Bird Safe Wood – Wood / Trees / Bushes Considered Safe for Birds


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    First Aid Instructions following Toxic Exposure

    When selecting wood to be used for bird toys or perches, please keep in mind:

    • Any pesticide residue renders all safe wood toxic. Never use wood with any pesticide residue, even if bark was removed. Pesticides can penetrate into wood through the bark. Pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, dormant spray and miticides.Pressure treated wood is toxic to birds.Do not pick wood from trees that are by the side of a highway or railroad since they are likely to have been treated with herbicides.Even non-toxic trees can be infected by fungi or bacteria that produce toxins. For example, peanut shells are known to harbor fungal residue.Do not use any part of the stone fruit trees – such as apricot, cherry*, nectarine, peach, or plum – contain cyanogenic glycosides which release cyanide if ingested. (*see information below about cherry wood)Redwood contains high levels of volatile oils that are known toxins.  Exposure is believed to cause rashes and the dust can cause lung and eye disorders. Continued exposure may suppress the immune system. If you are not what kind of wood you have in your garden, I would recommend taking a small branch to your local nursery and have them identify it for you. They are not likely to be able to provide information on toxicity, but that information may be obtained from your vet or Internet.

    You identified safe wood that you can use for your birds, what now?

    • Before installing them in any cage, scrub all branches with a non-toxic disinfectant, such as hydrogen peroxide, GSE. As an additional benefit, GSE also has good anti-parasitic properties. Then rinse and dry well.
    • There may be insects hiding within the branches. The best way to kill little unwanted critters is to bake the perches in the oven on 250F for an hour or so. This should kill any fungi, bugs, eggs, etc. that could be in or on the wood. 
    • Some resources recommend using bleach to disinfect the wood / perches, but bleach is toxic and penetrates the wood, potentially posing a danger to your bird’s health. If bleach is used anyhow, rinse thoroughly and soak in clear water. Allow to dry.

    Please review disclaimer below.

