Top Ten Dangers

Top Ten Bird & Parrot Dangers

1. Dehydration - This most commonly happens when a water bottle malfunctions. If the tube's ball or bearing sticks, or if a bird stuffs an object into the tube (toy pieces, food items and such), the bird may block the tube and no longer have access to it’s water. If an owner doesn't check that all water bottles are working properly every day it may be days before anyone recognizes a problem. If a bird's water bowl goes unfilled for days, or the bird empties the bowl, especially a bird who likes to bathe a lot, and the empty dish goes unnoticed, fatal dehydration can result. Birds can become critically ill within 24 hours of not having water and may die within 24 hours after that. Water in a bottle or bowl should be checked daily

2. Unclipped Wings - If a bird is to be allowed freedom outside of its cage, it is very important the flight feathers be properly clipped. They should be clipped so that the bird can still glide gracefully and safely to the ground. If the feathers are not clipped correctly, or if several primary wing feathers have grown back after a molt, an alarmed bird may end up flying erratically around the house and possibly flying through an open doorway and ending up in the top of a tree! If a bird becomes frightened it may mistake a window or mirror for open spaces, and end up with a concussion. Although birds rarely break their necks with such an injury, often compression fractures in neck vertebrae result from flying into objects. Birds can develop concussions, bleeding inside the brain, fractures, lacerations, ruptured air sacs and other serious and potentially deadly injuries. It is amazing to hear people say that their bird is fully flighted and it “never” flies away from them and then we receive a call from that very same person telling us how their bird has escaped and flown away and they are heartbroken. The horrible dangers of a pet bird alone and unprotected outdoors are too numerous to even imagine. Birds indoors have flown into pots of boiling water, open commodes and drowned, windows, mirrors, fondue pots and lighted fireplaces, to name just a few more household hazards.

3. Toxic Fumes - There are quite a few dangers under this heading to be aware of.

Non-stick cookware and other household items possessing a non-stick surface made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) are toxic to birds. The gas released is extremely dangerous to birds and can result in death within minutes. It does not have to be overheated either, even with normal usage, some fumes may also be released and you will never smell anything. Anything with a PTFE coating should never be used around birds period. Remember virtually "ALL" non-stick cookware, indoor cooking grills, drip pans, self-cleaning ovens, clothes dryers, new hair dryers, space heaters, irons, ironing board covers, waffle irons, deep fryers, heat lamps and other small appliances or their components may be coated with PTFE. If anything says “non-stick” be aware and leery. Unless the manufacturer can verify, in writing, that the product in question does not contain PTFE producing elements, assume it has them.

Passive inhalation of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke by birds can cause chronic eye problems, skin irritation and respiratory disease. Birds that live in homes with smokers may develop coughing, sneezing, sinusitis and conjunctivitis which often goes away when the bird is removed from the home. Birds exposed to chronic second-hand smoke can also develop secondary bacterial infections which can prove fatal. Second-hand smoke from marijuana can also cause severe depression and regurgitation in birds.

Many common disinfectants and household cleaning agents release fumes that can be toxic or fatal to birds. Chlorine bleach, phenols and ammonia can all have dangerous vapors that can cause irritation, toxicosis and even death in pet birds. Common household aerosol products, such as perfume, deodorant and hairspray, can cause respiratory problems in birds as well. This may cause severe inflammation and difficulty breathing, and after large or direct exposure, death can occur. Cleaning products such as carpet cleaners or fresheners, upholstery cleaners or fresheners, or any similar cleaning product can be quite deadly to your bird.

New products such as new carpets can contain Formaldehyde in their glue and can be deadly. Paint and varnish can also emit deadly fumes.

Natural gas leaks can cause sudden death in birds. Any type of heater, used improperly or with inadequate ventilation can be deadly to birds. Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas, can also be fatal to birds and anyone with pet birds should have a working carbon monoxide monitoring device in their home and preferably in the room where the bird is kept. NEVER use Kerosene heaters if you have birds

Burning foods, overheated cooking oils and smoke from a fireplace can also cause fatal inhalations.

Scented candles, potpourri, incense, plug-ins, as well as other products containing a high concentration of volatile oils (essential oils) can cause either stimulation or depression of the central nervous system, as well as possible irritation to the eyes, nose and upper respiratory tract, depending on the oil and concentration used. Birds are very susceptible to the effects of inhaled volatile toxins, including essential oils. Any volatile oil (fragrance) has the potential for causing illness and possible death in birds. Obviously the concentration in a product and the length of exposure are factors to be considered. Many manufacturers have started making their cleaning products more pleasing to the senses by including these essential oils also. Products containing a high concentration of volatile oils should be avoided completely if you own a bird. Usually the more "perfumey" the smell, the more toxic the product.

