Are Christmas trees safe for pet birds?

This time of year, nothing beats sitting in your cosy living room, sipping a hot drink by the twinkling lights of your meticulously decorated Christmas tree.  If you are the proud owner of a pet bird, however, there is more to consider when choosing a tree than the colour scheme. 

The welfare and health of your bird or birds is naturally your top priority, and so researching which options are safe for your beloved pet is paramount. 

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Real Christmas trees

Not all real trees are poisonous to birds, although some have been known to cause problems for certain species of parrots. Pine is considered a safe tree for birds, but do be mindful of any sap produced by the tree, as this can stick to your bird’s feathers. 

Additionally, pine has been listed as potentially harmful in some articles, but those mainly relate to wood shavings and so not relevant to bird keeping.

Further, even if the tree itself is not harmful to your bird, many Christmas tree farmers use fertilisers in the water used to sustain their trees and the trees are often sprayed with chemicals. 

Your bird is likely to want to perch on the tree, and may nibble on the pine needles while doing so. This is potentially dangerous, as pine needles are naturally prickly and can cause injury when ingested. 

So, unless you plan to trek into the wilderness to chop down your own tree (good luck with that!), it is probably best to have an artificial tree, just to be on the safe side.

Artificial Christmas trees

Generally speaking, artificial trees are not harmful to pet birds, including parrots. However, bear in mind that your bird may still try to nibble on the branches of the tree, especially if it is very realistic looking. 

As mentioned before, pine needles, whether real or fake, are prickly and can cause injury when ingested, so be mindful of this.

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Christmas tree decorations

If your tree has been sprayed with fake snow, glitter, or any other decorative element, this can be poisonous to your bird.

Christmas lights and decorations can break and become hazardous due to sharp edges (and exposed electricity in the case of fairy lights).

Cheaper decorations may contain heavy metals, which can also be toxic; and curious birds may peck on tinsel or ribbon, which can be a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage. 

All in all, if possible, it is best to try and keep your pet bird away from your tree altogether, for the welfare of both bird and tree!

Other Christmas plants

It is important to remember that Christmas trees – both real and artificial – are not the only potential danger to your pet bird in your home.

Many plants traditionally used as part of the Christmas presentation, such as Ivy, Holly and Poinsettia can be poisonous to pet birds, as well as popular decorative flowers like Chrysanthemum and Yew.

Lastly, and some of you may find this one particularly disappointing, Mistletoe can also be toxic to some birds, so un-pucker your lips and take it off the door frame! (Or at least hang it somewhere where your pet bird cannot reach it). 

A few more things to consider

  1. The festive season is a happy time for most humans. However, while you enjoy having friends and family over for some delicious food and a glass (or more) of mulled wine, having to share its space with a stream of strangers can be very stressful for your pet bird.

    This is particularly true if any of your guests bring their own pets with them (especially the furry kind!)

    Do consider removing your bird to a spare room away from the party to save its nerves.

  2. Birds have a particularly efficient respiratory tract. While this is beneficial in many ways, it also means they inhale more of whatever the air in your home contains.

    Scented candles, potpourri and air fresheners may all make your home smell lovely for your guests, but can be very harmful to your pet bird.

    Cigarette smoke and fumes from cooking can also be poisonous, so make sure your bird is not exposed to them.

  3. Even if you give Nigella Lawson a run for her money in the cooking department, most human foods (particularly those containing caffeine, alcohol and chocolate), are harmful to birds. So refrain from sharing your Christmas dinner with your pet bird, and definitely keep it away from that tin of Quality Street and the glass of sherry!

Ultimately, however careful you are, accidents can happen – even the most responsible bird owners occasionally require the services of a vet.

The best way to help avoid being faced with high vet fees is to get parrot insurance for your bird, before they become ill or injured!

ExoticDirect has been providing the UK with insurance for exotic animals since 1996.  Our policies are designed with your bird type in mind – from African Grey's to Macaws to Cockatoos, we insure a wide range of birds. And we can pay the vet directly, to make life a little bit easier.

Whatever your plans are this festive season, we hope you and your pet birds have a very merry Christmas!

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Alternatively you can call us on 0345 982 5505