Pet Bird Safety
Each day our birds are exposed to a number of potentially dangerous conditions. It is important to recognize and eliminate hazards and to provide healthy levels of nutrients, exercise, and mental fulfillment to give our pets the best life possible.
Common Hazards in the Home
Windows, Mirrors and Doors
Birds do not understand that windows and mirrors are a barrier to flight and commonly fly at full speed directly into the glass. This can cause head trauma and loss of consciousness. Pet birds can fly through open doors or windows and are carried away by the wind. Keep your windows and mirrors covered and doors and windows closed if your bird flies free. If this is not possible, cage your bird or clip the wing feathers to prevent flight.

Open Containers of Water
Birds can drown in sinks, buckets, toilets, or any other open water. Keep water containers covered, and exercise caution when you are cooking, at the sink, or if you allow your bird to fly freely in your home.

Ceiling Fans
Flying birds can be fatally injured when they get tangled in a fan. Do not operate ceiling fans if you allow your bird to fly free in your home.

Loud Noises/Abrupt Movements
Birds have sensitive sight and hearing. When pet birds are confined to a cage, loud noises and abrupt movements can cause stress, lowered resistance to infection, and emotional problems. It is ideal to have a place where pet birds can have an opportunity to be secluded from the fast pace of a normal home.

Fast Moving and Flashing Lights
Birds are acutely aware of movement at night. Most of the time they sleep with one eye open to watch for potential danger, and can only achieve deep sleep after many hours without a threat. Fast moving lights, such as headlights from cars on a nearby road, could be perceived as a threat and can prevent deep sleep. To birds' eyes, fluorescent and neon lights appear to flash like a strobe light, also preventing deep sleep. Turn off the lights, close the curtains, and cover cages with a blanket for 8 to 12 hours each night.

Electrical Cords
Pet birds naturally chew anything they can get their beaks on. Electrical cords are particularly interesting and fun to chew, but can cause severe burns in the mouth, fatal electrocution, or copper toxicity if the wires are eaten.

Halogen Lamps
Upward directed halogen lamps appear to be a great place for perching, but the lights become extremely hot and cause severe burns on the feet of unsuspecting pet birds.

Common household molds on spoiled food, damp surfaces, or dirty cage bedding can be very dangerous for pet birds. Birds can inhale mold spores and contract a fatal infection. In addition, molds produce toxins that will cause illness when eaten. Peanuts grow in the ground and are almost always contaminated with mold. Do not feed peanuts as a part of the regular diet, because the mold toxins can lead to liver disease.

Cookware, food, and stove tops and be dangerously hot. Electric burners retain substantial heat for quite some time after they are turned off. Cooking vapors, especially those from burnt food, overheated Teflon, and hot oils, can be very irritating to bird lungs. The best plan is to keep birds out of the kitchen while you are cooking.

Hazards of Animals and Plants
Other Pets in the Home
Companion dogs, cats, ferrets, large reptiles, and other birds frequently cause severe injuries to pet birds. A cat bite or scratch can be lethal to a bird unless treated with powerful antibiotics and intensive care. Bacteria from the mouth of a cat can cause severe systemic infection in birds and small puncture wounds are easily hidden beneath the feathers. Symptoms of systemic infection can be delayed for hours to days after a bite, only to progress rapidly. Seek veterinary care whenever you suspect there might have been contact between a cat and a bird.

Dogs frequently cause blunt or crushing trauma to birds, though they can also cause puncture wounds. Even dogs that live peacefully with pet birds for many years may be startled when a bird accidentally flutters near the dog's face. A dog may have an uncontrollable, instinctual response to the bird, causing severe trauma. Even a large, aggressive bird can have trouble defending against an attacking dog.

Birds that share living space frequently cause severe injury to one another. Many pet birds are capable of fracturing or removing the beak of another bird. This is especially common among hook bills, including lovebirds, conures, parrots, cockatoos, and macaws. Toe injuries, including lacerations, fractures, and amputations, frequently occur when one bird lands on the cage of another. Even if your pets live in harmony for years, be on guard at all times for potentially dangerous interactions.

Poisonous Plants
Many plants can be toxic to birds, though birds are more resistant to plant poisoning than other pets. The 10 most common plant poisonings in pets occur from marijuana, sago palm, lily bulbs, narcissus/daffodil bulbs, azalea/rhododendron, oleander, castor bean, cyclamen, kalanchoe, and yew. Avocado and tobacco are also toxic to birds. If you have concerns about the toxicity of your house plants call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 anytime, day or night. Seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect your bird has been poisoned.