Bug sprays, whether it's something an owner buys at the local hardware store, or even the local pest control company, can be very deadly to your bird. If your local pest control company claims their product is perfectly safe, ask them put it in writing. You may be surprised at how fast they will back off their claim of "perfectly safe". Birds should be removed from the home for at least 24 hours whenever pest control measure are used.

Never clean your bird’s cage with anything other than approved bird-safe products purchased at your bird store, plain soap and water or a diluted mixture of household vinegar and water. All other cleaners can be toxic to your bird.

Contrary to what many people still believe, those metal round Protective Mite Killers you hang on the side of a bird's cage are toxic. They do in fact contain an insecticide, however it is very doubtful they would kill any mites. They just might kill your bird however.

Any product that states it is "safe" for animals, does NOT mean it is necessarily safe for birds. Birds are very different from dogs and cats.

4. Other Household Accidents - Some birds develop the "cute" habit of climbing down off of their cage to seek out favorite family members. A bird walking on the floor, especially a small one, may be easily injured by people who don't see it. Very few survive being stepped on. They can also be killed by being closed accidentally in doorways, vacuumed up, squished by recliners and foldout beds and also by owners sitting on them when they have crawled under cushions. Birds can also be electrocuted by chewing through electrical cords.

5. Other Pets in the Home - Birds should never be left unsupervised outside of the cage, never ever. If other pets, including other birds, share the same house and are unsupervised, it's an accident waiting to happen. Even if a pet dog or cat has acted completely trustworthy around the bird, it should not be trusted 100%. Many birds have died as a result of another housepet either "playing" too exuberantly with a bird, or from the pet biting or stepping on the bird. Birds may also injure each other. Toes are often the most commonly injured body part but bleeding may be serious, and can be even fatal. Larger birds may kill smaller birds and it can happen in an instant. Any animal bite should be considered extremely serious, possibly life-threatening. The bacteria found in the saliva and the mouth of a mammal can cause fatal septicemia (infection in the bloodstream) of a bird in very short order. Cat bites should be considered the most dangerous, as the Pasteurella bacteria commonly found in the feline mouth, are extremely hazardous to birds. Even a simple puncture by a tooth can result in a fatal infection. Scratches from claws are also extremely dangerous, as the risk of infection is very real.

6. Toxic Foods or Plants - There are some foods which can be very toxic to our birds. Chocolate, metabolite theobromide, is very toxic to both animals and birds. Although baker's chocolate and dark chocolate are the most toxic, milk chocolate is still a forbidden food for birds. Caffeine is metabolized differently in birds which also results in toxic compounds so caffeine drinks such as coffee, tea and sodas should not be given to our birds. Avocados are toxic to birds, with perhaps the skin and pit being the most dangerous parts. Raw onions should never be fed either. Many indoor and outdoor plants and trees can be toxic, even fatal, to birds. So when in doubt, throw it out.

7. Hand-Feeding Mistakes - It is our feeling unweaned baby birds should not be sold or given to inexperienced hand-feeders as many babies die needlessly because of handfeeding mistakes. It is not necessary for a baby bird to be hand-fed by the family purchasing it in order for it to become "bonded" to them. We have plenty of older rescued birds who are sweet and loving and were not hanfed by us. There are so many things that can go wrong during the handfeeding process such as feeding too hot or or too cold, mixing it incorrectly, storing it incorrectly, delivering the food improperly, forcing food into the baby resulting in aspiration pneumonia or injuring the mouth or crop with feeding equipment. The most common mistake is probably keeping the baby at the incorrect temperature. Food that is fed at too low of a temperature can result in a slowed down gastrointestinal tract which can be fatal if not corrected in time. Babies who are forced to eat may struggle and end up inhaling the formula which results in aspiration pneumonia. If a large amount of food is inhaled, the baby will die immediately, but if a small amount of food ends up in the respiratory tract, the airway can be compromised and the possibility of pneumonia is strong..

8.  Open water containers - Sometimes we forget how deadly even common household items can be for our birds.  Bathroom commodes and toilets should always have lids down for safety.  Birds can very easily fall in and drown.  Once they fall in and get wet, they are often unable to fly out.  Also be aware of other open water containers such as drinking cups and glasses,  other pet water dishes, fish aquariums, sinks containing water, and especially any heated open containers on the stove.  

9. Ceiling Fans - Too many flighted birds have been injured or killed by ceiling fans.  No, it's really not cute for your bird to sit on a fan blade when the fan is not in use, because once your bird has leaned it is a perching place, they may automatically try to land there even when the fan is on and those dangerous blades are in motion.  

 10. Human Medications - Almost all medications for humans and many medications for other pets can be toxic and deadly to your bird.  Always keep medication bottles closed and out of reach of curious beaks.  

Although not mentioned above, two additional dangers that should be mentioned are:

  • (1) Common household pest control traps such as snap mouse traps, sticky traps, and poison pellets and baits.  
  • (2) Sleeping with your bird.  Please just don't do it, not even for a short afternoon nap.