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Bird Safety: Poisonous and Safe Plants for Birds
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
First Aid, Emergencies, & Poisons
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some plants are toxic to birdsThere are a variety of plants which are poisonous to birds, but there are many safe plants, too. So if you are a dedicated house plant enthusiast, you can have your plants and birds, too.

How toxic a plant is for birds depends upon:

  1. The plant itself
  2. The amount ingested relative to the size of the bird
  3. The species of the bird

For example, a cockatoo that nibbles a few bites of philodendron may experience a mild degree of toxicity, whereas, the same amount or less may be lethal for a canary.

Although there are significant differences among species as to reaction and sensitivity to various plants, most sources agree that those plants listed in Table 1 are toxic to any bird. This list may appear long but is by no means all-inclusive. There are many more toxic plants than safe plants, so stick to the "safe" list in Table 2 for plants you will keep in the bird's environment.

The most commonly observed sign of poisonous plant ingestion in birds is some form of gastric or intestinal upset – e.g., vomiting and/or diarrhea. The treatment for plant poisonings is generally symptomatic.

If you suspect your bird has ingested a toxic plant, call your veterinarian or the poison control center immediately. It may be a good idea to print this article and keep it in a handy place near the telephone so you do not have to go searching and waste time in a stressful situation.

ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center

  • 1-888-4ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435 ($65.00 per case.) The charge is billed to caller's credit card only.

Although we are talking about plants here, it is worthy of mentioning that birds are acutely sensitive to fumes from solvents and Teflon. Do not use any Teflon coated cooking utensils, ironing board covers, or other items anywhere near a bird.



Table 1. Plants Toxic to Birds
Toxic Plant Toxic part(s) Specific Toxin(s) Symptoms
Avocado (Persea americana) Pit, leaves, unripe fruit, stems Unknown but related to cardiac toxicity Weakness, inability to perch, labored breathing, feather fluffing
Black locust (Robina pseudoacacia) Bark, leaves, seeds Robitin, robin Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, depression, collapse
Blue-green algae (Microcystis aeruginosa) All parts Anatoxin A, mycrocystin Inability to swim or fly, abnormal posture, frequent defecation, respiratory arrest
Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopiea) All parts Oxalates Oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, vomiting
Castor bean (Ricinus communis) All parts Ricin I & II, glycosidase Vomiting, diarrhea (may be bloody) Note: similar symptoms may be seen with ingested prayer beans, rosary peas or Seminole beads used in beadwork and rattles)
Christmas cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) All parts including tubers and unripened fruit Solanine, atropine-like alkaloids, saponins Vomiting, diarrhea, irregular or rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, labored breathng, dilated pupils, no urine production, paralysis, seizures
Coffee beans, (Sesbania drumundii), Tea, Chocolate Beans (coffee) Leaves (tea), all chocolates especially dark Caffeine, theobromine, theophylline Nervous system stimulation, increased rate of breathing and heart rate, seizures, diarrhea
Diffenbachia (Diffenbachia spp.) All parts Oxalates Oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, vomiting
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) Stem, leaves, sprouts (ripe fruits are OK) Solanine, atropine-like alkaloids Vomiting, diarrhea, irregular or rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, labored breathng, dilated pupils, no urine production, paralysis, seizures
Elephant's ear (Colocasia or Alocasia spp.) All parts Oxalates Oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, vomiting
Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) All parts Ergopeptide alkaloids Poor blood supply to extremities, hyperexcitability, seizures
Foxglove (Digitalis pupurea) Entire plant, including water from pot or vase Glycosides, digitalis Vomiting, diarrhea, oral irritation, incoordination, irregular heart rate, collapse
Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) All parts, including tubers, sprouts, and unripe berries Solanine, atropine Vomiting, diarrhea, irregular or rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, labored breathng, no urine production, paralysis, seizures
Jimsonweed (Datura spp.) All parts, especially seeds and leaves Atropine, scopolamine, hyoscyamine Irregular or rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, labored breathng, dilated pupils, no urine production, paralysis, seizures
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) All parts Cardiac glycosides: convallatoxin Vomiting, diarrhea, oral irritation, incoordination, irregular heart rate, collapse
Locoweed (Astragalus emoryanus) Leaves Swainsonine, alkaloids Hyperexcitability, incoordination, vomiting, drowsiness
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) All parts and latex (milky juice) Cardenoloids (cardiac glycosides) Oral and/or facial blisters, irregular heart rate, incoordination, collapse
Mistletoe (Phoradendron villosum) All parts, especially holly berries Viscumin, viscotoxin Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, irregular heart rate, collapse
Nightshade (Solanum spp.) All parts Belladonna, atropine-like alkaloids Vomiting, diarrhea, irregular or rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, labored breathng, dilated pupils, no urine production, paralysis, seizures
Oak (Quercus spp.) All parts Tannins Loss of appetite, diarrhea, increased thirst
Oleander (Nerium oleander) All parts Glycosides: oleadrum, neroside Vomiting, diarrhea, oral irritation, incoordination, irregular heart rate, collapse
Philodendron (Philodendron scandens) All parts, including roots Oxalates Oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, vomiting
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcheriama) Leaves, stem, white sap Phorbol esters Vomiting, diarrhea, facial or eye irritation
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) Roots, leaves, berries Saponin Vomiting, tremors, collapse
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) Stem, leaves, sprouts, green skins Solanine, atropine-like alkaloids Vomiting, diarrhea, irregular or rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, labored breathng, dilated pupils, no urine production, paralysis, seizures
Rhododendron (Rhodedendron simsii), Rhododendron species (Azalea) All parts Andromedotoxin, grayanotoxin Vomiting, weakness, collapse, seizure, stupor, coma
Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) All parts Nicotine Vomiting, diarrhea, hyperexcitability, seizures, muscle twitching, coughing, eye irritation
Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) Stem, leaves, sprouts (ripe fruits are OK) Solanine, atropine-like alkaloids Vomiting, diarrhea, irregular or rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, labored breathng, dilated pupils, no urine production, paralysis, seizures
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolio) Berries, leaves Oxalic acid Vomiting, diarrhea (possibly bloody), drowsiness, stupor, renal failure
Yew (Taxus media) Wood, bark, seeds, leaves Alkaloids (taxines) Muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, collapse, sudden death

