Feeding the Gouldian Finch

Are your finches in danger?

It’s amazing how many birds there are in the US. Over 3.6 million households have them –averaging 2 birds each!

When you have pet birds, you have to pay special attention to air quality. Even the least scent can be toxic. Sometimes you know right away what caused the issue (like fire) and sometimes despite all the testing in the world you never find out (like this facebook member in the shot below).

Facebook member lost 11 birds

You might have already bird-proofed your home, but it’s never a bad idea to go over the checklist again. Some of the top health hazards are::


Non-stick cookware – PTFE (polytetrafluorethylene) is toxic to birds. It is found in non-stick cookware, hair dryers, waffle irons and other cooking appliances. When the appliance is heated, it releases a gas that kills your birds within a half hour.

Some say that it only happens when they’re over-heated, like up to 500 degrees F. that would be if you walked away and forgot  you were cooking. but if the coating is damaged, the PTFE could get released at a lower temperature. And this stuff is so toxic, they don’t even have to be in the kitchen to be hurt.

Signs of PTFE poisoning include weakness, listlessness, and breathing problems, but most likely you won’t see the problem in a finch until it’s already too late. If you own any PTFE non-stick products, be sure to throw them out now. If your finches are exposed, get them to a veterinarian right away.

Smoke from tobacco products

Recently I saw a cockatoo that was a strange grayish yellow color. When asked, the rescue owner said it had lived with a smoker. Later he showed a photo of the bird all cleaned up – it looked like a different bird!

Man smoking

Some experts say parrots that life with smokers very often turn into feather pluckers. But the damage is far worse than that.

When a bird gets that greasy nicotine coating, they preen in order to clean up their feathers. The chemicals from the cigarette will enter the lungs, causing the same effect on birds they have on humans. Their blood pressure, heart, and lungs, as well as skin and feathers will be damaged. If you have indoor birds, take care to smoke outside or away from them.


Many houseplants are toxic to birds. Even putting a nice philodendron in the finch cage is not without problems – those are toxic. Since finches don’t chew on plants quite as much as their parrot counterparts, you’d think we wouldn’t have to worry as much. But in fact we do.

Some of the worst plants that are toxic in the smallest amounts are: English ivy, bird of paradise, and castor bean plant. Decorative cut flowers like daffodils, calla lilies, and crocus are on the list. And edible plants from the garden  – apple seeds, leaves and bark; cherry pits, leaves, and bark; and eggplant leaves as well as fruit are all toxic to birds.

Cacti in pots

One of my biggest issues has been the plants I keep in pots on my lanai. (a lanai is the veranda + patio area inside the screen cage around my pool) I keep lots of succulents. The finches aren’t loose out there too often, although occasionally one escapes the cage while sunning outdoors. But the bigger birds are allowed to play on the lanai. I’ve had so much trouble with one of them, I have started throwing a sheet over the plants when he goes outside. You could cover them just as easily indoors if the finches are going to free fly. It’s remembering to do it that’s hard.

Open Toilets

Oh seriously. How many times a day does one have to go behind people shutting the toilet seat? And ours are automatic; if you push a little with your finger, it sl-o-w-ly moves down to the closed position. How hard is this people?

Anyway birds can drown (quickly) in the toilet bowl. They usually go in head first and can’t get leverage to turn around. ‘Nuff said.



Any product that makes your home smell good is probably toxic. Candles, wax melts, fragrance oils, air fresheners. Room sprays. Plug-ins.

They’re all full of chemicals. Those include some that are known carcinogens for us, by the way, like formaldehyde.[i] Even unscented candles are not safe. Signs that a bird has been over-exposed to scented products can include skin issues, wheezing, eye and/or nasal discharge, or twitching and toe-tapping.

Rather than using these deadly items in the house, consider replacing them with natural items to make your home smell amazing.

This list is not complete, it’s just a reminder. Go here to find some naturally scented recipes.


[i] Report on Carcinogens, Fourteenth Edition. Formaldehyde, page 6. Nationial Toxicology Program, DHHS.