I put this on the list of dangerous foods for so many reasons. Pellets are essentially a non-nutritive base with chemical additives, some of which like the toxic Menadione are highly questionable. Many have artificial food coloring that has proven to cause problems for children. There are important nutrients missing from pellets like antioxidants, phytonutrients, and enzymes and others that are unstable (vitamin A is one) in extruded (crunchy ones) because they are heated at such a high temperature. The digestive system of parrots developed to metabolize fresh foods, not dry pellets. I have seen some serious problems in parrots being fed a total or near total manufactured diet. There have been quite a few recalls on pelleted diets and changes in the formulas because of the amount of an ingredient like iron causing serious health problems. I don't trust the pet industry to do right for our parrots, dogs, cats or any animal companions when they push a product as the only thing that an animal should eat. Profit is their issue – not our animals that we love. The only pellet that I recommend is TOPS Parrot Food because it only has ingredients made from fresh sustainably farmed food powders and is not recommended by the company as a total diet. Read the Labels.
- POPCORN: Microwave popcorn is horrible for people and parrots. Pre-popped popcorn in bags is too salty with too much fat. Dry popped popcorn that comes in a jar is an OK occasional treat as long as nothing added to it except for maybe a little cinnamon. 
- PROCESSED AND ENRICHED FOODS: there is nothing natural about these foods. While occasional enriched pasta is OK, don't feed foods out of boxes to your parrot. They are formulated to taste good to humans with lots of salt, sugar, and fat. There are now some frozen foods that are organic, actually natural (don't believe that any product that is called natural really is) and quite healthy. The caution is always READ THE LABEL. If there are too many words you don't recognize, don't feed it to your parrots. They are most likely added chemicals. Pelleted and manufactured diets are highly processed and enriched.
RHUBARB: The leaves of rhubarb are highly toxic because of the high amount of oxalic acid in them. See NIGHTSHADE FAMILY.
SEAWEED: Seaweed is too salty to feed to parrots.
- SOY: Soy used to be considered a health miracle, but now that it is just about in everything, opinions have changed. It is now considered to be a hormone disruptor. I am seriously concerned that so much soy in a parrot's diet may be at least one of the reasons that some companion parrots remain at a hormonal level far beyond normal. I have no problem with people occasionally feeding edamame – they are not processed soy and that is what I am concerned about, especially in pelleted parrot diets.
SWEET POTATOES/YAMS: I have read from time to time that sweet potatoes cause feather picking. There is absolutely no evidence that is true. Garnet and jewel yams are the healthiest because their orange color inside the skin shows that they have a lot of carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body. 
TOMATOES: Only the leaves and stems are toxic, the fruit is not. See: NIGHTSHADE FAMILY.
- TOPS PARROT FOOD - This is the only pelleted diet that I will ever put in my parrots' dishes. The only ingredients in this cold-rolled (not heated like extrusions losing nutrition in the processing) pellet are made from fresh sustainably farmed food powders and is not recommended by the company as a total diet. It is only a part of their diet with fresh veggies, some fruit, whole grains and quinoa or well-cooked chicken as a protein source.
VEGETABLES: Don't believe the misinformation that was put out not too long ago that parrots shouldn't eat vegetables because they scour their digestive system. The person perpetuating this myth was selling a product. Nonsense! The parrot digestive system is effective enough to process and metabolize vegetables. Veggies are one of the absolute healthiest foods to get into our parrots!
- YOGURT: Yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein and vitamin B12, a necessary vitamin that is not available in vegetables and fruits. For this reason I often use yogurt in my parrot mashes. The reasons that milk-products are said to be bad for parrot digestion is because of the lactose. Yogurt also has no lactose because of the process in making it and causes no problems in parrots - stay away from yogurts with added fruit that normally has a lot of sugar.  
- XYLITOL: This sugar alternative has been sugar-free candy might offer a better alternative to regular sweets for people, but it often contains the sugar alternative, xylitol, which has been associated with severe hypoglycemia and liver damage in dogs. Parrots have a faster metabolism so even a small about of xylitol could cause even more health problems for parrots than with dogs. The fact is that parrots should NEVER be given anything with any artificial sweetener.


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