The Potential Perils of Parrot Possession

Richard HorvitzAug 3, '18

I will assume everyone read my article last month and ran out to purchase a parrot.  On that note, it is important to understand some potential perils pertaining to parrot possession that may not apply to other pets. 

  1. Teflon is dangerous to your bird(s)

Not that you should be worried about your parrot eating the pan or nesting under it (which is not advisable either),  but rather when Teflon reaches a critical temperature (argued to be anywhere between 250+ degrees), the chemical that makes non-stick surfaces not stick actually burns, and “gasses out” as a poison.  It is initially odorless and colorless, but when it is under extreme heat it will actually smoke and peel away.  Parrots respiratory systems are extremely sensitive, so when they first get a whiff of the poison, they go right to the bottom of the cage and become listless.  At this point, the bird needs to be moved into fresh air immediately, then rushed to the vet for emergency treatment.  If you are lucky, and you catch it in time, your bird will live.   

By the way, Teflon is poison to our systems as well, but our respiratory system is not nearly as efficient as a birds air-sac system (In fact there was just a study on humans that proves that it is more harmfull to humans than previously believed).  Just think of how much oxygen a parrot needs to pass through its system in order to provide the oxygen to its body while in flight – their respiratory  system is most likely one of the most efficient on the planet.  As a result, a small amount of toxicity has severe adverse effects on parrots.  (this theme is common regarding the below perils). 

So remember, every time you cook with Teflon, you put your parrots life in jeopardy.  Anodized aluminum or stainless steel is a much safer alternative. 

(Also, Teflon can be present in other items – hair dryers, lights, space heaters, oven interiors – so be careful and read the contents of anything use use that will be heated up near your bird.) 

  1. Paint, cleaners, insecticides, roofing, smoke.

If you are going to paint the inside of your house, please board your bird or take it to a friend’s house until the paint is dry;  turn the air conditioning up so as to dehumidify and more quickly dry out the paint. 

Regarding cleaners, never use glass cleaner with ammonia near or around your bird – it is very toxic, as are most oven cleaners and surface cleaners. 

Regarding insecticides, only use ones with pyrithrines as the active ingredient.  They are fairly safe around birds (but not if you spray it directly on your bird).  If you have a regular pest control company, speak to the technician actually doing the work and inform him that you now have a parrot, and you need your regiment modified accordingly.  This usually means no spraying of liquid anywhere near the parrot, using powder in sockets, and more traps that are out of reach of your parrot. 

Similarly, if you are re-roofing and there will be tar used (or re-sealing your driveway) please take measures to insure the safety of your bird. 

Remember, their little bodies have a super sensitivity to airborne toxins, and now you need to be sensitive too. 

Also, as you must have surmised by now, go outside (without your bird) to smoke – please do not smoke anywhere near your parrot. 

  1. Food
      No, not all food, but there are a few items of concern.  The first one is avocado.  The nut of the avocado leaches out into the fruit a chemical that is toxic to most parrots.  It is kind of a Japanese Blowfish for parrots – some avocados are safe, and others will kill your parrot.  Also, most fruit pits are not good for parrots because they contain poisons – apple seeds are the best known, but we advise people to remove  peaches and nectarine pits, and core pears.  Regarding cherry seeds – our Blue and Gold Macaw loves to eat a cherry, then spin and spin the cherry pit until she finds the exact spot she needs to crush in order to open the pit – around ten-twenty minutes.  She loves it, and is over 35 years old, so my guess is cherries are OK to feed whole.  (while on the topic, cooked chicken bones, while being a choking hazard to dogs, are a very good source of calcium and entertainment to birds, so feel free to give chicken bones to your parrot). 
      Another issue with moist food is the amount of time it should be left in the cage.  That is, pellets and seeds can be offered 24 hours a day if they are dry.  However, if you offer moist food, or put moist food on top of your pellets or seeds, then you should only keep this food in the cage no longer than twenty minutes.  After that time, bacteria starts to bloom, and your parrot may come down with a bacterial infection or worse. 
      If you like to give your bird bread, keep in mind that they are extremely sensitive to mold, and bread, especially health food bread with no preservatives, mold quickly.  therefore, unless the bread being served was just cooked, we recommend toasting the bread to kill any mold before feeding it to your bird. 
      Similarly, raw peanuts contain the mold Aspergillus, which can lead to Aspegillosis in birds, an opportunistic disease that grows out of control in a parrots’ air sacs.  Better to feed roasted peanuts (best to feed almonds instead). 
      Also, parrots should not be offered fried foods, salty foods, sweetened foods, chocolate, or alcohol. 
  1. Metal
      Unless the metal is stainless steel, chances are the metal has the potential to be toxic to your bird.  That is, if a bird chews through the non-toxic powder coating on its cage and starts to gnaw at the underlying metal, chances are the bird will be exposed to excessive levels of zinc.  Likewise, if you have bird toys, keep in mind that less than 10% of the toys on the market have stainless steel parts and use stainless steel c-clamps. So, if you notice your bird have an obsession with metal, do yourself a favor and get a stainless steel cage and only buy toys with stainless steel (or no metal) parts. 
  1. Raccoons

If you keep your bird outside, make sure the bird is in a protected habitat that would prevent a raccoon from reaching inside the cage. Putting a parrot in a cage out west is like baiting a raccoon.   Raccoons love parrot meat, and it is nothing I would wish on anybody.  Please keep your birds safe from dusk to dawn – bring them inside if you can. 

  1. Lack of proper grooming

Nine out of ten bird owners say that their bird can not fly – until it flies away.  Although not toxic to a bird, failing to have your groomer check your birds’ wings when you get the nails trimmed may cause you to loose your bird. 

  1. Theft
      If you have a particularly valuable bird, you may have an AVID chip inserted beneath its chest.  It does not function as Lojack (please check spelling), that is, you can not locate a bird with an AVID chip. However, it is the only way to legally identity your bird.  Keep in mind that if someone wants to steal your bird, they will figure out a way.  all we can do is put certain barriers up to make the theft that much more difficult.  The main thing to remember is, treat every day with you bird as if it will be the last day with them, because it just may be.  Give them all your love and attention today, and have good memories now. 

Hopefully, you are now totally neurotic about your bird’s environment.  Although the above is not an exhaustive list, it has exhausted me and can think of no other major threats to your bird.   

Don’t  worry – parrots are a lot of fun, and you’ll see some good ideas on how to have fun with your parrot next month.  Until then, play it safe, and remember

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