    Apple: Different opinions have been voiced about the toxicity apple trees. Sources like toxicologist Gillian Willis indicate that apple is safe: others state that it may be toxic part of the year. Pesticide residue may be the cause of the confusion. Apples are one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. Leading suppliers of apples include China, United States, New Zealand, Turkey, France, Italy and Iran.Apple Trees
    Pomegranate Wood Pomegranate wood has high levels of tannins and should best be avoided. Even though birds regularly feed on vegetation high in tannins, it is unclear how safe they are at high doses. Although not studied in birds, poisonous symptoms in humans consist of giddiness, confusion of thought, muscular weakness and even paralysis. Tannin is also a known carcinogenic. This being said the bark tastes bitter and that may stop birds from chewing on it – but I just wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it.There are multiple medicinal properties with the pomegranate wood, including being an effective insecticide (such as being a remedy for tape worms).
    Arbutus / Madrones Arbutus is native to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, and North America. North American members of the genus are called Madrones. European species are called Strawberry Trees. It is not classified as an evergreen since its leaves fall off, nor is it considered a large shrub with an adult height of 5-25 meters. It has red or brownish bark that peels off each year as the tree grows, while the trunk of the tree is smooth to the touch. The leaves are spirally arranged, oval to broad lanceolate, with a serrated or entire margin. The flowers are bell-shaped, 5–10 mm long, white, yellow or pink, and produced in racemes or corymbs. The fruit is a rough-textured red or orange-red berry 1–2 cm in diameter containing yellow-flesh fruit with numerous, very small seeds; the fruit is edible but has minimal flavor and is not widely eaten. The fruit will dry out and turn brown with prickles like burs that latch onto larger animals for migration to new areas.
    Aspen – Populus Aspens stand 40-70 feet in height, with a smooth white trunk 1-2 feet in diameter. Leaves are rounded and shine bright green until they turn yellow in the fall.  Two-inch catkins flower in very early spring, producing small (0.25 inch) narrow cones that split to release copious amounts of tiny, cottony seeds (Little 1980) Aspens are a major tree crop in the Great Lakes region and in western Canada. They are the most widely distributed tree on the continent.
    Mountain Ash – Sorbus The Mountain ash tree is a small to medium fruit tree that grows up to 50 feet tall. It has a light grayish bark and an oval, open head at maturity. It produces clusters of white flowers in spring followed by bright, long-lasting, clustered orange-red berries in fall that attract birds. The deciduous leaves are toothed and pinnately compound. They are dark, dull green in summer and yellow to reddish in fall. Not a true Ash tree, the Mountain Ash is more closely related to the cherry tree, in the rose family.
    Mountain Ash
    Beech Tree – Fagus Beech Trees are native to temperate Europe and North America. The leaves of beech trees are entire or sparsely toothed, from 5-15 cm long and 4-10 cm broad. The flowers are small single-sex, wind-pollinated catkins, produced in spring shortly after the new leaves appear. The bark is smooth and light gray. The fruit is a small, sharply 3-angled nut 10-15 mm long, borne in pairs in soft-spined husks 1.5-2.5 cm long, known as cupules. The nuts are edible, though bitter with a high tannin content.
    BeechBirch Tree
    Birch: The leaves and the bark of the Bird tree contain salicylates and a few substances with hemolytic properties, which means that they desroy red blood cells. The low concentration of salicylates in the barch is unlikely to cause toxicity in birds. However, removing the bark would eliminate any exposure. Overall, birch should be considered safe for natural wood perches.
    Cherry The Cherry Tree is a controversial source of wood. There are confirmed cases of dogs and of horses having fatal reactions to eating cherry wood. However I have been unable to find any confirmed report of bird fatalities. According to Gillian’s page, the sap contains the toxic elements. If cherry is to be used it should be dry, debarked and any traces of sap removed. Fresh cherry, foliage or bark, should never be given to birds. However, Clive from Auckland, New Zealand reports as follows: “I have seen our native Tuhi and Eastern Rosella or Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on the Cherry blossoms, to the point I would say they were “Pigging Out.” One advice derived from that: if you see local birds regularly feeding on parts of a plant / tree, it should GENERALLY be safe for birds. Exceptions to this rule may exist.
    Cherry TreeDogwood
    Dogwood – Cornus Most species have opposite leaves and a few have alternate. The fruit of all species is a drupe with one or two seeds. Flowers have four parts. The fruit of several species in the subgenera Cornus and Benthamidia is edible, though without much flavor. The berries of those in subgenus Swida are mildly toxic to people, though readily eaten by birds
    Citrus (lime, kumquat, grapefruit, lemon, orange). A few sources list them as questionable (orange in particular). Some hypothesize that this is because these trees are often treated with insecticides. As with any wood – if they were treated with chemicals they can be toxic to birds, no matter what kind of tree it is.
    Cottonwood – PopulusCottonwood
    Crabapple – Malus NOTE: Remove Crabapple SEEDS that are considered toxic.Crabapple
    Elm Trees The Elm Tree (Ulmusis) is considered safe for birds. However, elm trees are often chemically treated to control the Dutch Elm Disease they are susceptible to. For this reason, you may want to avoid Elm Trees. If this is a convenient wood for you to use, it’s recommended for you to call your city’s urban forestry department to find out if street trees are sprayed or injected. If the area the tree is in is maintained by a company, ask if anything is sprayed, or if systemic products have been used.
    Elm Trees