Table 2. Plants Safe for Birds
Indoor/House Plants
Outdoor Plants
African violet American bittersweet
Aloe Autumn olive
Areca palm Bamboo
Australian laurel Barberry
Bamboo palm Bayberry
Begonias American or European Beech
Bird's nest fern Bladdernut
Boston fern Blueberry
Bottle brush fern Comfrey
Canary Island palm Coralberry
Christmas cactus Cotoneaster firethorn
Coffee tree Crabapple
Corn plant Dogwood
Creeping fig Common, European or Red Elderberry
Danish ivy Balsam, Douglas, Subalpine or White Fir
Devil's ivy Grape vine
Dragon tree Huckleberry
European fan palm Marigold
Fiddle leaf fig Nasturtium
Fig tree Ponderosa, Spruce, Virginia, or White Pine
Flame nettle Pyracantha
Hawaiian scheffler Raspberry
Indian laurel Rose
Jade plant Snowberry
Kangaroo vine Black, Norway, Red, or White Spruce
Lace fern Viburnum
Lady palm Wax plant
Maidenhair fern White poplar
Ming fern Willow
Mother fern  
Mother-in-law's tongue  
Norfolk pine  
Paradise palm  
Parlor palm  
Pepperomia  
Prayer plant  
Purple passion  
Rubber tree  
Spider plant  
Umbrella tree  
Wandering Jew  
 
References and Further Reading

Gfeller, R; Messonnier, S. Handbook of Small Animal Toxicology & Poisonings. Mosby, Inc. St. Louis, MO; 1998.

Oglesbee, B. Mycotic Diseases. Altman, R; Clubb, S; Dorrestein, G; Quesenberry, K. (eds.). Avian Medicine and Surgery. W.B. Saunders. Philadelphia, PA; 1997; pp 611-612.

Olsen, G; Orosz, S. Manual of Avian Medicine. Mosby, Inc. St. Louis, MO; 2000; pp 248-254.

Rupley, A. Manual of Avian Practice. W.B. Saunders. Philadelphia, PA; 1997; pp 532-533.

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