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Avian Toxins


Guide to Toxic & Non-Toxic Branches and Plants for Pet Birds

Download this avian care guide – PDF

Non-Toxic, Safe Branches

The following materials are safe IF NO CHEMICAL PESTICIDES OR OTHER CHEMICALS have been sprayed on them. Remember, birds will not only stand on perches, they take great delight from chewing them to pieces. Any toxins on the branch will end up in the bird. Before installing in any cage:

  • Scrub the branches with detergent (dish soap) and clean water.
  • Soak the branches in a dilute chlorine bleach solution (2oz bleach to 1 gallon of water) for 20 minutes. For large branches (too large to be soaked) put the solution in a misting bottle and spray the entire branch well.
  • Rinse them with plenty of water.
  • Let them dry completely before use.
Non-Toxic Branches
Apple (Crab Apple)AshAlmondApricot
PeachPlumPruneCitrus (Any)
PearMagnoliaNut (NOT Chestnut)Vine Maple

The above woods can all be used to make toys, swings or perches. For variation in your bird’s environment, strip the bark from some of the branch, leaving the rest natural. The bird will pick its favorite spot to stand and will have fun tearing away the rest of the bark. Use branches of varying thickness: this provides exercise for the bird’s feet and helps prevent pressure sores.

Non-Toxic, Safe Foliage Plants

We do not recommend putting plants in your bird’s cage: they do nothing directly to improve your pet’s life and are difficult to maintain and keep clean. However, free-roaming birds in the house (always a dangerous idea if unattended) may come into contact with and chew on houseplants. Some bird owners enjoy providing a “wild” environment outside and near their bird’s cage, creating a natural barrier to noise and increasing privacy for the bird. In this case, the bird may be able to reach the plants while perching outside (on top of) the cage or even through the bars. Safe plants are a must.

Non-Toxic Foliage Plants
AcaciaAloeAfrican VioletBaby’s Tears
BambooBegoniaBougainvilleaCoffee Arabica
Christmas CactusCissus (Kangaroo Vine)ColeusCorn Plant
DandelionDracaena VarietiesFerns (Most)Figs
Grape IvyJade PlantKalachoeMarigolds
Mother-in-LawNatal PlumNorfolk PinePerpperomia
PetuniaPittosporumPothosPrayer Plant
Purple PassionSpider PlantSchefflerraMimosa
Swedish IvyThistleWandering JewClover
Zebra Plant   

Toxic Woods

Under no circumstances should the woods listed be introduced to your birds enclosure, nor should they be kept anywhere within chewing distance from their cage.

Toxic Woods
Black LocustCherryChestnutLocust
OakRed MapleCedarCamphor

Toxic Plants and Plant Parts

Few of these plants are commonly grown indoors. However, patio and garden plants are often cut for flower arrangements and brought into the home. Some bird owners take their parrots into the garden or allow them limited freedom outdoors where they can be exposed to plants not generally seen indoors. Beans, seed pods and berries are especially attractive to curious birds.

We are frequently asked about Cacti. While you will not find cactus on either list, most are non-toxic. However, the spines are a source of mechanical injury to the face and feet of birds. The bird’s feathers are good defense against damage to the other parts of the body.

Toxic Plants and Plant Parts
Arum LilyAutumn CrocusAvocadoAzalea
YewsBaneberryBird of ParadiseBleeding Heart
BeansCastor, Horse, Fava, Broad, Scarlet Runner, Mescal, Pregatory, Navy
Bulb FlowersAmaryllis, Daffodil, Iris, Hyacinth, Narcissus
BloodrootBlue BonnetBracken FernYellow Jasmine
Cana LilyClematisCardinal FlowerChalice
China BerryChristmas CandleCockleburCoffee Senna
Coral PlantCorianderCowslipPhilodendrons
DaphneDeath CamusDelphiniumDevil’s Ivy
DieffenbachiaElderberryElephant EarEucalyptus (in dried arrangements)
Fire ThorneFoxgloveGolden ChainGrass (most)
Heaths (most)HeliotropeHemlocksHenbane
HollyHoneysuckleHorse TailHydrangea
Ivy (English & others)Jack-in-the-PulpitJasmineJimsonweed
LantanaLily of the ValleyLocoweedLupine
MayappleMexican BreadfruitMexican PoppyMilkweed
MistletoeMock OrangeMonkshoodMorning Glory
PigweedPoincianaPoinsettiaPoison Ivy
Poison OakPokeweedPotato ShootsPrivet
PyracanthaRain TreeButtercupRape
Rhubarb LeavesRhododendronsSkunk CabbageSorrel
Snow DropSpurgesSweet PeaTansy Ragwort
TobaccoVirginia CreeperWattleWisteria

Common Household Toxins

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal poisoning occurs when birds eat an item containing a toxic metal. Signs of toxicosis include death, vomiting, diarrhea, low-grade chronic illness, and feather picking.

Heavy Metal Sources
Costume JewelryLinoleumMirror BacksHardware Cloth
Galvanized Wire & MetalWelds on CagesPoorly Made CagesOld Cages
Spray PaintToys with Lead WeightsSome Bell ClappersCoins
StaplesMonopoly Game PiecesStained GlassTiffany Lamps
Fishing WeightsCurtain WeightsLead Plaster/PaintPutty/Solder
Lead ShotFoil from Alcohol BottlesSome Glazed Ceramics 

Airborne Toxins

Since birds are adapted for flight, they are much more efficient at pulling oxygen out of the air than mammals. This also means that they are more efficient at pulling toxins out of the air. Scents of fumes that are not at all toxic to people can actually kill birds.

Airborne Toxic Sources
Cooking FumesScented CandlesPlug-in Air FreshenersCarpet Fresheners
Non-Stick or Teflon ItemsReynolds Oven WrapCigarette SmokePotpourri
Insecticide SpraysAerosol SpraysPerfume/CologneMite Protectors
BleachAmmoniaOther Cleaning Agents