    Eucalyptus Eucalyptus branches are popular “chew branches” amongst aviculturists. It is best to remove eucalyptus leaves as they may be contaminated with Aspergillosis spores. It has also been stated that there might a potential toxicity as far as the seeds and leaves are concerned. Plant Experts provide contradictory information probably due to the fact that there are so many different Eucalyptus species in existence (close to a thousand). Not all have been tested for toxicities. Most are likely to contain some chemicals that could cause digestive issues for those sensitive to those chemicals. Even the more toxic species probably aren’t toxic enough to be considered really dangerous plants. Although I did hear of one parrot poisoning after eating Eucalyptus seeds, while many others are eating these without any problems. Many breeders have been using various Eucalyptus species in their aviaries and flights without any problems (including myself) Dr. Rob Marshall, a renowned and well-published avian vet and breeder in Australia, writes as follows: “The wild budgerigar has evolved alongside the Eucalypt tree and over a million years has developed an intimate bond with the tree and its leaves. Wet eucalypt leaves excite and invigorate both the wild and aviary budgerigar into a frenzy of joy. They love to bath in the wet leaves and breeding hens destructively chew the bark searching for trace elements and lysine, the breeding protein. The eucalyptus oil from the leaves has medicinal properties that stimulate the immune system and promote a strong natural resistance to disease.” Please note that Eucalyptus Essential Oil is another story. They concentrate secondary chemicals into a medicinal oil, thus increasing the toxic effect. Eucalyptus Essential Oil is non-edible and poisonous to humans (if ingested) and should NOT be used on or around birds.
    Fir – Abies Firs (Abies) are evergreen conifers that reach heights of 10-80 m (30-260 ft) tall and trunk diameters of 0.5-4 m (2-12 ft) when mature. Firs can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by their needle-like leaves, attached to the twig by a base that resembles a small suction cup; and by erect, cylindrical cones 5-25 cm (2-10 in) long that disintegrate at maturity to release the winged seeds Firs are found through much of North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring in mountains over most of the range.
    Guava Guavas are tropical shrubs and small trees that are native to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America. The tough dark leaves are elliptic to ovate and 5-15 cm long. The flowers are white, with five petals and numerous stamens. The fruit are juicy.Guava
    Hawthorn – Crataegus The Common Hawthorn is native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. It is a broadly spreading shrub or small tree 5-14 m tall, with a dense crown. The bark is dull brown with vertical orange cracks. The younger stems bear sharp thorns, 1 to 1.5cm long. The leaves are 2-4 cm long, obovate and deeply lobed, sometimes almost to the midrib, with the lobes spreading at a wide angle. The upper surface is dark green above and paler underneath.
    Hawthorn Tree, Leaves and Fruit
    HibiscusHibiscusThis genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, and woody shrubs and small trees. It is a safe (even medicinal) plant and wood for parrots who enjoy stripping and chewing it. Every part of the plant, including their leaves, buds and branches, is safe. Many parrots also love eating the Hibiscus blossoms, which are very nutritious and are part of many parrots’ natural diet. It is important to choose Hibiscus wood and flowers that hasn’t been sprayed (pesticides, insecticides, etc.). Hibiscus tree branches also make excellent perches. Choose branches of an appropriate size and shape for the size of your parrot. The garden shrub Rose of Sharon, the vegetable Okra and the garden flower Hollyhock also belong to mallow or Malvaceae family and are safe to give to parrots as well. The only toxic member in the whole family is the cotton plant, which contains a toxin called gossypol and is not safe for birds.
    Larch – LarixLarch is listed as a safe wood. It is a deciduous conifer that looses its needles in the winter. The needles are attached in little clusters on pegs like little tufts. Refer to the image to the right. Be careful not to confuse this conifer with the Dawn Redood, which is also a deciduous conifer. The difference is that its needles are attached to the twigs individually and somewhat two-ranked on either side of the twig. Initially, new spring growth looks like little tufts, but these elongate into tiny mini-twigs lined with ranks of individual needles. The safety of Dawn Redwood has not been ascertained and, therefore, it is best to avoid using it.Larch
    Madrone / Madrona – ArbutusThe leathery leaves are ovate and dark, shiny green above; paler green below. The fragrant flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds which can sometimes swarm a heavily flowering tree. Other birds love the bright red-orange berries that often last till Christmas.It is the incredible bark – in the early spring it looks like pale green human skin which slowly turns flesh hues and then tan. In the summer it becomes flushed with bright orange and red tones, turning a rich mahogany in autumn. Then it begins to crack and peel in fantastic shapes through the winter, revealing new skin in the spring. It is always changing.Madrone Tree
    Magnolia CSUF biologist and agronomists could not see any reason to consider the magnolia tree dangerous (it is not a known toxic plant), but the safety of this tree has not been proven as of this time.Magnolia
    Mango The fruits are safe, but the wood, leaves and rind might not be. The tree’s sap is extremely abrasive and causes burning sensations and irritation. The exact harm it could do to chewing birds is not known at this time. Best to avoid.
    Manzanita – ArctostaphylosManzanita wood is one of the favorite woods used by pet owners and aviculturists for their birds – especially larger birds that easily destroy softer woods. The branches make great, long-lasting perches.Manzanita
