Safety Question, Diet: Let's get straight about onions, parsley, peppers


New member
Jul 5, 2012
SE Florida and Sullivan County, NY
Cody-Blu, female Blue-Crowned Conure, Hatched - (approx) June 1, 2014, in a South Florida tree.

Pritti (Cherry-Head Conure) -- Fly in Peace my beautiful boy. Forever I'll love you.
What do you know about the safety of feeding these items to our parrots:

raw, cooked, or just used to flavor a dish

  • onion and relatives (leeks, chives, garlic)
  • eggplant (have seen random things about no nightshade veggies)Do you
  • sweet green and red peppers (nightshade family)
  • parsley and other leaf herbs (cilantro, basil, dill, mint)

Please help figure this out and share any authoritative, respected avian source links if you have them, because it is very confusing and very important. There are threads here and plenty other places where the question comes up about these foods and it's a total mixed bag of answers. There are informative websites and foods lists that are the same as well).

Some say, no problem, some say totally toxic, some say okay in moderation. So many concerned parronts write that they avoid these foods completely. But that doesn't seem like a solution to a good solid answer from avian specialists or scientists or zoologists that should know the answer. There doesn't seem to be much heavy confusion or debate about chocolate, but why so much abou these other common foods that many eat in our daily diets at home more often than chocolate.

I have been offering Pritti green and red sweet peppers for years. He never eats the green, but always eats the red.

I have just discovered that he loves parsley. I never thought to give it to him until yesterday. Now I'm holding off.

Interested to hear from you. Thanks in advanc for participating in the thread.
I would stay away from onions and such because it just seems bad for them how it burns your eyes and you don't even have to be near them..i don't know about eggplant, but i don't see anything wrong with the peppers and herbs? they put alot of herbs in alot of bird foods, the bird seed i have has herbs at the bottom and stuff so i have to shake it to mix them up. if your still concerned you can let your fid eat some and keep a close eye on them and if anything happens take them to the vet immediatley. Or you can just call your avian vet and get their professional opinion:) but i don't see how they can cause serious harm.
Raw allium family veggies (onion, garlic, shallot etc.) can cause problems with red blood cells. This can happen to us as well, but as with many things, the dosage needed to affect us is MUCH larger than that needed to affect a bird. I did the calculation once and about six pounds of chocolate would do you in. Since red blood cells are constantly replenished, you'd have to get a pretty high dose for it to be a real risk, but if you fed raw onion every day it could be a real problem. I know some folks feed raw garlic regularly for its purported health benefits (not much science there) but I personally would not.

The sulfur compounds that cause this problem in garlic and onions is associated also with the sharp taste, and they break down with cooking. So the dosage for cooked onions and garlic is a lot lower. I don't personally worry about a little onion or garlic in pasta sauce, for example. Solid online info about alliums is pretty easy to find on the internet.

My understanding (check out this Huffpost article : Ask The Editors: Is Raw Eggplant Poisonous?) is that being in "the nightshade family" is no big deal. It's a very broad group of plants. I feed peppers all the time, and have never heard anyone suggest that they might cause an issue. I wouldn't feed raw potato or eggplant -- I don't eat them that way -- and I wouldn't feed parts of the plant I wouldn't eat. But I think throwing out everything in the nightshade family would severely limit the diet out of pure paranoia.

I consider herbs somewhat suspect but have never seen any solid data on the subject. They are so useful in cooking because they have extremely concentrated compounds which give them a strong flavor. Many are use medicinally and some actually have documented pharmaceutical effects. In proportionally tiny amounts (the spaghetti sauce again) I would expect them to be fine, but I think feeding handfuls of them raw might easily lead to overdosing. So, so far, I have avoided them.
If I recall the story right, a parrotlet died due to eating kale, and the cause of death, specifically, was due to the oxalates found in kale. The parrotlet was fed a seed based diet and kale was the only vegetable fed to this parrotlet for 11 years of its life.

There's a lot of foods out there that contain oxalates, but that does not make them bad. What makes a lot of foods bad is when that's the only food fed. A large variety of foods fed in small quantities should be relatively safe, as long as you keep to foods that are considered safe to feed.

For example, carrots are healthy and a great source of vitamin A! If you eat carrots or carrot juice every day, your skin may turn orange and you might OD on vitamin A. That doesn't make carrots bad, only means that you shouldn't be consuming so many carrots!

Onions and garlic are best avoided as a small amount could potentially kill a bird within a matter of hours, if not minutes. Garlic does have some health benefits, but it would also be very easy to over-feed it.

