Coal mining has always been a dangerous job. In the early days, miners would take canaries into the mines to warn of toxic gas fumes not discernable to humans. Because of their small size and delicate structure, canaries would succumb more quickly to toxic emissions. When the canary stopped singing and fell off its perch, the miners knew it was time to get out. We can still learn an important lesson from canaries, if only we would pay attention.

There are many potential poisons that can be encounted that can be fatal to a Canary, and if not fatal quit debilitating
  • Gases
    • Carbon Monoxide- Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, non-odorous gas that can be fatal. Is usually associated with petrol/diesel engines and poor ventilation and or poor removal of exhaust gases. It can also be emitted from fires and central heating units. Carbon monoxide detectors for the home are available.
    • Carbon Dioxide - Insufficient clean air. When a bird has been left in a confined space around open flame cooking equipment, which can be taking the oxygen.
    • Cooking Gas - Can be fatal if a pilot light goes out and gas is allowed to fill the room.
    • Teflon Poisoning - The gas given off when Teflon is over heated.
    • Cooking Oils - Overheated or burned cooking oil, fats, margarine, butter, and other foods may create dangerous fumes when cooked on any type of surface heated above 260C / 500F. Never heat butter or oil in a pan on HIGH.
    • Fumes - Fumes given off by cleaning agents such as ammonia and other kitchen and bathroom cleaners can cause respiratory distress
    • Pesticides - Pest Strips, Bug bombs, fly spray.
    • Organic compounds and solvents - Such as those found in nail polish remover, mineral spirits, gasoline, glues, paints, and mothballs.
    • Smoke - Cigarette Smoke and smoke from open fires can create long term respiratory damage and susceptibility to bacterium.

  • Compounds & Plants
    • Pesticides and Herbicides as used in farming and horticulture. - When purchasing or collect greens it is essential that they are washed well before giving to your birds. Pesticide residues are particularly dangerous on purchased items and unfortunately can have devastating affects.
    • Zinc - In the processing of galvanised wire, a coating of metallic zinc and zinc-iron alloy layers are bonded metallurgically to the wire. Any remaining zinc can be poisonous - use a brush with Vinegar or a mild acid solution to remove any pieces of loose zinc and to remove the white zinc oxide. Zinc is an accumulative poison so be cautious with new housing until no oxides form.
    • Various Plant Materials - There are a lot off good food plants and a lot which are poisonous. It is better to stick with what you know are safe and to avoid the unknown. green foods.
      If you have a planted aviary it is important that you select non poisonous plants. A reasonable list can be found at If your bird does not eat a new offering immediately consider it may be poisonous.
    • Paints - Flaking paint can be a hazard particularly if it contains lead or zinc. Ensure that any paints used are free of these toxins and remove any flaking paint.
    • Rodenticides - Poisons intended to kill rats and mice are among the most common and deadly of small animal and bird toxins. The excrement from the poisoned animal is also poisonous if eaten by a bird. There are no treatments suitable for canaries when this occurs so keep rodenticides well away from your birds. Remember the poisoned mouse can travel some distance to food and water before dying and this could affect your birds.

This information is extracted directly from the following:
  1. An article on the website published in 2003 by Environmental Working Group, - Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research; Kris Thayer, PhD, Senior Scientist; Jennifer Klein, EWG Chemist
  2. Dr Foster & Smith, Pet - and

Summarised for AFC - 11/6/2009