    Maple Red Maple Sycamore, Thurlow Tree and Vine Maple are listed as safe for birds, while Red Maple (featured to the far right) is listed as “toxic” on some lists. Concerns have been raised that even though the bark itself is not deemed toxic, it can harbor a fungus that, when inhaled, can cause the maple bark disease (form of allergic alveolitis). Maple wood – most in general – should be safe to use for natural wood perches once the bark is removed. One toxicologist wrote that “Maple seeds and sugar-rich young leaves are edible except to horses.” Wilted and dry, not fresh, maple leaves produce an oxidant which has caused hemolytic anemia, renal failure, pulmonary edema and death in horses. Caution is advised, although many seem to agree that maple is generally safe and red maple if you remove the bark.
    Mulberry – Morus Mulberry (Morus) is native to warm, temperate, and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Mulberries are fast-growing when young, but soon become slow-growing and rarely exceed 10-15 m tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, often lobed, more often lobed on juvenile shoots than on mature trees, and serrated on the margin. The fruit is a multiple fruit, 2-3 cm long. Mulberries begin as white to pale yellow with pink edges. They are red when ripening. A fully ripened mulberry is dark purple to black, edible, and sweet.Mulberry
    Norfolk Island Pine Scientific Name: Araucaria heterophylla; Toxic Principle: Non-toxic – (Ref.: OSU Center for Veternary Health Sciences)
    Norfolk Island Pine Tree
    Nut (except Chestnut and Oak) – NOTE: wood only – avoid foliage and acorns) The bark of cork oak is safe for consumption. The Cork Oak is a safe wood to leave the bark on. Cork oak has very low levels of tannin (far lower then other oaks) and the bark is just what the name says ‘Cork” Cork Oak is originally from southern Europe and is the source of all natural cork. There is a similar species found native to North America, the Prairie Oak a variety of live oak is found throughout the great plains and east to Ohio. It has a very thick cork like bark – but the safety of this species is unknown.
    Nut Trees
    Palms (areca, date, fan, lady, parlour, howeia, kentia, phoenix, sago)
    Palm Trees
    Papaya The papaya is native to the tropics of the Americas. It is a large tree-like plant, the single stem growing from 5 to 10 m tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk; the lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50-70 cm diameter, deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes. The tree is usually unbranched if unlopped. The flowers are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria but are much smaller and wax like. They appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into the large 15-45 cm long, 10-30 cm diameter fruit.
    Papaya The papaya is native to the tropics of the Americas. It is a large tree-like plant, the single stem growing from 5 to 10 m tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk; the lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50-70 cm diameter, deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes. The tree is usually unbranched if unlopped. The flowers are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria but are much smaller and wax like. They appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into the large 15-45 cm long, 10-30 cm diameter fruit.
    Pear  This is a controversial one. Some sources list the pear tree as potentially toxic.Pear Tree
    Pine Pine shavings may contain compounds that can cause serious health problems, including respiratory problems. So it is not recommended to be used as bedding or cage litter. However, the wood is said to be safe for perch wood.
    Pine Trees
    Poplar – Populus The Poplars are medium-sized to large or very large deciduous trees, growing to 15–50 m tall, with trunks up to 2.5 m diameter. The bark on young trees is smooth, white to greenish or dark grey, often with conspicuous lenticels; on old trees it remains smooth in some species, but becomes rough and deeply fissured in others. The shoots are stout, with (unlike in the related willows) the terminal bud present. The leaves are spirally arranged, and vary in shape from triangular to circular or lobed, and with a long petiole. Leaf size is very variable even on a single tree, typically with small leaves on side shoots, and very large leaves on strong-growing lead shoots. The leaves often turn bright gold to yellow before they fall during autumn. Poplars of the cottonwood section are often wetlands or riparian trees.Poplar
    Prune Tree Sometimes listed as toxic. Discuss with vet.Prune Tree
    Ribbon Wood Ribbon Wood
    Sassafras This plant is found in Eastern United States, from Canada to Florida, and Mexico. The tree stands from 20 to 40 feet high, with many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. The leaves are broadly oval, alternate, and 3 to 7 inches long. The flowers are small, and of an inconspicuous, greenish-yellow color. The roots are large and woody, their bark being soft and spongy, rough, and reddish or greyish-brown in color. The living bark is nearly white, but exposure causes its immediate discoloration.Sassafras
    Sugar Maples The Sugar Maple is native to the hardwood forests of northeastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario, and south to Georgia and Texas. This tree normally reaching heights of 25–35 m tall. The leaves are deciduous, 8-15 cm long and equally wide with five palmate lobes. In autumn the leaves turn bright yellow, but ranging from bright yellow through orange to fluorescent red-orange. The leaf buds are pointy and brown colored. The flowers are in corymbs of 5-10 together, yellow-green and without petals; flowering occurs in early spring after 30-55 growing degree days. The seeds fall from the tree in autumn.
    Sugar Maple
    Grape VinesGrapevine Grape Vines are grown in Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, United States, Iran, Romania, Portugal, Argentina, Australia and England.
    Willows Willows are found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Willows are very cross-fertile and numerous hybrids occur, both naturally occurring and in cultivation. A well known example is the Weeping Willow (Salix × sepulcralis), very widely planted as an ornamental tree, which is derived from hybridisation between the Chinese Peking Willow and the European White Willow.Willow Tree