I don't really know about eggplant, as I've heard various concerns about it myself... but everything else sounds fine, if fed in small quantities, and as part of a larger, healthier diet.
I am part of a radio show, and while I am not hosting this Thursday, I have been given the opportunity to have people ask questions! I just emailed the producer to see if any of the vets have bird expertise, as I am not sure of one of the new folks' credentials.
Woo hoo! I heard back from the producer, and he said the veterinarians on this weeks all SO have bird knowledge, and i know one has authored a cookbook for pets as well, so has extensive nutrition background, so we should be able to get a definite answer for you! WannaBeAParrot - would you be available this Thursday between 1 and 2 pm EST to call in and ask? I could find out an exact time for you, and I know there's a toll-free number ... otherwise I can email the question and have them answer it for you, let me know, okay? I can PM you the time, etc....

And the cool thing is, afterwards, I can email you the sound file, so you don't have to remember everything they say while it is happening!

This is for All Paws Pet Talk - All Paws Pet Talk Radio by the way!
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Hi PetoftheDay. Wow. Thanks so much for this news. I expect to be able to call in, but am wondering what if the line is tied up... So if they are considering reading and answering email questions on the show, do you think it would be more of a sure thing to get my question answered since you are able to send them an email and they know you?
I am so looking forward to having the info from a someone just like you describe for this vet. Folks with good intentions that are experienced bird parronts have come up with varying opinions here, from small amounts are toxic, to handfuls might lead to overdose. So I'm still confused -- It sounds like overall the answer is no, but if it really isn't a no, then I want to find out. In Ayurvedic medicine, eating raw onion every morning is suggested as being very important for health (so that would contradict a theory that but a bunch of differing (mostly) personal opinions, some based on facts some based on instincts. So I still don't know.

@MonicaMc -- This is kind of off topic because it is about humans -- It is fine for you to eat as much carrot juice or vitamin A rich foods as you want -- yes, you'll turn a tinge of yellow/orange, especially palms and soles, but it is in no way ever toxic to a human -- the body just cannot process enough of it in the time it would take to become toxic-- I have this answered to me by two licensed nutritionist dieticians and one medical doctor. However vitamin A supplements are a different story and can easily be overdosed and build up to toxic levels. I had a dermatologist once say to me "been eating alot of carrots lately". my palms and especially soles were orangey -- but this had been going on for years -- I was eating tons of carrot content foods and bevs.

Thanks everyone.
Interesting info. I only brought it up as I had read an article about a guy who drank carrot juice every day, and the coroner said he died of a vitamin A overdose. Otherwise though, the guys body was the healthiest he [the coroner] had ever autopsied. I'm not even sure where I read this.
I'm not positive about onions and eggplants, but I avoided them with Puck. I think a small amount of onion occasionally is fine, but I kept forgetting to ask the vet, so I erred on the side of caution. I know avocado is a big no-no.

As far as peppers and herbs go, they generally tend to be healthy and medicinal. Somebody on here said their parrot used to get sinus infections all the time, but it would clear up when they fed them a chili pepper, so the owner just started feeding a chili pepper daily, and the bird had no more sinus infections. Spices are generally good for us too.
Hot peppers have the ability to help clear the sinuses. Would have never thought to use it in parrots!

Sometimes, sinus problems can be a sign of vitamin A deficiency, so a chili pepper would be a great choice to feed frequently!
I feed chiles fairly often.

Avocado IS best avoided. However, wild parrots have been spied eating it, and it turns out that peel and pit are what causes problems, but it is possible for the bad stuff to leach into the fruit. Which suggests it could possibly be OK if you were careful, but nobody seems particularly interested in doing so... in my book, it's in the "not worth the risk" category.

Stone fruit pits (cherry, apricot, etc.) are also best removed, although risk exists only if the pit is cracked and gets in contact with the flesh... there's a cyanogenic reaction that can occur when the two meet. I remove the pits and have had no issues.

If there is a scientific reference on herbs in parrots, I'd love to see it.
I just sent you a PM, and can assure you your question will be answered, and you get to talk to them! I will check with the producer what time you should call in, but we rarely get bird folks, so I am sure the veterinarians will be happy to answer this for you! They are a good crew of individuals.
There are dried chilli pepper treats for birds here in Canada
Chillie, and bell peppers are ok! As is parsely. I give them to my bird with no problems.. Other herbs and spice I am not to sure on.
Hey, WannaBeaParrot - did you get my PMs? I gave you the phone numbers to call in, and time ... if you would rather I post them, or email them to you, let me know! And what's your human name? First only is fine!
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Hi PetoftheDay. Yes, I got your PMs and just wrote back about an hour ago to your most recent one. Thanks for getting it going.
I don't think peppers are bad. They are EVERY where in the parrot care world. In nutriberries they have some, mysafebirdstore sells dried ones, most pet stores sell them packaged so I think there safe.
I feed, and am recommended to feed, peppers. Harrison's even has a pepper pellet.

I know a lot of people feed parsley, but it still makes me a little nervous so I stay away from it.

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