The chemicals found in most fertilizers, including fertilizer spikes, can be toxic. Residues of fertilizer on clothing or hands can be very irritating to the skin of birds, so always wash hands after handling fertilizers and before handling birds.

Human Saliva
We love our companion birds, but the normal bacteria in the mouth of a human can cause a serious infection in a bird. Never kiss a bird with your mouth open or allow a bird to eat from your mouth.

Household Toxins

Birds are particularly sensitive to toxins because of their small size, delicate skin, and fast metabolism. Items may be toxic not only if eaten, but also through skin contact or when inhaled.

Potentially Toxic Household Items and Foods

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Agricultural/gardening chemicals and fertilizers
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Cigarette butts and smoke residue on human fingers
  • Coins (especially pennies)
  • Denture cleaning solutions
  • Deodorant/antiperspirant
  • Detergents
  • Disinfectants (residues not rinsed away or aerosolized)
  • Drain cleaners
  • Herbicides
  • Fertilizers
  • Fireworks
  • Furniture polish
  • Glues and paints
  • Guacamole
  • Hair sprays and permanent wave products
  • Insecticides, flea collars
  • Many medications and drugs for people
  • Matches
  • Moldy meats and cheeses
  • Mothballs
  • Nail polish and remover
  • Natural gas
  • Non-stick sprays
  • Peanuts (especially if low quality or moldy)
  • Perfumes
  • Rat/mouse poisoning
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Salt, salty foods, and sea sand
  • Tobacco
Lead and Other Metals
Birds often chew non-food objects and occasionally swallow small bites. Lead particles will deteriorate very slowly in the bird's gizzard, releasing the toxic metal for an extended time. Lead is absorbed into the blood from the digestive tract and is deposited in brain and bone tissue. It damages many different organs and causes non-specific signs of illness, including weakness, decreased appetite, and ruffled feathers. Lead poisoning is treatable, but can be lethal without treatment. Potentially toxic metals also include cadmium, zinc, arsenic, mercury, thallium, copper, iron, and cobalt.

Common Household Sources of Toxic Metal

  • Anti-knock agent in automotive fuel (vapors)
  • Automobile tire balance weights
  • Batteries
  • Bell clappers
  • Cage welding
  • Children's toys (metal game pieces & some imported items)
  • Costume jewelry
  • Crystal glass
  • Electrical solder
  • Firearm projectiles (bullets and pellets)
  • Foil on Champagne and wine bottles
  • Galvanized hardware (welded wire caging)
  • Glaze on some imported or non food-safe ceramics
  • Linoleum
  • Metal alloys
  • Mirror backing
  • Paints until 1978
  • Plaster
  • Plumbing
  • Putty
  • Seams on stained or leaded glass
  • Some lubricants (automotive grease)
  • Some plastics (window blinds)
  • Weights (drapery, fishing, wheel balance)
Toxic Fumes

Bird lungs capture oxygen from the atmosphere and move it into the bloodstream more efficiently than those of any other kind of animal. This ability, however, also makes them more sensitive to toxins in the air. People have historically exploited this acute sensitivity by keeping a "canary in a coal mine;" miners could rest easy as long as the canary kept singing.

Immediately move your bird to a well ventilated place with fresh air whenever you notice strange smells or fumes. Be mindful of potential dangerous cooking vapors and keep your bird away from the kitchen. Seek veterinary care immediately whenever you suspect your bird has inhaled toxic fumes.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a polymer found in most non-stick cookware, including frying pans, baking sheets, and drip pans. When heated above 536 degrees F, the polymer releases "fumes" that contain tiny particles of toxic substances. Birds are acutely sensitive to these toxic particles.

Potentially Toxic Fumes for Birds

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Air fresheners (especially plug-in type)
  • Any material that emits fumes or vapors
  • Burning/overheated cooking oil/butter
  • Carbon monoxide (car exhaust/water heater)
  • Carpet freshener
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Natural gas and propane (LP)
  • Fumes from self-cleaning oven
  • Marking pens
  • Model glue
  • Non-stick sprays to coat cooking utensils
  • Overheated non-stick cookware, drip pans, and ovens
  • Wet paint
  • Polymer fumes in spray starch
  • Scented candles and essential oils
  • Smoke from burnt food (including oven "self-cleaning")
  • Turpentine/paint thinner
For more information visit: Association of Avian Veterinarians