    References / Sources: American Medical Association Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants; Gallerstein, Gary A., DVM, The Complete Bird Owner’s Handbook; Garry Gallerstein, Bird Owner’s Home Health and Care Handbook; Greg and Linda Harrison, eds, Clinical Avian Medicine and Surgery; Gillian Willis;

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      Unsafe Wood / Not Recommended for Perches
      Below is a list of indoor and outdoor plants and trees which are hazardous to birds. It has been gathered from various sources and is not complete.

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        – Apple (controversial – some say it’s safe. Refer to above. Discuss with your vet)
        – Apricot
        – Arbutus
        – Ash (Mountain Ash is listed as safe on many lists)
        – Cedar
        – Cherry (controversial – some say it’s safe. Refer to above. Discuss with your vet)
        – UNIPER – Juniperus 
        – Nectarine
        – Peach
        – Plum
        – Prune (Controversial again – sometimes listed as toxic, other times as safe – discuss with vet)
        – Red Cedar

        LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This page has not been prepared by a horticulturist or a veterinarian – but is the result of research. Every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy of the provided information, but even though the information is believed to be correct, we will not be liable for any mistakes or omissions; and no guarantee can be given as to the safety of any of the plants or accuracy of information, which is provided for reference only.

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            2 thoughts on “Bird Safe Wood – Wood / Trees / Bushes Considered Safe for Birds”

            1. Okra plant
              Okra stems are sturdy, like a younger tree. Could they be used for my African Grey to chew? I don’t use any pesticides in my garden and grew the okra from seeds. (I would clean with GSE &/or heat in Oven @ low temp)

            2. Parrots can eat okra if it…
              Parrots can eat okra if it is included as part of a balanced, healthy diet. You can provide okra to your bird either cooked or raw. It might be advisable to serve your parrot raw okra more often than boiled okra, as cooked okra can become sticky and therefore be hard to clean off of your bird’s feathers.

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