Why Do Parrots Die Suddenly?

By Scott Morgan

Parrots are good companions for those who understand that these intelligent, lively critters require extraordinary care. Sadly, it's not uncommon for parrot parents to find their beloved pets dead and not know why.

The good news is, sudden parrot death is preventable, as long as you know what to watch for.

Danger in the Kitchen

Your kitchen likely contains some piece of cookware or appliance coated in a nonstick material called polytetrafluorethylene or PTFE. The brand names include Teflon, Duracote, Silverstone, Fluron, Supra, Excalibur, Greblon, Xylon, Resistal, Autograph and T-Fal. Whatever the name, polytetrafluorethylene emits a gas toxic to birds. The polymer has been linked to several exotic bird deaths, most notably the 21 animals lost at the San Antonio Zoo several years ago.

Humans can develop flu-like symptoms from exposure to these polymers.

Where to Find PTFE

Polytetrafluorethylene coats several items in and around your kitchen. Nonstick pots and pans are among the most common, but polytetrafluorethylene also is in self-cleaning ovens, slow cookers, shatter-resistant bulbs and stain-resistant carpeting or materials. When these items get heated -- sometimes past 900 degrees Fahrenheit in self-cleaning ovens -- the gases emitted can be fatal to a parrot's delicate respiratory system.

If you can't part with your nonstick pans, there are safe nonstick alternatives.

Dangerous Cleaners

Like PTFE, the chemicals in aerosols and many cleaning products often emit fumes that wreak havoc with a parrot's respiratory system. Carpet cleaners, room deodorizer, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, mothballs and stain removers typically contain toxic substances for parrots and other pet birds. Many all-purpose and ammonia-based cleaners, such as bleach, metal polishes, disinfectant, floor or glass cleaners, detergents and oven cleaners, also contain chemicals toxic to birds.

Toxic Foods and Plants

Parrots love a good nosh, but many of our favorite people foods are deadly to them. Chocolate, which contains theobromine, is exceedingly toxic to birds, particularly the darker it is . Chocolate also contains caffeine, which is another no-no for birds. Avocados are potentially lethal for parrots, as are onions.

Houseplants that contain calcium oxylate crystals can be fatal to birds. Avoid putting plants such as dieffenbachia, philodendron, pothos, peace lily and schefflera in a house with a parrot.

Lastly, tobacco products can be lethal to birds, and not just from the smoke. If your parrot mistakes a cigarette butt for a snack, the nicotine he ingests could kill him.