Can Cockatiels Eat Onions?

You’ve been chopping onions and turn away for a moment, but when you turn back, you notice how your cockatiel is nibbling on a piece of onion. Is it safe if your cockatiel eats onions? Can cockatiels eat onions?

No, cockatiels cannot eat onions. Onions are quite toxic for cockatiels, and even small amounts could make them ill. If your cockatiel eats enough onions, it could die, so be aware of what foods you leave out on the counter.

Can Cockatiels Eat Onions?

Although seemingly healthy, onions are toxic for cockatiels. Red onions, spring onions, leeks, or shallots—raw or cooked—are bad for a cockatiel’s health.

Onions are unhealthy for cockatiels because they contain lots of sulfur. Although it is beneficial for humans, sulfur is dangerous for cockatiels because it stops them from making healthy red blood cells. As a result, onions cause a blood disease known as anemia and eventually death.

If your cockatiel eats some onions, the effects might not be immediate. However, that doesn’t mean your cockatiel is unharmed, so you should react quickly.

Keep reading to find out more!

Do Cockatiels Like Onions?

Strong scents are offensive to cockatiels. Some cockatiels might not mind the smell of onions, but others might find it unpleasant.

Even though it appears that your cockatiel would enjoy onions, it is best to avoid feeding them. If cockatiels consume onions, they run the risk of poisoning.

In other words, your cockatiel’s health and safety are not contingent on whether or not they love it. Even if cockatiels want to taste onions, you should not feed them. They should not be exposed to onions. Therefore, keep onions away by covering them with aluminum foil.

See Also: Can Cockatiels Eat Avocado?

Why Are Onions Toxic For Cockatiels?

Why Are Onions Toxic For Cockatiels?

According to Science Direct, onions contain numerous sulfur-containing molecules, such as:

  • Alkenyl cysteine sulfoxide
  • Diallyl sulfinate
  • N propyl disulfide

These compounds activate when we chop, peel, and crush the onion.

Do you know those crying sensations you get when chopping an onion? Well, that is caused by the sulfur in the onion. The sulfur stimulates the nerves surrounding your eyes, causing you to shed a tear.

Besides making us cry, sulfur-based compounds are mostly safe for humans but not for cockatiels.

These sulfur-based compounds stop the cockatiel from making hemoglobin, which is a protein found in its red blood cells.

Healthy blood is needed for a healthy bird. So, by weakening the cockatiel’s blood, onions can be considered a very dangerous food.

What Happens If A Cockatiel Eats Onion?

Onions are bad for a cockatiel’s blood system, but what happens when a cockatiel ingests an onion? According to Cab Direct, the cockatiel will probably develop anemia, anisocytosis, or hemolytic anemia.


Anemia essentially occurs when the cockatiel cannot produce enough red blood cells. Do you remember that the sulfur in onions interferes with hemoglobin levels?

Well, since hemoglobin is needed for healthy red blood cells, the sulfur in onions stops the cockatiel from producing enough healthy red blood cells (anemia).

One of the first signs that a cockatiel has been poisoned by onions is that it seems tired and weak. This is because it doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. This effect is like anemia in humans, but anemia in humans is caused by a lack of iron, so the cause is different.


Anisocytosis is characterized by red blood cells of varying diameters. In a healthy cockatiel, red blood cells should be roughly the same size, so anisocytosis is a worrying condition.

Anisocytosis is usually caused by anemia that has not been treated, so it is not a disorder in and of itself. Rather, it’s a progression of cockatiel anemia.

Hemolytic Anemia

If a cockatiel ingests a lot of onions or eats onions over a sustained period, it might develop hemolytic anemia, a serious condition requiring urgent medical attention.

Hemolytic anemia happens when a cockatiel’s red blood cells die faster than its body can make new ones. According to NCBI, symptoms include:

You may also want to read: Can Cockatiels Eat Chocolate?

Are All Parts Of The Onion Toxic?

All parts of the onion are toxic to cockatiels; they should not be allowed to peck at onion plants or play with onion skin. They also cannot be given fried onions, as cooking does not eliminate the sulfur.

As previously stated, peeling and chopping the onion generates additional sulfuric chemicals. So, the onion is most toxic when it has been prepared.

However, onions in any form can be dangerous. Even plants growing in the wild like a wild onion (Allium canadensis) and a Pacific onion (Allium validum) can be toxic to cockatiels.

Can Cockatiels Eat Green Onions?

Green onions are a type of onion that has been picked while it is still young and hasn’t grown the papery skin that other onions have.

Cockatiels cannot eat green onions because they are harmful to them. However, if your cockatiel suddenly ate one, usually it would just cause digestive upset like diarrhea or vomiting.

Can Cockatiels Eat Spring Onions?

Spring onions are a form of green onion with a long, white stem and a milder flavor than other green onion varieties.

Cockatiels cannot eat spring onions because, just like any other kind of onion, they are harmful to them.

Can I Cook Onions Near My Cockatiels?

Since onions are toxic to cockatiels, this begs whether it’s safe to cook them at home.

Cockatiels’ airways are very sensitive, so we know that we should avoid creating fumes that could be harmful.

If you are cooking onions at home, remove your cockatiels from the room and ventilate as you cook. The fumes are unlikely to cause any damage, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Similarly, you should avoid cooking with Tefal-type cookware because the fumes released by these pans can irritate a cockatiel’s airways.

Cockatiels should not be near the kitchen while you are cooking, as they are very sensitive to fumes.

See Also: Can Cockatiels Eat Celery?

What To Do If A Cockatiel Eats Onions?

If your cockatiel accidentally eats some onions, you should call your vet immediately for advice.

There are treatments like oxygen therapy, but your vet will need to look at your cockatiel first before giving you more advice.

As was already said, cockatiels are a little less affected by onions than other pets. This means a relatively small amount of onion may be tolerated on a single occasion.

However, it’s always best to get your vet’s advice if your cockatiel has ingested any onions.


If you want to keep your cockatiel safe, don’t give it any kind of onion or anything else from the Allium family.

Some many other vegetables and fruits can give your cockatiel the same nutritional value as onions without putting it in danger.

The most common symptoms of onion poisoning include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If you think your cockatiel has eaten onions, call your vet immediately.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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