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Is Cypress Safe For Birds?

Is Cypress Safe For Birds

Cypress is a common term used to refer to a variety of coniferous shrubs or trees. They thrive in northern temperate regions and can be found in different forms around the world.

Some plant species commonly classified as cypress include Pond, Bald and Montezuma cypresses which are native to North America, African cypress which is native to Southern Africa and Cordilleran cypress which is native to Argentina and Chile. The Chinese swamp cypress is native to Vietnam.

There are many plants which are considered toxic to birds. For some it is the entire plant and for others only some parts are toxic while others are safe. When toxic parts are consumed, typical symptoms are gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea.

Cypress seeds are a favorite food for many birds and the tree is useful in several other ways.

Is Cypress Safe For Birds?

Let’s take a closer look at the Bald Cypress which is native to North America. This tree is at home in swampy areas though it does thrive in drier regions. It produces triangular seeds which are hidden in round cones. When the cones are first produced, they are solid and green in color but later turn brown and open to release seeds when they are mature.

Cypress seeds are a favorite food for songbirds, wood ducks, wild turkey, evening grosbeak and wading birds. Like many other seeds, cypress seeds are a rich source of amino acids as well as minerals like magnesium, selenium, zinc, phosphorous and calcium.

Domes created by bald cypress trees provide watering places for a wide variety of bird species. These are also perfect nesting sites for ospreys, bald eagles, egrets and herons.

When it comes to selecting appropriate wood for perches and toys for pet birds, cypress doesn’t feature in the list of unsafe wood. It would be reasonable to assume that it would be harmless to birds. The most important detail to look out for is presence of pesticides and other chemical toxins in the wood.

To be completely certain that the wood you are using for your birds is safe, experts’ advice is to wash all wood in a bleach solution. This should then be followed by thorough rinsing. If you have small branches, bake them in the oven for about 1 hour at 250. If the branches are large, dry them in direct sun until completely dry. Also look out for moldy wood because mold is poisonous for birds.

Perches and Toys for Pet Birds

Perches and bird toys are generally made of wood. It goes without saying that it is important to select bird safe wood to keep your pet well and healthy.

Parrots, for instance, love to chew on wood. Chewing and destroying wood satisfies an instinctual need while chomping and gnawing helps them to exercise their jaw and trim their beaks. Gnawing, chewing and chomping is actually very comforting for the bird.

Wood toys for birds are available in different sizes. Smaller birds do better with smaller toys and vice versa for bigger birds. Wood density is another consideration. Smaller birds enjoy toys made from softer types of wood because this is what gives them the physical and emotional satisfaction the toy is supposed to provide. Larger birds have more powerful jaws so they enjoy larger pieces of wood made from denser wood.

If you are going out to buy a wood bird toy for your bird, here is a brief guide on how soft or hard common wood types are.

Java wood, Manzanita and Ribbon wood have high densities so are extremely hard woods. These are ideal for large birds. Dragon wood and Birch are relatively hard. Poplar, Basswood, Cholla and Balsa have very low densities which makes them extremely soft woods. These are ideal for wood toys for small birds. Elm, Maple, Apple and Walnut woods have moderate densities.

Even with this information, there is still need for caution. Always purchase wood toys from reputable sellers because even bird-safe wood could have been treated with preservatives or chemicals which are harmful to birds. Reputable sellers and experienced dealers will make sure your bird is completely safe.

Other Benefits of Cypress

Many bird lovers have found the cypress tree to provide other benefits, besides food. The Leyland cypress tree for instance, provides birds with protection from predators such as roadrunners and hawks. They can also hide in this tree when temperatures are extremely high. It naturally grows with its branches close together therefore forming a dense pyramidal outline which small birds soon learn is a place of refuge when they are under attack.

This tree can also grow into a live barrier to keep birds in and your nosy neighbors out. It can grow up to 60 feet tall and stretch out to a diameter of up to 15 feet. It is a fast-growing evergreen with fine feathery needle-like leaves which grow on flattened branches. When the tree is fully mature the needles turn a dark blue-green color which adds to the beauty of your yard. Leyland cypress trees thrive in USDA growing zones 6 -10.

If you are thinking about planting some Leyland cypress trees in your yard, you can do so any time of the year other than winter. Select a sunny part of the yard with well-draining soil with a pH anywhere between 5.0 and 8.0. To achieve a tall hedge or screen, space them about 10 feet apart.

Toxic Plants for Pet Birds

There is a wide variety of plants which are poisonous to birds. A quick search online will reveal seemingly endless lists of toxic plants for birds. For some plants, it is the entire plant which is poisonous but in most only some parts are safe for consumption.

All parts of the Calla lily for example, are toxic to birds. Oxalates in the plant cause difficulty swallowing, vomiting and oral irritation in birds. Eggplant is also listed as a toxic plant for birds. However, it is important to note that it is the stem, sprouts and leaves which are poisonous because of a substance known as Solanine. It causes diarrhea, vomiting, labored breathing, dilated pupils and in severe cases seizures and paralysis. The fruits are perfectly safe.

Toxicity of a plant for birds depends on

  • The individual plant
  • How much the bird ingests in relation to its body size
  • The specific species of the bird.

There are notable differences in reactions depending on the species of the bird. However, most available listings give information on toxic plants for all birds.


There are many different types of cypress trees. The bald cypress which is native to North America is what is well-known and most recognizable in America. Cypress seeds are safe for birds and are a favorite for birds which live near swamps and other water bodies.

Bird food is not the only benefit we can get from cypress trees. Their dense outline makes them a safe haven for birds when they are trying to get away from predators.

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William Sander
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