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What Can African Greys Not Eat?

African Grey parrots live in the rainforests across a swath of central Africa from near the continent’s western coast to the east. Known for their intelligence and ability to mimic human speech, National Geographic lists the African Grey as the world’s number one pet bird choice.

This intelligent and friendly bird can be a great addition to your family, and it’s important to know what to feed them each day. In that same vein, learning what African Greys can not eat is equally essential.

In the wild, African Greys prefer to eat cola plant berries and oil palm nuts, but birds in captivity don’t typically have access to the offerings of their native lands. Instead, professionals suggest feeding parrots a combination of bird pellets, seeds, and fresh produce.

That said, there are some foods African Greys and other parrots can absolutely not eat. In fact, feeding your bird the wrong thing could lead to sickness or death.

What Can African Greys Not Eat?

Welcoming an African Grey into your home can be an exciting venture, and making sure they stay away from foods that could harm them will help you keep them happy and healthy. Keep reading to discover what foods you must avoid feeding your feathered companion and why.

1. Avocados

Avocados | image by whologwhy via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Although avocados reportedly have many health benefits for humans, this berry from Mexico and Central America could be deadly if consumed by your African Grey. All parts of the avocado plant contain a substance called persin, which could cause heart issues, respiratory distress, and possibly the death of your pet bird. 

Some in the bird community have debated the level of toxicity in avocados and avocado products for parrots. Still, several sources advise pet owners to err on the side of caution and keep the berry and related products away from their avian friends.

2. Fruit pits and seeds

While offering a variety of fruits to your African Grey is important, certain pits and seeds are dangerous for your pet. The pits of green and black plums, apricots, peaches, red cherries, and seeds of apples and pears all contain amygdalin.

This substance converts into cyanide once ingested and can poison your parrot. Be sure to wash all fruit thoroughly to eliminate pesticides, and remove seeds and pits before feeding them to your bird.

3. Chocolate

Chocolate bar
Chocolate bar | image by Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The Chocolate might be a decadent dessert for people all over the world, but the product is toxic for birds and many other pets. The sweet treat contains theobromine, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, heart problems, nervous system issues, and deadly seizures in African Greys and other birds. 

Chocolate, especially the dark variety, also contains caffeine, which is problematic for parrots and other members of the avian community. Caffeine and caffeinated products can cause heart problems and possible heart attacks in birds. Keep both substances out of your Grey’s reach.

4. Salt and high fat

African Greys love their humans and will reach their talons out for just about any snack, but chips, pretzels, and other salty foods are simply not healthy for pet birds or birds in general. The same rule holds true for snacks containing high fat. 

Foods with a high salt content can cause dehydration, kidney problems, excessive thirst, and even death in birds. In addition, fatty foods can lead to obesity, opening the door to a whole host of problems for your African Grey, including fatty tumors, a fatty liver, or fat in your bird’s blood. 

5. Mushrooms

Since mushrooms typically grow in moist and humid environments, you might wonder if the organisms are safe for birds to consume. While some wild birds reportedly consume the fungus, the general consensus is that pet owners should keep them away from their African Greys and other parrots. 

Mushrooms not only absorb toxins from their environment quite easily, but they also contain amatoxin. That substance can cause digestive problems in some birds and possibly neurological issues. Some types of fungus can even cause liver failure in your pet bird or death. 

6. Dried Beans

Dried beans
Dried beans | Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

Feeding your African Grey cooked beans can add nutrition and variety to their diet, but avoid feeding your bird uncooked beans. Dried beans contain hemagglutinin, which causes red blood cells to clump together and is toxic to members of the avian family — including Greys. 

If you decide to feed your parrot any kind of bean, be sure to thoroughly cook them before serving them to your pet companion. 

7. Plant parts and nightshades

This one might surprise you because African Greys, parrots in general, and many other birds generally feast on the offerings of Mother Nature. However, the plant parts of some produce are poisonous to birds.

Wild animals will naturally stay away from stems, leaves, and vines of tomato and potato plants, but your pet might not know the difference between dangerous plant parts and other leafy greens. 

The solanine found in some plant parts and members of the nightshade family — like eggplant — can cause problems with your parrot’s gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurological systems. 

8. Onions and garlic

Onions and garlics
Onions and garlics | Image by Robert Owen-Wahl from Pixabay

The Onions and garlic are popular ingredients in much of the food humans eat, as it flavors everything from soups to meat to stir-fry. However, these vegetables and other members of the Allium family, like shallots and green onions, can harm your bird over time. Researchers believe feeding onions and garlic to your bird could cause liver and kidney problems, anemia, gastrointestinal issues, and possibly death.

9. Rhubarb

Avoid giving your African Grey rhubarb leaves, as they contain high levels of oxalic acid (oxalate). Even small amounts of this plant could kill your feathered friend.

At the very least, rhubarb leaves can cause stomach upset, kidney issues, and low blood calcium levels. Oxalate is an offending substance that can prevent the body from properly absorbing some minerals, causing damage to your pet.

10. Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages
Alcoholic beverages | image by Sarah Stierch via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Although alcohol isn’t a food item, feeding the substance to your African Grey can lead to death. Alcohol has a similar effect on a parrot’s body as it does on humans. Even one sip is dangerous to your companion, so be sure to keep all such beverages away from your bird.

What Can You Feed African Greys?

With such a long list of the foods African Greys can’t eat, you might wonder what to feed your chatty friend. VCA Animal Hospitals, an organization that has been running a group of animal hospitals since 1986, recommends a combination of seeds, pellets, and fruit and vegetables for African Grey parrots.

The professionals state that most of your Grey’s diet should come from pellets — at least 75%. You can round out their diet with equal parts of quality seeds and fresh produce.

Some fresh foods you can offer your African Grey include:

  • Bananas
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Pumpkin
  • Figs
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Mango
  • Pomegranate
  • Peas
  • Bok choy
  • Peppers

Make small moves if you’re transitioning your bird from an all-seed diet to one that includes produce and pellets. Moving too fast could lead to malnutrition. It’s a good idea to consult an avian vet to monitor your pet’s weight to ensure they stay healthy and strong throughout.


Feeding your African Grey doesn’t need to be a complicated process, but there are certain foods and substances they just can’t have. While your feathered pal might reach out and grab anything you offer, that doesn’t mean everything they bring up to their beak is safe. 

Keep this list in mind while planning your African Grey’s diet, and if you have a question about whether a new food is safe, consult a professional specializing in the species. Feeding your pet the appropriate food and avoiding what they can’t eat will give them the best chance at a healthy long life with you and your family.