[Tweeters] Is Cinnamon Harmful to Birds?

festuca at comcast.net festuca at comcast.net
Fri Jul 6 08:55:59 PDT 2018

Michelle wrote: "I accidentally mixed cinnamon in with my birdseed this morning instead of pepper. It smells nice. Since I use rather expensive birdseed I'd rather not throw it out, so I'd like to know if it can harm the birds. I don't want to test it to find out."

Hi Michelle,

Your query made me realize that I had no idea, so I let my fingers do the walking through the information (and mis-information) to be found on the inter-webs.

Most of the pet health and nutrition and wild-bird pages don't address cinnamon. One chat group (Precisely Parrots https://www.preciselyparrots.com/showthread.php?6315-ALERT-Caution-Required-Concerning-Variety-of-Cinnamon-Sticks-Offered-to-Birds ) did have this message:

We've seen many people lately posting about offering their parrots cinnamon sticks, and for the most part, pictures of those sticks (or quills) have been of the cheaper and toxic variety, cassia cinnamon. These SHOULD NOT be offered to ANY pet due to the very high levels of the toxin coumarin. Cassia quills are only suitable for making your home smell nice, NOT given as enrichment for your parrot. Coumarin is heavily documented as being highly toxic to both our liver and kidneys, but also many species of cold and warm blooded animals, including birds. ***Edited to add*** There have been some queries concerning scientific evidence behind this graphic - as with everything of an educational nature which we post on this page, thorough research is done to ensure the information is both accurate and up to date. For those interested in the factual content behind this, we offer the following references:

There is a significant amount of pertinent scientific evidence - coumarin is WELL documented as toxic to various species, but here are some very specific studies and quotes for very reputable sources concerning avian toxicity:

Harrison GJ: Toxicology. In Harrison GJ, Harrison LR (eds): Clinical Avian Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia, WB Saunders Co, (1986), pp 491-499.
Lists Courmarin as toxic, with the potential toxic effect of fatal hemorrhage.

Yuassa N, et al: Isolation and some characteristics of an agent inducing anemia in chicks. Avian Dis 23:366-385, (1978)
Coumarin used as an agent causing coagulopathy through depletion of vitamin K in the liver.

Terry W. Campbell in his academic text "Exotic Animal Hematology and Cytology" 4th Edition (2015) notes that 'Coagulopathies are usually acquired and are often associated with toxicities such as aflatoxicosis or coumarin poisoning, or with severe liver diseases such as papovavirus infections.'

That got me looking at what "cinnamon" is. There are four types of cinnamon, but two are the most popular and most commonly used: Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Not to worry, I didn't know that either.

Cassia cinnamon is found and produced in Indonesia. It has a stronger smell and sharper flavor of the two types and it is less expensive than Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia, the less expensive kind, is the variety is what we usually find in grocery stores to put on oatmeal or bake into our cinnamon toast. The more expensive Ceylon cinnamon, mostly produced in Sri Lanka, has a less pungent aroma and a sweeter flavor than Cassia cinnamon. It's popular for baked items such as sweet rolls, and is best used in coffee or hot chocolate.

Due to the blood-thinning component coumarin, which could damage the liver if taken in huge amounts, European health agencies have warned against consuming high amounts of cassia. Other bioactive compounds found in the bark, powder and essential oils of C. cassia are cinnamaldehyde and styrene. In high doses these substances can also be toxic for humans.

Long story short, it doesn't seem that having a little cinnamon in the birds' (or our) diets will cause any issues. If I had a $1,500 African Grey Parrot, I wouldn't leave a cinnamon stick in his cage, but a little cinnamon in the bird feed shouldn't hurt them.

Hope this helps,

- Jon. Anderson

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