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A Focus on Your Pet Bird and the Holidays – UPDATED 12/1/2008

November 19, 2009
I recently posted an article regarding Holidays and pet safety.  Although the article covers animals in general, it does not address the unique concerns with birds.  This article does.  I will be posting an additional article covering birds and the stress they may experience due to the holidays.  As I share my home with several feathered companions, I understand the importance of their health, especially during this festive time of year (please see “The Flock” page of this blog). 
 If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.
With the flurry of holiday activity, one needs to remain focused on their pets.  It takes only one accident to damper the festivities.  Stay alert to the needs of your pet bird.  Festivities can turn tragic for bird owners that don’t make provisions for their pet’s safety. 
 Make sure that your pet is safe.  Please take the time to read over this list of safety tips to keep your holidays safe and pleasant.


Updated 12/1/2009:  Birds and Gas FireplacesWant a nice warm fire in the fireplace? Is your fireplace in good shape or is this the first time you will be using it this year? What type of wood are you burning? Is the damper open? Check those “instant fire logs” and make sure they do not contain lead or arsenic. DO NOT BURN WRAPPING PAPER OR PRESSURE TREATED WOOD EVER! It’s fine to have a fire as long as your fireplace is working like a should, has some type of guard across the front, and is being vented properly.   From


 Keep an eye on your decorated tree and ornaments. Birds are naturally attracted to things that glitter, shine, sparkle, and blink — so it’s no wonder that many Christmas decorations draw their attention. Make sure you keep your bird away from any lights or decorations, and above all, the Christmas tree which is a magnet for birds.  Tinsel, flocking, angel hair and artificial snow can be dangerous.  The tree may also be coated with potentially harmful fire retardant, fertilizer, or insecticide.  A solid bite to a wire or light bulb can pose a risk of burns, electrocution, or both, and fragile glass ornaments along with their sharp wire hangers can cause cuts, scratches, and puncture wounds.  In addition, some decorations may have small pieces that could be broken off and swallowed, causing digestive problems.  Keeping your bird away from these items greatly reduces his risk of injury during the holidays.   

Beware of ribbons, bows, and gift wrap.  At first, many owners may think that it’s okay to let their birds play with and shred these papers and bows, but the inks used to print them could potentially be toxic to your bird. Additionally, some ribbons and bows have the ability to get caught around your bird’s neck, legs, or toes. This can cause serious injury or even death, so it’s imperative that your pet be kept away from all the pretty presents.

 Prevent access to holiday plants.  Never allow your bird unsupervised access to poinsettia, holly (leaves and berries), mistletoe, or other plants commonly used to decorate during the holidays. 

Don’t Share the Holiday Feast.  Many of the foods we set out during the holidays can be unhealthy or even toxic to birds, including chocolate, sugary cookies, salty snacks, and other favorites left out for nibbling and, of course, alcoholic.  If you must “share” with your bird, prepare a separate high quality meal or snack.  

Keep tabs on the Christmas “Spirits.”  If you or your guests plan to indulge in any alcoholic beverages, make sure that your bird does not have access to them. Alcohol can be deadly to birds, and curious parrots have been known to sneak a drink out of unattended glasses. Warn your guests never to give them alcohol. People who don’t have birds don’t know what they can do or what they can’t do. Educate them, letting them know the dangers involved.  Keep your pet safe by confining him to an area away from the festivities. 

Perfumes, potpourri, adhesives, glues, cleaning products, and of course, fumes from heated Teflon®, can all be toxic.  Because of their unique respiratory system and other factors, birds have a higher sensitivity to odors and fumes. The strong fragrances of potpourri, scented candles, and cooking can be irritants. And remember, fumes from non-stick cooking surfaces such as Teflon® can be very toxic to birds.   ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO NOT SMOKE IN THE HOUSE!!

Do not let your bird out of his cage when you have open flames in the house.  Stoves, candles, and fireplaces always pose a serious threat. 

Discourage guests from bringing their dog or other pets into your home.  If they do, understand that your pet and theirs are sure to be anxious and stressed in this situation. Keep them separated and do not relax your vigilance. 

Make sure that your bird’s wings are clipped.  With all the people coming and going, they could accidentally escape. 

Pay attention to your bird’s stress levels.  Birds can get stressed pretty easily, and the holidays can make it worse by exposing them to sights, sounds, and people that they are not accustomed to. Consider leaving your bird caged in a quiet, comfortable, and secure area of your home until the party winds down. This will help make sure that your celebration does not cause undue stress or discomfort for your feathered friend. 


Entertaining with family and friends during the holidays is always nice.  However, not all guests may understand birds.  If your birds are around your guests, make sure to let them know what and what not to give them.  Let your guests know that the birds may bite.  Avoid injury to your bird and guest(s) by letting them know the rules, and that they are not to give the bird anything without asking you first. 


     While these tips will go a long way in keeping your bird safe throughout the holidays, no amount of prevention is a substitute for good old fashioned supervision. When your bird is out of his cage, always make sure to keep a close eye on what he is getting into. Always paying attention to your bird’s whereabouts and actions is the best way to keep your bird safe not only during the holidays, but throughout the year — and for the many years that you and your pet will spend together.  Happy Holidays!



Thank you to Dr. Foster and Smith Educational Staff, “Protect Your Bird from Potential Holiday Hazards,” photographs from same article 
Robin Deutsch at



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