Poisoning in Birds

Items that are toxic to birds


Any time poisoning is thought to be a possibility, the veterinarian or Poison Control Center will need to know the name of the toxin, the active ingredients, the weight of the bird, how much was consumed, when the exposure occurred, and any symptoms the bird currently is showing.

Heavy Metals

Birds are easily poisoned by the heavy metals found in their environment. Each heavy metal causes distinct symptoms and affects birds differently. The three heavy metals which commonly poison birds are lead, zinc, and iron. You can easily avoid heavy metal poisoning by clearing any consumable heavy metals from your bird’s environment (i.e., the cage and fencing materials). Instead, purchase cages and fencing made from non-toxic materials, such as stainless steel and welded wires. If your bird plays outside the cage, ensure there are no sources for heavy metal available for it to consume. Lead can be found in old paint, stained glass, lead curtain and fishing weights, and soldering.

Symptoms and Types

Common symptoms your bird may suffer from, if it is poisoned by a heavy metal, include:

  • Constant thirst
  • Regurgitation of water
  • Listlessness
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Loss of coordinated movements
  • Seizures

Zinc and iron are present in food and are required in small amounts for a healthy bird. But when abnormal amounts are present in the bird’s body, the same heavy metals can lead to poisoning. Lead poisoning is no longer as common as it once because people have become more aware of the potential danger, and are taking precautions so that it does not happen to their birds.

Heavy metal poisoning with iron can lead to iron storage disease, which causes the the nutrient to deposit in the internal organs of the body. This can lead to liver problems and damage other organs.

Toxic Foods

  • Avocados
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Salt
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Xylitol


First Aid for Poisoning

Inhalation: If the toxin is inhaled, such as fumes from a Teflon pan, remove the bird to a well-ventilated area. Steam may help reduce upper airway irritation and to help breathing. To this end, place the bird into a bathroom with shower (hot water) running.

Eye Exposures:

  • Gently flush eyes with tepid tap water, artificial tears, or saline for 20-30 minutes.
  • Use eyedropper to flush in small birds.
  • Perform fluorescein staining and follow up exams in cases of exposures to corrosive agents or if redness, pain or ocular (eye) discharge occurs

External Contact with Poison:

  • Stabilize bird first!
  • Do not remove toxicants from feathers if bird is seriously ill.
  • With light dermal exposures, wash gently with solution of mild liquid dish washing detergent (e.g., Dawn) and warm water, rub gently, then rinse with plain warm water to remove soap. Repeat if needed.
  • With heavy dermal exposures, a thorough bath may be indicated. Pat dry, keep warm and monitor for signs of hypothermia.
  • Because detergent may seep between the feather barbs, multiple rinses may be required
  • An E-collar may be necessary to prevent ingestion of toxins.

Ingestion of Toxin (i.e., plant, household cleaner):

  • If by acid, alkalis, or petroleum product: make it swallow milk, mixed with Pepto Bismol, egg white, or olive oil. DO NOT MAKE BIRD VOMIT!
Scroll to Top