If you have searched this term online you have probably come across contradicting answers. So what is the truth? Can parrots eat tomatoes, or can’t they?
The short and simple answer is yes; they can. Tomatoes can be eaten safely by parrots, but only if given sparingly.
The reason for this is that a tomato has a high level of acidity and, if a parrot is allowed to eat enough of it, the acids from the tomato can cause an upset stomach – or even ulcers, which can be very dangerous. Symptoms may only become apparent several days after ingestion, and may be as severe as the the bird bringing up blood. If this happens, take your parrot to an avian vet immediately.
Green or unripe tomatoes are more acidic than ripe tomatoes. While they can still be eaten by your pet, you should exercise extra care with the size of the portions that you offer, as well as how frequently you offer them to your parrot.
Nightshades Are Deadly
Besides the acid levels in the tomato fruit, another danger is the tomato plant itself. Your parrot should never be allowed to nibble on any part of a tomato plant other than the fruit. That includes the pedicel and sepal, which are the stick and leafy bits that make up the crown at the top of a tomato.
The leaves and stems of tomato plants contain a toxic alkaloid called solanine, which is also found in many parts of the other plants in the nightshade family to which tomatoes belong. Other well-known nightshades are the potato, eggplant and bell pepper plants.
Some symptoms of nightshade poisoning in birds include vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, paralysis or seizures.
It is better to offer your bird tomato that has been cooked. Cooking neutralizes much of the acidity in tomato, making it less likely to cause problems, so giving your parrot a small piece of cooked tomato is a much safer option.
You could also offer your parrot some safe-to-eat foods that have been cooked in sauce made from tomato, such as pasta cooked in a tomato-based sauce. Prepare the sauce without salt if possible.
Commercial tomato purée, tomato paste and ketchup (known as tomato sauce in some countries) are all alternatives to raw tomato. The tomatoes contained in these products are all cooked, so acid levels will be lower than in raw tomatoes.
Some of these products may contain other ingredients that you might not want your parrot to have too much of though, such as added sugars, for example.
Finally, sun-dried tomato is another option to consider, as the drying process reduces the acidity level in the tomato whilst retaining much of its nutritional value.
The downside of sun-dried tomatoes is that their salt content could be as high as 6%, or that sulfur-dioxide is used as a preservative. Sulfur-dioxide is safe for the vast majority of humans, although asthma sufferers seem to be most sensitive to it. The effect on birds is not really well-known, so you might want to keep a close eye on your parrot’s behavior over time if you decide to feed it sun-dried tomato.
Why Should I Feed Tomato To My Parrot?
You might wish to feed tomato to your parrot because it is a reasonably good source of vitamins A, E and K as well as the mineral sodium.
Vitamin A supports good vision, skin health and the immune system, among other things, whereas vitamin K assists the body with blood coagulation and the binding of calcium in bones. Sodium plays a role in regulating the balance of fluids in the body, and is important for the correct functioning of nerves and muscles.
Tomatoes don’t stand alone in being able to provide these nutrients though, and you can substitute tomatoes with other fruits and vegetables to provide the same nutrients for your pet. We have an extensive list of safe foods for African grey parrots that you can explore here on africangreylife.com, and we also provide detailed nutritional information for almost all of the foods on the list.
Another reason that you might want to offer tomato to your parrot is in order to introduce variety to its diet. Over time, parrots can become bored with always eating the same foods, and would often welcome some change.
A third reason for offering tomato to your parrot is that your parrot likes the taste and enjoys eating it.
Our own African grey appears to be indifferent to the taste of the raw tomato fruit; he’s shown no interest in it whenever we’ve offered it to him. On the other hand, when offered potato or spaghetti which had been cooked in tomato-based sauces, he devours them eagerly.
Your bird’s tastes won’t necessarily mirror those of our grey though, and your experience could be altogether different to ours. Just as their personalities differ from one parrot to the next, so do their food preferences.
How Much Tomato Is Safe To Eat?
In all cases, whether you offer your bird tomato in raw or cooked form, we recommend that it be offered more as a treat, and never as part of its regular diet.
For a full-sized adult African grey we suggest that no more than 1 quarter of a cooked, thumb-sized cherry tomato be offered to your parrot at a time, and not more frequently than once every week or two.
As a rule, you should always monitor your parrot’s stool and general behavior for deviations that may have been caused by something that it has eaten, and you should certainly observe your parrot closely for several days after it has eaten tomato.
I hope that you found this post useful. If you have ever fed tomato to a parrot, or even another bird, why don’t you leave a comment below to tell us about it? We’re really keen to hear about the experiences of others and also welcome your questions and suggestions.