Despite its great ornamental value, pothos is not a safe plant to keep around birds. All Epipremnum and Scindapsus cultivars contain toxic calcium oxalate crystals. They won’t kill your pet bird but can make it severely ill if eaten.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re keeping pothos plants in your home, bird cage, or aviary.
Let’s Explore: Is Pothos Poisonous for Birds?
Pothos or Devil’s Ivy is not safe for pets — including birds such as budgies, parakeets, conures, cockatiels, or any species of parrots.
The sap in the stems and leaves of the pothos plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These sharp crystals can cause painful irritations to the throat and oral cavity, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.
In the case of birds, you may also notice symptoms such as:
- Frequent tongue scratching
- Lethargy or lack of activity
- Ruffled feathers
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to perch
In severe cases, or if your pet bird ate a lot of pothos leaves, this could also lead to complications such as kidney failure and paralysis.
Spotting the early signs of pothos poisoning in birds can be a bit tricky. This is because, unlike cats and dogs, birds don’t exhibit common symptoms such as drooling or swelling of the mouth.
If you notice any signs that your bird is not as lively or active as it usually is, check your pothos plants immediately. Look for torn leaves and stems or any signs that the bird has been pecking the plants.
In summary, yes, pothos plants can be toxic to birds.
Can Eating a Pothos Plant Kill Your Pet Bird?
It’s highly unlikely that your pet bird will die if it eats pothos or Devil’s Ivy. For starters, it will need to eat a significant amount of stems and leaves for the toxins to take effect.
Also, the bitter taste and sharp texture of the calcium oxalate crystals will induce vomiting, which means the plants won’t spend a long time in the bird’s digestive system.
However, eating pothos leaves and stems will harm your bird’s health, especially in smaller bird species.
What To Do if Your Bird Ate a Pothos Plant
Start by identifying how much pothos did your bird eat. Then, check the leaves and stems. Do they only have a few bite marks or scratches? Or is the plant missing several leaves?
Second, try to determine how long it’s been since your bird ate the pothos. If the leaves and stems are still oozing a bit of sap, it’s likely that the bird ate the leaves just an hour or so ago. But if the leaves are already developing dried, yellowing edges, it means that your bird ate the leaves a few hours ago — or worse, more than a day.
Next, call your vet and tell them that your bird accidentally ate some pothos. Tell the vet how much it ingested and how long ago. Also, let them know if the bird exhibits symptoms, such as vomiting, listlessness, or lack of appetite.
If the vet asks you to bring your pet in for a consultation, bring a couple of pothos leaves with you. The vet can identify the plant as toxic and prescribe the proper treatment for your pet bird.
Do Birds Eat Pothos?
Birds do not eat pothos as part of their natural diet. All Epipremnum species developed calcium oxalate crystals as a defensive mechanism.
Their leaves have an unpleasant taste and cause oral irritation, which is usually enough to keep animals away from eating them.
However, pet birds can be curious enough to try and peck the leaves and, in some cases, accidentally eat some of them. Sometimes, they will simply shred the leaves with their beak, which is enough to spread the toxic sap and cause irritations to their tongue and oral cavity.
Are Outdoor Pothos Plants Bad for Birds?
You probably have pothos growing in your garden if you live in a tropical or subtropical region.
Luckily, outdoor birds will not eat this plant. Instead, they will use it to perch and sometimes build a shelter in the vines. But since they won’t use pothos as a source of food, there’s no need to remove this plant from your garden to keep birds safe.
Bird-friendly Alternatives to Pothos
Here is a list of bird-safe hanging and trailing plants that you can use in your birds cage or aviary as an alternative to pothos:
- All Hoya species
- All trailing Peperomia species — including String of Turtles (Peperomia prostrata)
- Baby’s Tears plant (Soleirolia soleirolii)
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
- Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
- Climbing Begonia (Cissus discolor)
- Madagascar Jasmine (Tephanotis floribunda)
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
- String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii)
- String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
- Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus)
Your pet bird may peck at the stems and leaves of these plants, but at least you’ll know that eating them won’t make it sick.
References + Resources
EPIPREMNUM AUREUM (JADE POTHOS): A MULTIPURPOSE PLANT WITH ITS MEDICINAL AND PHARMACOLOGICAL PROPERTIES
ANJU MESHRAM, NIDHI SRIVASTAVA* Toxicity – PDF