Good, Bad and Ugly Woods and Plants for Birds

Good, Bad and Ugly Woods and Plants for Birds

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

i have some drift wood that my grandkids collected from a creek way out in country wanting make bird perches to put in bird cages. what do i have to do to wood or is this safe. i soaked in tub for 2 days putting new water on 2-3 times a day. can i use or should i throw away do not know what kind of wood

catherine says: Driftwood is not recommended for bird cage perches as it may contain toxins, insects, plus you cannot identify the original wood. Some are toxic to birds. It would be better used for reptiles who would not consume it.

mitchr says: ​we are not big fans of using random pieces of outdoor wood for bird perches even if it “safe wood”. As well as the issues Catherine stated we can add biohazard, from migratory birds, undetectable molds, parasites and danger you shouldn’t chance on passing to your bird

(Allegedly) Safe Wood for Perches

What is safe for toys and perches? (Some trees you might not ever see or use.) Purportedly Safe:
Cork Oak
Crab apple
Fruitless Mulberry
Grape Vines
Grape Palm
Mediterranean Laurel
Norfolk Island Pine
Oak Palm
Sweet Gum
Tree Fern
Umbrella Tree
Vine Maple
Allegedly toxic:
Bis d’arc
Horse Apple
Sitka cedar
Yellow cedar
Unequivocally toxic:
Box Elder
Crepe Myrtle
Chinese Popcorn
Chinese snake tree
Chinese Tallow
Laurel Pitch pine
Sumac (Rhus/Toxicodendron)
Conflicting information
Oak is bad because of plant tanins but parrot toys made of leather tanned with plant tanins are good. Fruit such as red grapes are good in the diet but red grapes contain plant tanins. Ethanol is toxic but is present in ripe/over-ripe fruit. Parrots like fruit and it’s good for them. Can anyone sort this out ? I ask the question, are grapes bad for your bird? here
Some people would have you believe that the only chemical nasties in the world are man made and anything ‘natural’ is automatically safe. Not so! Many plants wage violent chemical warfare on each other and on the animals that might eat them.
This can make it tricky finding suitable materials for toys and perches. The whole issue is fraught with difficulty and conjecture. For one thing, many sources of information are from north America where the species of trees are different from those found in Europe.
Another problem concerns the loose use of common names which may mean different things to different people.
On top of that, how good is your botany – are you sure you have correctly identified your target tree ? Conflicting information Oak is bad because of plant tanins but parrot toys made of leather tanned with plant tanins are good. Fruit such as red grapes are good in the diet but red gapes contain plant tanins. Ethanol is toxic but is present in ripe/over-ripe fruit. Parrots like fruit and it’s good for them. Can anyone sort this out ?
For making wooden toys you may find the information on the right, culled from searching the internet a handy starting guide.

While the wood from these trees may be considered to be chemically non-toxic, spines, wood fibres and splinters may pose a physical problem. Bamboo (which is actually a grass, not a tree) can have very sharp edges. Branches gathered from the countryside may carry fungi or parasites in bird droppings and need to be washed.

We advise using a nail brush with antibacterial washing up liquid and/or avian disinfectant. Personally I cut fresh tree branches rather than use windfalls: hopefully this reduces the probability of mycotoxins.Do not to use wood from Prunus spp. trees because it contains cyanogenic glycosides.

Such trees include: apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, prune and plum but the Birdsafe site reports no confirmed bird deaths. Oak is reputedly dangerous because of tanin content but confoundingly, tanin levels are much higher in other foods eaten by birds such as some nuts.

 In both these cases it appears to be the bark, foliage and sap that is the problem so the dried and debarked wood may be OK but best avoided to be on the safe side. The chinese snake tree, pitch pine (from which turpentine is made) and yew are all to be considered highly toxic, as are most laurels.
Unfortunately, while there is a lot of assertion on the internet that this or that is/is not safe and only a little balanced assessment, it seems very difficult to find authoritative substantiation of the claims.
It would be nice to know: what active principle(s) in the wood are responsible for the toxicity; what dose level is considered toxic; what differences there may be between species, sizes and ages of parrot; who did the toxicologic analysis and where was it published.
Without this, there is a danger that some of the things that are said to be toxic may not be all that bad and worse still, some of those that are allegedly safe may not be.
It is surprising, for instance, to see willow widely regarded as safe but it is a rich source of salicylic acid (the Latin name for Willow is Salix) and is used medicinally to good effect.
However, in man anyway, salicylates can cause gastro-intestinal bleeding).

Toxicity is not a simple matter of what but also involves how much and how often: you can kill yourself (and your parrot) with organic carrots if you really want to.

A good choice of wood: Apple and beech, occasionally spruce or ash. Always check before you buy new wood.

