Making your home bird-safe
Numerous household objects may be dangerous to pet birds. Common potentially dangerous objects include other pets (especially predatory pets such as ferrets, cats, and dogs), ceiling fans, ammonia-based cleaners (glass cleaners), hot surfaces such as heaters and stoves, electrical cords, open windows and doors, aerosol sprays, chemicals/pesticides, filled tubs, sinks, or open toilets, terrycloth towels (toe tangle), and certain kinds of applicants as well as lubricants. In some of the older buildings, those built before the 1970s, the paint can also include a certain amount of lead, which can be dangerous to birds and other animals if swallowed.
Responsible pet owners can avoid these problems through supervision of the bird when it is outside its cage and removing dangers from some rooms. Windows should be covered whenever a bird is first flying in a new location. Some aviculturists recommend wing clipping which, when properly done, reduces the ability of a bird to fly and may reduce the bird's ability to encounter certain dangers such as ceiling fans and windows. However, a clipped bird may be more vulnerable to some other dangers, such as other pets, and falling-related injuries.
Toxicity of overheated non-stick surfaces
Many reports from bird owners claim that their pet birds died after the owners used non-stick cookware around the birds. The cause of this phenomenon is polytetrafluorethelyne (PTFE), a chemical used in the manufacture of industrial non-stick coatings. When they are overheated, the resulting combination of particles and gasses emitted from the surface is extremely toxic when inhaled for only a short time. PTFE becomes dangerous when the surface is heated over 396 degrees Fahrenheit. Other works show fatal effects at higher temperatures over a shorter duration (seconds or minutes). (572 degrees Fahrenheit). The most common source of these non-stick coatings is DuPont's Teflon, but there are other brands that produce non-stick coatings. PTFE-coated surfaces should be used extremely carefully in households that contain birds (good ventilation and never permitted to cook dry), as there are no warnings on these products about the dangers. There are a number of safer cooking options, including stainless steel, cast iron, and enamel.
Other sources of PTFE include some wafflemakers, irons, and self-cleaning ovens, among other things. People using PTFE-coated surfaces in a household that has birds should make sure that the stove is never left unattended while something is cooking on it, and the kitchen in particular should be well ventilated. A pet bird should not be kept near the kitchen due to the proximity of these fumes when cookware is overheated.
Safe Plants and Foods
There are also many plants that may be harmful to pet birds. In some cases an entire plant can be harmful to a bird and in some cases only some parts of certain plants can be dangerous to birds.
Toxic foods are foods that can cause allergies and/or health problems in birds. Avocados, alcohol, and chocolate are poisonons to birds. Milk and excessively sugary, salty, and fatty foods should be avoided or fed rarely (some species of parrots do require larger amounts of fat or sugar in the diet, but this is provided with nuts or fruit and nectar, and not junk foods). Any food considered junk food for humans should also be considered junk food for pet birds.
Guacamole contains avocados and can cause almost instant death in birds. Seed-only diets are not healthy for most pet birds, contrary to popular belief. Most seeds are high in fat and low in nutrients (particularly sunflower and safflower seeds), qualities that can lead to obesity or malnutrition. Your bird will live much longer if you feed it a healthier diet of pellets, fresh vegetables and fruit, and a limited quantity of low-fat seeds such as millet or sprouted seeds, only using fatty seeds as occasional treats.
Excessive salty foods are considered potentially toxic as bird species that do not live on the shore or at sea have very low salt in their diet. Salty food can lead to a condition known as salt toxicosis.
Foods that contain the mineral iron can be toxic to certain species of softbills, such as toucans, and to a lesser extent, to lories, where iron-storage disease can come about from the consumption of such foods. Special "low iron" softbill diets are available for iron-sensitive species.
Birds are not equipped to digest milk so milk and milk products are considered a poor choice by some keepers. However, cheese and yogurt can add helpful bacteria to a bird's digestive system and offer a calcium boost, for example, when a female laying eggs. Some captive birds enjoy milk products and show no ill effect from eating or drinking them.
Despite the lengthy lists of foods and plants toxic to pet birds, a pet bird's resistance to toxic foods and plants varies by species and even the individual bird itself. A certain amount of food dangerous for a finch or budgie may not be dangerous for a macaw due to the difference in their digestive systems and size difference. Even within species, there may be difference among individual birds in their resistance to toxic materials -- a bird that is on a usually healthy diet will be more immune to an accidental dose of toxic food than a bird that is usually on an insufficient diet; genetic dispositions also play a role. However, a rule of thumb amongst parrot owners is "prevention is better than cure", and most toxic food and plants lists are based on this rule.