Safe Plants and Toxic Plants

Decorated flight The photograph to the right is just one example of the use of foliage to decorate a flight. Plants not only add aesthetic value to an otherwise sterile-looking enclosure, but they also provide a more natural, engaging, and secure environment for the inhabitants to enjoy. Using plants to create visual barriers within the flight may help reduce aggression among cagemates by providing objects for the birds to hide behind.5 This in turn helps to make the birds feel more secure, and may therefore result in reduced stress levels. Foliage in the cage gives the birds something to occupy themselves with--birds often chew on, play within, and even build nests out of plants placed in their living space.

For this reason, care must be taken when selecting plants to decorate a flight. Both live and fake plants may be used, but all parts of the plant must be safe and nontoxic. The best fake plants to use are constructed of untreated silk and plastic. Make sure the silk plants do not have any components that may be easy for a bird to consume, tangle itself in, get caught on, or stuck by. Treated wood baskets and paper plants may be hazardous choices and are not recommended for decorating flights. Two benefits of using silk plants are: 1) they are not as easily destroyed by the birds, and 2) they can be scrubbed clean and disinfected as needed.

Live plants tend to demand more upkeep and may need to be replaced more frequently, as finches often love to pick them apart. Try to obtain plants that have not been sprayed with any pesticides or chemicals, and be sure to rinse the plants off before placing them in and around the flight. Do not add any fertilizers to the soil (they are toxic);6 if fertilizers are already present in the soil, repot the plant with uncontaminated soil. Leaving each plant in its pot is suggested, in case a plant dies and needs to be removed. Roses (see note below), aspen, grape ivy, buffalo grass, peppermint, spearmint, sword fern, and eucalyptus are just a few examples of nontoxic plants to use in or around the flight cage or aviary. Below is a showcase of just some options for attractive, nontoxic, live plants followed by a brief listing of plants which are or may be toxic. A more comprehensive list of both toxic and nontoxic plants can be found in the Bird Health Links section of this site.

Plants which are generally considered safe.

Bougainvillea Dogwood Tiger Lily
Bougainvillea spp. Cornus spp. Lilium spp.

Boston Fern Marigold Magnolia
Nephrolepsis bostoniensis Tagetes spp. Magnolia spp.

Gardenia Hibiscus Dandelion
Gardenia jasminoides Hibiscs rosa-sinensis Taraxacum officinalis

Petunia Baby's Breath Bird's Nest Fern
Petunia spp. Gypsophila paniculata Asplenium nidus

Creeping Fig Fountain Grass Umbrella Tree
Ficus pumila Pennisetum setaceum Schefflera spp.

Note: Please be aware that roses and bougainvillea have thorns.

Plants which have been reported as toxic in some birds, or which are considered to be potentially toxic.6
Avocado (Persea americana) Black locust (Robina pseudoacacia)
Clematis (Montana rubens) Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
Oleander (Nerium oleander) Philodendron (Philodendron scandens)
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherima) Rhododendron (Rhododendron simsii)
Yew (Taxus media) Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolio)
Bishop's weed (Ammi majus) Blue-green algae (Microcystis aeruginosa)
Burdock (Arctium minus) Camel bush (Trichodesma incanum)
Castor bean (Ricinus communis) Coffee bean (Sesbania drumundii)
Diffenbachia (Diffenbachia sp.) Elephant's ear (Colocasia or alocasia) sp.
Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) Locoweed (Astragalus emoryanus)
Maternity plant (Klanchoe sp.) Milkweed (Asclepias sp.)
Nightshade (Solanum sp.) Oak (Quercus sp.)
Parsley (Petroselinum sativum) Tobacco (Nicotiana sp.)
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