I cook a lot of dishes that find their origin in the Mediterranean, and this means parsley is a common ingredient in my kitchen and one I often have on hand to spruce up a dish even if the recipe does not call for it. As with many things I cook and eat, I sometimes wonder if the ingredients I use daily to feed myself would be appropriate for animal companions of mine.
Leafy greens tend to be healthy for most people and animals so offering some to your pet, be they mammal or avian, may seem like a good idea. This is not always the case, however, so be sure to either ask your vet if certain foods are safe for your pet or do thorough research on what foods may be appropriate for your pet. As for parsley….
To answer the question plainly, yes. Parsley is safe for your parrot to eat, though if you are looking for something nutritious to feed your feathered friend then there may be better options as parsley has only a handful of nutrients. Parsley also contains oxalic acid, but in minimal quantities. It is best used as a supplement rather than a main course.
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What is parsley?
Parsley is a leafy green vegetable that originates from the eastern and central regions of the Mediterranean world. The plant is what is known as a biennial plant, meaning its full growth cycle is carried out in two years. It is grown now all over the world and has weaved its way into the cuisine of many cultures beyond the Mediterranean. It is most often employed as a garnish for many meals, though it can be used more directly depending on the recipe.
Is parsley toxic to parrots?
In moderate quantities, parsley is safe to feed to your parrot. As mentioned above, however, parsley contains oxalic acid which can be fatal to your parrot in extremely large quantities. A sprig or two of parsley here or there will not cause any negative effects on your bird, but it should never be the main food you are feeding to your parrot. The danger from parsley is minimal.
What nutrients does parsley have?
Parsley has a handful of nutritional benefits, stemming mostly from the vitamins it contains. These are vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K all of which are essential to bird health and make parsley a decent choice to mix into your bird’s food in small quantities if you want to add some more vitamins to their diet. Calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium are also present but in fewer quantities than the aforementioned vitamins.
Vitamin A is an important vitamin to include in your bird’s diet as it aids in keeping their eyes and vision healthy. Maintaining the health and color of a bird’s feathers is another benefit gained from Vitamin A consumption. It is important to make sure your parrot is getting enough Vitamin A in its diet as vitamin A deficiency is the most common Vitamin deficiency experienced by domestic kept parrots.
While not as important as Vitamin A, Vitamin K also contributes to the wellbeing of your parrot. The main function of Vitamin K is to aid in blood clotting, which can aid in healing wounds if your parrot is injured. If you find for some reason that your bird is bleeding excessively then a Vitamin K deficiency may be the culprit. Make sure to check with your vet though as certain infections can lead to increased bleeding as well.
Vitamin C is a broadly used vitamin within a parrot’s body and it serves many functions. It bolsters your bird’s immune system, allowing it to fight off infections more effectively. Vitamin C also works to maintain the health of bone and muscles within the body, with deficiencies leading to weakness within the bird. Another benefit is that Vitamin C regulates blood sugar and serves to reduce blood pressure thus enhancing the heart health of the parrot as well. Stress reduction is also a benefit known to come from Vitamin C consumption. This reduction in stress may also lead to a reduction in destructive behavior or poor mood.
Iron is an important component in the bodily functions of many animals, parrots included. It is essential for the production of a compound known as hemoglobin; the compound responsible for allowing red blood cells to carry oxygen to various points within the body. Without iron our blood cells, as well as your bird’s, would not be able to accomplish this task. Parsley is not the best source of iron for your bird however, with lentils being a better option.
Folate, alongside iron, is a component in the creation of red blood cells. As explained above, red blood cells are essential in the function of most animal’s bodies and thus Folate should not be passed over. Folate is also used in the construction of DNA, as well as being a component in cellular division. Many foods contain folate, so you do not need to depend on parsley to meet your bird’s need for it.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient for bird health and serves a handful of functions within the body. Fostering the healthy growth of bone is one of magnesium’s beneficial aspects, as well as bolstering heart health. It aids in electrolyte transportation, with electrolytes playing a major role in the function of the heart. Magnesium also aids in digesting carbohydrates, and without magnesium a parrot’s health can quickly decline. Magnesium deficiency can even become fatal if left untreated.
Calcium is present in parsley as well, though due to the presence of oxalic acid the calcium gained from parsley is minimal, if any at all. Calcium is most often used within the bones and is a primary part of their construction. Without calcium your bird’s bones can become brittle and may break easily. Calcium is also essential in the function of the heart as an electrolyte, meaning a deficit can prove fatal.
What is oxalic acid?
Occurring naturally in many leafy greens, oxalic acid is a compound that binds to calcium and inhibits the body from absorbing it and making use of it.
Many leafy vegetables contain it, so it is by no means unique to parsley, with plants like spinach or kale also containing safe levels of oxalic acid for you or your bird to consume.
Oxalic acid only prevents calcium absorption from the food it is eaten from and it will not prevent your bird from gaining calcium from other foods.
In fact, the only plant to contain toxic amounts of oxalic acid in a single dose are the leaves from a rhubarb plant.
They are toxic to humans as well, so it certainly is not a good idea to feed rhubarb leaves to your pets.
The key to keeping your parrot safe when it comes to foods containing oxalic acid is moderation.
Parsley is a perfectly good plant to add some extra flavor into a recipe, whether it is for you or for your feathered friend. Just make sure to practice moderation with both parsley as well as other plants that contain oxalic acid, do not make them the staple of your bird’s diet.