In years past, caged canaries were used to warn coal miners (by becoming lethargic and/or deceased) that oxygen levels were dropping or toxic fume levels were rising – so much so that the term Canary in the Coal Mine now enjoys popular usage is applied to many situations. Canaries and other birds are extremely sensitive to airborne hazards – useful to miners but troubling to pet owners.
The most commonly encountered fumes likely to cause problems in the average household arise from the materials used to treat non-stick cookware – Teflon and similar products applied to pans, toasters, irons and the like. When over-heated, these coatings release gasses that, while seemingly harmless to humans and furry pets, can kill birds.
Move your bird to a safe area when cooking or using an oven in self-cleaning mode, and try not to burn anything (good advice in general!). Good ventilation is an important safety measure, but may not be enough in some situations.
Aerosol cookware coatings are also dangerous to birds if overheated. Other products to avoid using around your feathered friends are air fresheners, general cleaning products, insecticides and cigarettes (most will be safe once dried and cleared from the air by time and ventilation). A number of insecticides are marketed as “pet safe” – these are usually formulations of Precor, Pyrethrin or Fenoxycarb – but it is best to wait until they have dried before returning your pet to treated areas.
Additional information on airborne and other hazards pet birds may face is posted at: