Please Bird-proof Your Home! Your Starlings Will Thank You!

NOTE: The list of dangers below was compiled from our own experience as well as from various resources. We present this info "as is", and we shall have no liablility to anyone regarding any circumstance or occurrence related to the starling(s) or other birds in their care. It is each starling owner's responsibility to make the best choices for the diet, safety, health, care and wellbeing of his or her own starling. Contact avian vets/experts for info about questionable products or about your particular situation.

Common Dangers
Nonstick Coatings
Links to More Info


Starlings need regular free flight time out of their cages if possible. Because they are inquisitive birds with no sense of what is dangerous in a home, it is imperative that we bird-proof all rooms to which they will have access. A pet starling can quickly get into trouble with common objects in a home. We want everyone's "feathered wonders" to remain safe and to live long lives filled with joy and mischief! The partial list of dangers below will give you a good starting point for making your home bird-safe. (Additionally, we have a safety webpage which mentions a few things we do to keep Stormy, Sunny & Shadow safe when out of cages.)

Common Dangers   next

Open Doors or Windows
Starlings are very quick and can escape outside in only seconds through an open window or a cracked door. Not only can these birds quickly fly out, but they can also be caught or crushed in carelessly closed doors as they try to follow you through them.

Uncovered Windows, Glass Doors, Mirrors
It is wise to keep blinds or curtains closed, or have some type of decals on uncovered windows or glass doors while a starling is flying freely in a home. Birds will attempt to fly right through uncovered clear glass. A concussion (brain injury) or broken neck and death are often the result. Many birds will also fly into uncovered mirrors, so we use appropriate caution with them as well.

Watch Where You Walk, and Look before You Sit!
When your starling is out of its cage, everyone in your home should pay attention to where they walk and where they sit. This is extremely important if you have small children or when you have visitors. Our starlings often like to explore on the floor, and as small as they are, it could be very easy for someone to overlook them and thus accidentally step on one. To be extra cautious, we shuffle our feet when walking while they are out. If your starling likes to sit on furniture, it is necessary to be aware of where he is before you sit down so as to avoid sitting on him! We keep our birds confined to their cages when we have visitors.

Glasses and Containers of Liquids -- Open Toilet Lids, Uncovered Aquariums, Drinking Glasses, etc.
Starlings attempt to bathe in nearly any type of liquid, including liquids in drinking glasses. Several pet starlings have drowned when attempting to bathe in drinking glasses. Hot coffee poses another danger, for starlings cannot tell when a liquid is scalding hot. Additional dangers include raised toilet seats, uncovered aquariums, sinks filled with water. Again, DO NOT leave any containers of liquid open when your starling is flying freely in your home!

Empty Containers Small Enough for Birds to Get Stuck in
Since pet starlings are so curious, many will try to explore any type of containers they can fit themselves into (vases, teapots with lids ajar, and many other odd items). Make sure that anything your starling can get into has an opening big enough for him to easily get himself out again.

NOTE: Kitchens hold many dangers for birds! See the next three warnings below. Our kitchen is OFF LIMITS to our starlings.

Kitchen Dangers I: Foods Cooking on Stove Tops; Hot Burners, Hot Oven (with door open), etc.
Allowing a bird in the kitchen while doing any cooking is an accident waiting to happen! It can take mere seconds for a loose bird to curiously fly into a pot, a hot frying pan, an open oven, or onto a hot cookie sheet freshly out of the oven. Also, a bird cannot tell when a stove burner is hot and is apt to land on one. Ensure your bird's safety by keeping him OUT of the kitchen.

Kitchen Dangers II: Containers of Hot or Cool Cooking Oil
Everyone knows that hot cooking oil or grease is a real danger to a bird. However, even room temperature oil or grease, if left in an open container, poses danger to a pet bird. If a bird lands in such a substance and gets it on his feathers, his ability to regulate his temperature becomes compromised. Keep ALL oil or grease covered!

Kitchen Dangers III: Keep Appliance Doors and Cabinets Closed
An open cabinet, dishwasher, oven, or refrigerator is an invitation to a free flighted starling who likes to explore. When not in use keep the dishwasher and oven closed closed to avoid inadvertently shutting your bird inside one of them. Always check your fridge or cabinets before shutting them, to confirm that your bird has not flown inside. Again, keeping a starling OUT of the kitchen is wise.

Ceiling Fans -- Common sense says to keep them off or unplugged when your birds are out!

Open Fireplaces, Burning Candles
When we have a fire in our fireplace, we either keep our starlings confined to their cages, or we keep the fireplace doors shut. None of our birds are housed in the same room with the fireplace, due to dangers from the birds inhaling smoke. Burning candles pose several threats to a free flighted bird, including possible respiratory problems or injury from burns.

Halogen Light Bulbs
Halogen light bulbs get very hot and can easily singe tail feathers or burn little birdie feet if a bird lands atop one.

Small Objects That Can Be Swallowed
Small items commonly swallowed by pet starlings include rubber bands, staples, small buttons, thumbtacks, pieces of string, Q-tips, tiny computer screws, earrings, etc. Keep in mind that starlings are inquisitive and will grab anything that catches their eye. Once a starling grabs something forbidden to him, he will often swallow it rather than give it up.

Access to Strings, Thread, Human Hair
Be sure your starling has NO access to human hair! Hair is dangerous, as it can wind tightly around a starling's tongue or around a toe, cutting off circulation or causing other severe problems. A piece of string or thread can also wind tightly around a starling's foot or leg, or a toenail can get caught in it. Some starlings will swallow inches of string at once! Stormy swallowed several inches of string when she was younger, resulting in a vet visit, so all string is now kept away from our starlings.

Cat Litter Boxes
Keep starlings away from cat litter boxes! Many cats host the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which can cause an infection known as Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma is periodically shed into the environment through a cat's feces. Birds are susceptible to Toxoplasma, and if a starling were to eat infected cat droppings or cat litter, illness and death could result. (Additionally, even if a starling were to eat clean unused cat litter, the result could be intestinal obstruction leading to death.)

Cage Liners/Beddings (corncob, walnut shells, cedar & pine shavings, cat litter)
Corncob bedding is indigestible and could cause obstruction if eaten by a bird. It is dusty, and inhaling fine dust into air sacs for a long period of time will eventually cause respiratory problems for a bird. Damp corncob can become a breeding ground for aspergillus, a mold that causes aspergillosis, a nasty fungal respiratory infection that can be fatal to birds. Walnut shells can cause internal damage to a pet bird who eats them, they make it very hard to monitor pet bird droppings, and they also need changing frequently to avoid bacterial or mold growth in a cage. Both pine and cedar shavings make it very hard to monitor a pet bird's droppings once the droppings have fallen down amongst the shavings and the liquid portion of droppings has been absorbed. Also, bacterial growth will take place if such shavings are not changed very frequently. Cedar shavings are NOT recommended; they contain volatile chemicals called "phenols," which are excessively strong for a bird's sensitive respiratory system and may also affect liver and kidneys. Both regular and clumping types of cat litter are dangerous to birds! Cat litter is powdery, and birds may inhale the powder even if they do not eat the litter, putting them at risk for respiratory problems. Many clumping litters contain a clay which swells many times its volume in the presence of fluid. If a bird eats this litter, the result may be intestinal obstruction, crop impaction, and even death. We have found that using newspaper as a cage liner is safest for our birds.

Cats, Dogs, Parrots, and Other Pets
Cats are predators and will stalk and grab a bird instinctively. Dogs, no matter how well-trained, may unexpectedly grab a bird, causing severe injury or death -- sadly, this has happened to several pet starlings. Ferrets have been known to kill pet birds. We feel that allowing companion animals near our starlings is taking an unnecessary chance, therefore we always confine our cats and dog to a separate room when our birds are out of cages! Additionally, hookbills (large parrots, tiels, even small budgies) can injure a starling in the blink of an eye. Their beaks cause painful injuries or fatal wounds, and they can snap a starling's toe off very easily. Use appropriate precautions if you have several types of birds! We keep our hookbills and starlings separated at ALL times!

Warning about bacteria transmitted from cat bites -- Even a small bite or nick from a cat can cause a bird to die. Many cats carry Pasteurella multocida bacteria in their saliva (it may also be on an animal's claws if recently licked) and it can kill a bird if it gets into its bloodstream. When a cat bites, its teeth puncture the skin leaving several small wounds approximately the same diameter as the cat's teeth. These puncture holes seal and quickly become impossible to see, trapping bacteria from the cat's mouth under the bird's skin. This bacteria multiplies quickly, and if untreated, the result is blood poisoning and death often within one or two days. A cat-caught bird needs to be on antiobiotics within 12 hours (or sooner, if possible)! (Most veterinarians will prescribe Baytril or Amoxicillin; OTC antibiotics are not effective.)

Some Types of Houseplants
Although starlings generally do not chew on plants, some starlings will rip into them and eat some of the leaves. (Stormy does this!) Several types of houseplants are hazardous if eaten by birds. The following webpage is only one of many online detailing harmful plants & trees.
Unsafe Plants for Birds

Fumes, Scents, Sprays, Smoke, etc. -- All Dangerous to A Bird's Respiratory System!
There have been many discussions on bird forums about how fumes from scented candles, air fresheners, and cleaning products have harmed or killed pet birds. Most household products are not routinely tested on birds, thus the manufacturers have no way of knowing whether the products are safe for birds. Use extreme care when using anything which gives off fumes, and perhaps consult your avian vet about specific products and their potential dangers to birds. A bird's respiratory system is very delicate and is easily affected by fumes that do not bother humans. Many types of fumes will cause extreme illness or even death to a bird.

A few of the many household dangers to a bird's respiratory system:

  • aerosol sprays (such as cleaning products, hair sprays, etc.)
  • nail polish remover, wet nail polish
  • spray starch
  • strong bleach or pine oil cleaning agents
  • paints
  • insecticides & mothballs
  • smoke from lit cigarettes, cigars, pipes
  • air freshener sprays
  • plug-in air fresheners, scented candles, incense, potpourri (the oils in these products may cause harm)
  • residual fumes from newly installed carpets
  • cedar & pine shavings (see the first list above for cautions about using these as cage beddings)
  • fumes or smoke from cooking (in particular, smoke from burning food, overheated cooking oils, scorched plastic handles, nonstick cookware, etc.) -- Remember, keep birds OUT of your kitchen to avoid possible problems. For additional information about fumes and toxins being harmful or deadly to birds, please see our links at the bottom of this page.


Nonstick Coatings -- A specific danger!   next

Nonstick Coatings -- They Contain Fluoropolymers Which Are Deadly to Birds!
Did you know that a bird's complex respiratory system is very sensitive and is much less able to deal with the same kinds of fumes which a human or other types of pets can handle? Only a small amount of "toxic fumes," even fumes that we cannot smell, can overcome a pet bird in moments and kill it.

A very real danger to the highly sensitive respiratory systems of birds are the fluoropolymer resins used in nonstick coatings. One of these is PTFE or Polytetrafluoroethylene which is a common ingredient in nonstick cookware *including but not limited to Teflon®, Silverstone®, and T-fal®. There are many additional popular brands of nonstick cookware containing PTFE, and other types of household items also contain it. During heating of these products, toxic odorless gases are emitted and are a deadly threat to birds who inhale them! (*Note: The brand names mentioned above are registered trademarks of the specific companies who manufacture them.)

EWG: Executive Summary about the Dangers of Teflon
Read all the webpages in this report, and you will learn about the agonizing deaths of pet birds caused by Teflon®, how long it takes for a heated Teflon® pan to begin emitting toxic fumes, what types of toxic particles and gases are emitted, how Teflon® fumes can make your family sick (Teflon® toxicosis), etc. You will also find tips for bird owners and tips on safe cookware. The webpages found at this link focus strictly on the dangers of Teflon® to birds and humans. Reading it may make you think twice about ever using nonstick cookware again!

Be aware that very few products contain labels to warn you about the presence of PTFE or other nonstick coatings.

Just a few of the many items known to contain PTFE include: nonstick cookware, nonstick stove burner drip pans, newer space heaters, clothes irons with nonstick surfaces, ironing board covers, nonstick curling irons, electric griddles, electric fry pans, electric waffle makers, electric grills, bread makers, some blowdryers, self-cleaning ovens (they emit this odorless gas during their cleaning cycle), and some heat bulbs which are coated with it.

A representative of Dupont emailed us and demanded that the warnings about its brand name nonstick cookware products (which contain PTFE!) be removed from this website. What a pathetic gesture from this company! NO company which tries to bully consumers or which manufactures nonstick products containing PTFE yet refuses to put warning labels on their products will have our support in any way! We shall spread the word.


Links to More Info about Dangers to Pet Birds   top

NONSTICK COOKWARE CAN KILL BIRDS - about PTFE and its dangers to birds.
The Silent Killer - the dangers of PTFE
The Top Ten Bird Killers
Danger! Organic Bedding
Veterinary References re dangers of overheated nonstick items
For the New Bird Owner
Poisonous Foods, Metals & Compounds

Making a SAFE HOME for your bird
Chemicals that are Dangerous to Birds
Sick House Syndrome: Is Your Home Safe for Parrots?
Scented Candles Can Be Fatal to Birds
Hazards and Care of Your Bird -- this webpage lists additional hazards to pet birds. Note that this article mentions wing-clipping. This pertains to hookbills and not to pet starlings! We are opposed to wing-clipping any European starling.

All graphics, content & photos copyright © 1999-2009 Victoria D.
All rights reserved.