Can parrots eat onions

Can Parrots Eat Onions? (Allium spp Toxicosis)

Many foods that are a staple in every kitchen such as onions can be harmful to parrots. Onions are a common ingredient in almost every dish and are considered to be a healthy vegetable. However, they are toxic to parrots even in small amounts.  

Parrots should not be fed onions or any other vegetable that is a member of the Allium genus such as shallots, chives, leeks, and garlic. They contain a toxic chemical that leads to the destruction of red blood cells in the parrot’s body. 

Onions are a staple in almost every household, which makes them likelier to be found and eaten by parrots. To ensure your parrot’s safety, you should keep onions out of their reach and also think twice before sharing any food item that may have onion as an ingredient. 

Why Are Onions Harmful To Parrots?

Onions, whether cooked or raw are toxic to parrots. If a parrot eats onions in enough quantity, it can eventually lead to fatal consequences if they do not get medical treatment. 

All parts of the onion are harmful to parrots. Parts of onion including the bulb, leaves, and juice contain toxic chemicals in some amount. 

According to Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, Volume 11, Issue 2, plants belonging to the Allium genus are toxic to birds due to sulfur-containing alkaloids like alkenyl cysteine sulfoxide, diallyl sulfinate, and N-propyl disulfide. 

These compounds are oxidizing agents that affect the hemoglobin molecules in birds. When they metabolize in a bird’s body, the sulfur compounds oxidize hemoglobin and deform the molecule resulting in Heinz body formation. 

Toxic Effects Of Onions On Parrots

Hemolytic Anemia

Onions contain toxic sulfur compounds, which damage red blood cells and can lead to a condition called anemia Hemolytic Anemia. 

Hemolytic anemia is a condition in which the red blood cells are destroyed in the body. Red blood cells are the ones that carry oxygen to different parts of the body. In hemolytic anemia, these red blood cells are being destroyed more quickly than the body can replace them.


Anisocytosis is a medical term for red blood cells that are not uniform in size. According to the Association of Avian Veterinarians Australasian Committee, it’s normal for birds to have a slight variation in the size of their red blood cells. However, a higher degree of variation can be a sign of anemia.


Onions fall into the category of mildly acidic foods with a pH level range of 5.3 to 5.88. However, it can irritate a parrot’s sensitive gut lining and crop. 

Symptoms Of Allium spp Toxicosis In Parrots

If a parrot eats onion, the toxic compounds are metabolized by its body which causes damage to the red blood cells. However, the time it takes for the clinical signs to develop depends on the amount of onion consumed.

If your parrot ate a small amount of onion, the symptoms of toxicity can show a few hours later. A parrot with Allium spp Toxicosis may show the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Fainting

What To Do If My Parrot Ate Some Onion?

Onions are quite common in most households, which unfortunately makes it all the more likely for parrots to accidentally find and eat them. 

Parrots are inquisitive by nature and wouldn’t know not to eat this vegetable. They do not have a strong sense of smell and may not necessarily be discouraged from its odor. 

If your parrot ate a small piece of onion that is no more than a parrot’s bite-size, it will not be fatal, however, you should get it to a vet as soon as you can. 

The effects of Allium spp Toxicosis manifest later, but it is crucial that you get medical help as fast as possible. The earlier the signs of toxicity are detected, the better the chances of survival.

Even small quantities of onion can produce negative effects, though it may not be apparent as easily. So if you suspect your parrot has eaten any amount of the toxic vegetable, make sure you contact a vet for advice.

Vegetables of the onion family

How Do Vets Treat Onion Poisoning In Parrots?

Birds with onion poisoning first need to be stabilized by providing oxygen therapy. Then the vet begins to remove the remaining toxins from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

This involves procedures like crop and proventricular lavage, along with the administration of activated charcoal to absorb toxins. In cases of severe anemia, a blood transfusion might be necessary for the affected bird. 

Can Parrots Eat Other Kinds Of Onions?

No, all varieties of onions are toxic to parrots. While white onions have the lowest sulfur content, they are still not safe for parrots to eat. You should avoid feeding any variety of onions to your parrot, including white onions, red onions, and green onions.

You also be wary of the other members of the allium family such as garlic and chives, and avoid them. They have the same harmful sulfur compounds that can be dangerous to parrots. 


Parrots should not be given onion as it contains toxins that are a danger to their life. You should be extra careful not to let your parrot eat onions in any form. Onions are extremely common in human foods, which is why you should not always be careful while sharing your food with your parrot. 

Most of a parrot’s nutrition should come from pellets and only a small amount from fruits and vegetables. Parrots can benefit from eating vegetables in moderate amounts but first, make sure they’re safe for them. 

Dorson Joseph
Dorson Joseph

I'm Dorson, a bird enthusiast who's had a lifelong fascination for the avian world. I am a parent to my beloved Senegal parrot and budgie, which has deepened my love for avian creatures and taught me a lot over the years. I co-run a bird store and care center with my friends, where we work with experienced professionals to care for our flock. Now, I find great joy in sharing my knowledge with others, hoping to assist fellow bird keepers and enthusiasts in understanding birds and helping them live happy lives.

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