Ten Tips to Keep Your Pet Birds Safe This Holiday Season

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Female Solomon Islands Eclectus parrot, Eclectus roratus solomonensis, April 2008.

Image: GrrlScientist 2008 [larger view].

This message was emailed to me, and I am posting it here as a public service. With the Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and the New Year's holidays upon us, we are all busy planning our family gatherings, gift giving and decorations. The season brings with it unique hazards that we all need to be mindful of so that we can ensure that our feathered family members are protected:

  1. Pine and fir Christmas trees with soft needles are the safest. Avoid sharp needle trees and artificial tees with metallic needles. Also be aware that many trees are treated with pesticides as well as chemically treated so that they will last longer.
  2. Colorful ornaments and dreidels can attract the attention of our curious and playful companions. Birds should be kept away from metallic ornaments that can break into sharp pieces resulting in cuts and wood ornaments that often contain lead paint.
  3. Tinsel and angel hair can present entanglement and GI blockage hazards for birds.
  4. Decorative electrical lights and cords are used in abundance during the season. Make sure the cords are well hidden and keep your bird away from them. Chewing the cords can result in burns and electrocution.
  5. Holiday plants such as Poinsettia, Mistletoe berries, Holly berries and Christmas Cactus are all known to be either toxic or at a minimum severe irritants to birds.
  6. The yule logs that provide us with colorful flames contain heavy metal salts that are toxic if ingested.
  7. Candles, potpourri and incense can contain volatile oils that are toxic to birds. Flight into a burning candle can result in injury and or a tragic fire. Keep flighted birds caged when open flames are present and purchase bird safe, unscented candles. Boil simple herbs such as mint, cloves or cinnamon to scent your house.
  8. Avoid using metallic gift wraps and bows as they may contain toxic metals. If you give your bird wrapped presents use non-glossy, non-metallic paper, cellophane or tissue.
  9. We humans tend to overindulge in food during the holidays. Avoid the temptation to share fatty, sugary and salty treats with your bird.
  10. Be aware that large numbers of guests and parties can be a source of significant stress for your birds. If having a party make sure your birds have a place to escape from the noise, smoke, late night activities and the people who may not understand and respect their needs.

With all of the things we have to keep our parrots away from this season why not allow them to participate in the festivity of the season by decorating their cages with safe holidays toys?


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One additional thought: I was told by my avian vet, and by the breeder that enslaved me to my cockatoo over-lord, that the wicks in commercially made candles contain lead that is released into the air as the candle burns, and is a serious, cumulative poison for companion birds.

My favorite way to scent the house is to bake chocolate chip cookies.

We humans tend to overindulge in food during the holidays. Avoid the temptation to share fatty, sugary and salty treats with your bird.

Especially after your own overindulgences! "Hic... hey birdie, want a cookie?" :-) For that matter, you might want to keep an eye on your drinks when the birds are out -- I'd be unsurprised to see them sampling from glasses!

Darr Sandberg: A bit of Googling suggests that the lead wicks are in fact limited to a minority of candlemakers, and those mostly non-US makers.

By David Harmon (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink