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Is this plant safe?

Expert Question

Recently we had a new conservatory built with a glass,self-clean roof. Our birds have been moved into new cages and now live in it. Both my Blue-fronted Amazon parrot (Manitou) and the pair of Lovebirds are so much happier and more active than before.

We purchased two Palms (Cycas revoluta ‘Sago Palm’) after checking their suitability. Since then I have noticed on the computer that the Sago palm is poisonous to humans and animals.

Would you kindly confirm that this does not apply to my parrot as both He and the Lovebirds will have direct contact with these plants when they are free in the conservatory.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely
S Mylam

Expert Answer

Dear S. Mylam: What you refer to by the common name ‘Sago’ Palm is in fact not a true palm at all (common greenhouse names can be confusing!) but is a member of the cycad family and related to the gymnosperms like ginkgo and the pines.

You are correct that this plant is not safe for livestock, pets, or humans and should not be in your planted aviary.

Though ‘sago’ palms produce edible starch, their pith must be processed to remove toxins before being safe to consume.

I would recommend replacing it with a small clumping bamboo, maybe a cluster palm like ‘areca’, or perhaps a mulberry tree so your birds could eat the fruits.

Cheers, EB

EB Cravens
About EB Cravens

“If we TRULY believe our captive-raised hookbills are important to world parrot conservation, we must work ceaselessly to ensure that these same psittacines retain as much of their wild instinctual behavior as is possible,” affirms avicultural writer and hobby breeder EB Cravens, from his small organic farm on the slopes of the Big Island Hawaii.

“Our goal is to birth and raise only a few baby parrots who know that they are parrots, but choose to befriend humans, because humans are nice to them… feed them… and are fun to be with!”

EB has bred, trained, raised, kept and rehabilitated more than 75 species of psittacines during the past twenty plus years both at his home and while managing the notable exotic bird shoppe, Feathered Friends of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His emphasis on natural environments for birds, the urging of babies to fully fledge during the extended weaning process, and the leaving of chicks for many weeks inside the nest box with their parents in order that they may learn the many intangibles of their species, have succeeded in changing for the better the lives of so many captive parrots.

A science writer by training, he was for years a regular contributor for AFA’s Watchbird Magazine and the Companion Parrot Quarterly. EB currently writes a monthly column entitled “The Complete Psittacine” in PARROTS Magazine out of England; and another, “The Hookbill Hobbyist” down under in the well-regarded Australian Birdkeeper. His monthly series of articles “Birdkeeping Naturally,” is sent out to bird clubs and individuals around the U.S.

“As devastating pressures continue upon avian species in the wilds,” he says, “it is critical that those keeping birds in captivity do so with responsibility and foresight.”