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Toxic plants for birds:
Acokanthera – Acokanthera spp. (all parts toxic, except ripe fruit)
Amaryllis – Amaryllis spp.
Angel’s Trumpet – Datura spp., (leaves, seeds, flowers)
Apricot – Prunus armeniaca (pits, leave and bark)
Apple – Malus spp., (seeds, leaves, bark)
Avocado – Persea Americana (pit, leaves, unripe fruit, stems)
Azalea – Rhododendron canadenis
Balsam Pear, Bitter Melon – Momordica charantia
Baneberry – Actaea rubra, A. pachypoda
Belladonna – Atropa belladonna
Bird of Paradise – Poinciana and related spp. (seed pods and flowers)
Bittersweet – Celastrus spp.
Black Locust – Robinia pseudoacacia
Boxwood – Boxus spp.
Braken Fern – Pteridium aquilinum
Buckthorn – Karwinskia humboldtiana and related spp.
Burdock – Arctium spp.
Buttercup – Ranunculus spp.
Caladium – Caladium spp.
Calla Lily – Zantedeschia aethiopica
Catclaw Acacia – Acacia greggii (twigs and leaves)
Caster Bean – Ricinus communis
Cherry – Prunus spp. (pits, leaves and bark)
Chinaberry – Melia azadarach
Clematis – Clematis montana and related spp.
Coral Plant – Jatropha mutifida
Crocus (autumn) – Cholochicum autumnale
Cycad or Sago Cycas – Cycas revoluta
Daffodil – Narcissus tazetta
Daphne – Daphne mezerum
Death Camas – Zigadenus venenosus and other related species
Delphinium – Delphinium spp.
Devil’s Ivy – Epipremnum aureum
Dieffenbachia (dumb cane) – Dieffenbachia spp.
Eggplant – Solonum melongena (unripe/ripe fruit, leaves)
Elderberry – Sambucus mexicana (roots, leaves, stems, bark)
Elephant’s Ears or Taro – Colocasia spp.
Euonymus – Euonymus spp. (filit, bark, leaves)
European Pennyroyal – Mentha pulegium
Figs – Ficus spp. (sap)
Four o’clock – Mirabilis jalapa
Heliotrope – Heliotropium spp. (leaves)
Henbane – Hyoscyamus niger
Holly – Ilex aquifolium and related spp. (leaves, berries)
Horse Chestnut – Aesculus hippocastanum and related spp.
Horse Nettle – Solanum carolinense
Hyacinth – Hyacinthus orientalis
Hydrangea – Hydrangea spp.
Iris – Iris spp.
Ivy (Boston, English and some others) – Hedera spp.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit – Arisaema spp.
Jerusalem Cherry – Solanum pseudocapsicum and related spp. (leaves, seeds and flowers)
Jonquil – Narcissus jonquilla
Juniper – Juniperus spp. 
Lantana – Lantana camara
Larkspur – Delphinium spp.
Laurel – Kalmia spp.
Lily-of-the-Valley – Convalleria majalis
Lobelia – Lobelia spp.
Locoweed – Astragalus spp. and Oxytopis spp.
Lupine – Lupinus spp.
Marijuana – Cannabis sativa
Milkweed – Asclepias spp.
Mistletoe – Phoradendron villosum
Mock Orange – Philadelphus spp.
Moonseed – Menispermum canadense
Monkshood – Aconitum spp.
Morning Glory – Ipomoea violacea (seeds)
Mushrooms – Amanita spp. And many others
Narcissus – Narcissus spp.
Oak – Quercus spp.
Oleander – Nerium oleander
Peach – Prunus persica (leaves, pit, bark)
Pear – Pyrus spp. (leaves, seeds, bark)
Peony – Paeonia officinalis
Periwinkle – Vinca minor, Vinca rosea
Peyote – Lophophora williamsii
Philodendron – Philodendron spp. and Monstera spp.
Plum – Prunus spp. (leaves, pit, bark)
Poison Hemlock – Conium maculatum
Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron radicans, includes T. rydbergii
Poison Oak – Toxicodendron querciflium and T. diversilobum
Poison Sumac – Rhux vernix
Poinsettia – Euphorbia pulcherrima
Poppy – Papaver somniferum and related spp.
Pokeweed – Phytolacca Americana
Potato – Solanum tuberosum (sprouts, leaves, berries, green tubers)
Pothos – Eprimemnum aureum
Primrose – Prmula spp.
Privet – Ligustrum vulgare
Ragwort – Senecio jacobea and related spp.
Red Maple – Acer rubrum
Rhododendron – Rhododendron spp.
Rhubarb – Rheum rhabarbarum (leaves)
Rosary Pea – Abrus precatorius
Sage – Salvia officinalis
Shamrock Plant – Medicago lupulina, Trifolium repens, Oxalis acetosella
Skunk Cabbage – Symplocarpus foetidus
Snowdrop – Galanthus nivalis
Sorrel – Rumex spp., Oxalis spp.
Spurges – Euphorbia spp. 
Star of Bethlehem – Ornithogalum umbellatum
Sweet Pea – Lathyrus odoratus
Tobacco – Nicotiania spp.
Tomato – Lycopersicon esculentum (stems and leaves)
Tulip – Tulipa spp.
Virginia Creeper – Panthenocissus quinquefolia
Vetches – Vicia spp.
Water Hemlock – Cicuta spp.
Waxberry – Symphoricarpos albus
Wisteria – Wisteria spp.
Yew – Taxus spp.
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