I just bought a big bag of Almonds the other day (they were delicious by the way), and it got me thinking – can parrots eat almonds too?
Of course, given that I am the type of person that can never let anything go, I started thinking more and more about it until finally I decided to do some research and find out for sure.
What did I learn?
The answer to this question, yes parrots can eat Almonds. After doing lots of research, I learned that almonds are fine to give to parrots as a tasty treat, but shouldn’t be given too often due to their high fat content.
Of course, there are restrictions when it comes to what types of almonds you can feed your parrot.
For example, it’s extremely important that you only give your parrot sweet almonds.
Because bitter almonds are toxic to your parrot and can be fatal.
And remember – although the fats in nuts are healthy fats, too much of anything can be a bad thing.
One to three store bought sweet almonds per day as a treat should be fine.
Sweet vs. Bitter Almonds
The type of almond you get depends on the type of almond tree that it comes from, and there are two different types of almonds; sweet and bitter.
The Prunus Amydalus var. Dulcis is the tree that produces sweet almonds.
This type of almond is safe for your parrot to eat.
The Prunus Amygdalus var. Amara is the tree that produces bitter almonds.
This type of almond is not safe for your parrot to eat, and can be both toxic and fatal if ingested.
Why? Because bitter almonds contain something known as Hydrogen Cyanide.
Not only can this substance be fatal to parrots, but it can also be fatal to humans!
So how do you know if you are getting a sweet or bitter almond?
Luckily, most stores do not sell bitter almonds (for the main reason that they can be so toxic).
So if you are buying your almonds from a store, chances are you are buying sweet almonds, which are completely safe for both you and your parrot.
How many bitter almonds does it take to be fatal for a parrot?
Let’s talk a little more about bitter almonds.
Bitter almond is basically another way of saying “raw” almond.
Raw almonds contain something called Glycoside Amygalin which turns into Hydrogen Cyanide.
Interesting fact: Hydrogen Cyanide was actually the pesticide that was used within Nazi gas chambers to kill thousands of innocent people.
As you can imagine, any chemical that was used in warfare probably isn’t safe to eat.
Each bitter almond produces approximately 4-9mg of hydrogen cyanide once eaten.
For a human, it only takes 100-200 mg of cyanide to be deadly.
This means as little as 10 raw almonds is enough to kill a human.
As you can imagine, if it only takes 10 bitter almonds to kill a human, it would take much less to kill a bird.
Because they are much smaller than humans, it would only take one raw almond to be fatal to your parrot – so just because you come across an almond tree, doesn’t mean you should eat the almonds!
Are Bitter Almonds Illegal/Banned in the United States?
Though bitter almond was once used in folk medicine as a method of fighting against cancer, it is now banned in the United States due to its high cyanide content.
Despite this fact, many people still believe it can be used to treat coughs, muscle spasms, itching, pain, and other conditions, though the effectiveness has never actually been proven.
Despite these beliefs, you would have a very difficult time finding raw almonds in the United States as they are illegal and cannot be sold in stores.
If you are buying almonds in-store, you are buying sweet almonds.
If you were to travel to Europe, however, you may find a different set of circumstances.
Because bitter almonds lose their toxicity when they are cooked, they are actually sold in many pharmacies around Europe, with specific popularity in Germany.
Here, bitter almonds are a common ingredient in Christmas fruitcake.
They are also commonly used to make marzipan, cookies, and sweet syrup in other parts of Europe.
What should I do if my parrot has eaten a bitter almond?
If your bird has eaten a bitter almond, the best course of action is to take them to the veterinarian immediately.
As mentioned above, it only takes one bitter almond to kill a parrot, so treatment is required right away.
Because bitter almonds can become toxic in a matter of minutes, the best course of action is to avoid having them in your house at all.
How should you feed almonds to your parrot?
Though the toxicity of bitter almonds can be removed when cooked, I don’t recommend feeding them to your parrot.
Unless you are experienced in cooking raw almonds, you always run the risk of undercooking them, or not properly processing them, which could put your parrot at risk.
Instead, just buy almonds from the store.
Here you can be certain that you are getting sweet almonds, which are completely safe for both you and your parrot to eat.
But how do you feed almonds to your parrot?
Shelled or deshelled?
The answer to this question really comes down to personal preference.
Some people like to give their parrots fully shelled almonds, but I personally like to take the shell off.
Chopped or whole?
Again, this really comes down to personal preference.
Parrots can eat whole almonds, but I prefer to chop them up just to prevent any potential choking hazards.
Sometimes I will also use them within a homemade chop mix with other nuts, fruits, or vegetables.
What fat do Almonds Contain?
Almonds contain a high level of fats – but the healthy types of fats.
More specifically, they are full of Omega 3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids are essential to the health of parrots, especially to those in captivity.
To be more precise, Omega 3 fatty acids can help to prevent a disease known as Atherosclerosis, which is relatively common among birds in captivity.
Atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries, has been linked to numerous environmental concerns such as poor diets (or diets that are high in fat and cholesterol) or lack of exercise.
But by inhibiting inflammation within the blood vessels and reducing plaque formation, Omega 3 fatty acids can help to prevent Atherosclerosis in your parrot.
What happens if you feed your parrot more than 1-3 nuts per day?
Almonds do contain fats that are healthy for your bird, but only in moderation.
Like anything else, there is such a thing as too much fat (even if they are the healthy kind).
If your parrot’s diet is too high in fat, this can lead to rapid weight gain.
Not only that, but too much fat can lead to a condition called Hepatic Lipidosis.
Parrots store their fat in their liver.
But when the liver cells become oversaturated with fat, they can no longer function properly.
Over time, this leads to damaged liver functioning, which may be reduced to the point of extreme illness or even death.
A parrot suffering from Hepatic Lipidosis may also suffer from loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, diarrhoea, and even seizures or tremors.
In conclusion, yes, parrots can eat almonds, but it’s important to make sure that they are sweet almonds – not bitter.
Bitter almonds are considered highly toxic to both humans and parrots, and it only takes one bitter almond to have fatal consequences for your bird.
Always take precautions when feeding your parrot almonds, but rest assured that if you are buying your almonds in a US store, you’re getting the sweet, safe kind – not the raw, toxic kind.