Plants That are Toxic to Birds

By Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT; Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT; Laurie Hess, DVM, DABVP; Rick Axelson, DVM; Stefanie Guindon, CVT

Should pet birds be allowed to eat plants?

Many bird species eat plants as a part of their natural diet. Birds are quite curious in nature and they often use their beak as another “hand." Like toddlers, birds tend to put everything in their mouths.

Plant poisoning can occur in a variety of ways. Well-meaning owners may offer plant-based foods in an effort to provide a more natural and varied diet. Plants may also be added around a bird’s housing, to provide enrichment. If birds are allowed to roam the house or go outside, they may be unintentionally exposed to toxic plants.

Studies regarding the safety of specific plants related to birds are limited. In many cases, information must be assumed based on known risks to other species. The safety of certain plants is also related to the species of bird. Plants that are poisonous to a Macaw may not cause the same signs in a pigeon. Too many plants exist for you to completely understand every poisonous plant. A general knowledge of non-toxic plants can help you provide dietary variety and environmental enrichment for your pet birds.

"Too many plants exist for you to completely understand every poisonous plant."

Luckily, most plants that are considered poisonous do not cause serious illness. Stomach upset is the most common sign of poisoning, although there are plants that can cause severe effects or even death. Due to the possible harmful effects, it is best to prevent access to plants unless their safety for birds is known.

What are some common plants that are poisonous for birds?

Many bird owners share food with their birds or add plant material to vary the bird’s diet. However, you should never feed avocado, onions, garlic, or rhubarb leaves. Avocado may cause difficulty breathing, heart problems, and agitation in birds. Onions and garlic can cause red blood cell destruction and kidney damage. Rhubarb leaves have been associated with stomach upset, low blood calcium levels, and kidney damage. Ingestion of even small amounts of these plants can cause death.

Abnormal heart rhythm and changes in heart rate have been seen when birds ingest Lily of the Valley, Oleander, Rhododendron, Japanese Yew, or Foxglove.

Dieffenbachia and Philodendron are common household plants. Birds can develop stomach upset, mouth pain and, rarely, difficulty breathing when these plants are ingested.

A list containing all the plants that are poisonous to birds cannot be provided. The following list includes plants which may be poisonous for birds.

Plants not on the list may also be a safety concerns for birds. Contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (a 24/7 animal poison control center) at 1-800-213-6680 for concerns about the safety of specific plants.

* Toxic plants specifically reported in birds.

Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center based out of Minneapolis, MN is available 24/7 for pet owners and veterinary professionals that require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff provides treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s per incident fee includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at

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