As long as aluminum is not galvanized (coated with a layer of zinc), it is safe for birds. The primary threat that unsafe metals pose to birds is toxicity after rusting. Since aluminum does not rust, it does not pose the same threat to birds as other rusting metals.
What You'll Learn
When exposing birds to materials via birdhouses, cages, or feeders, it is important to consider which materials are safe for birds. Much of this safety will be related to the material’s finish and treatment and what happens to the material when it is allowed to age and oxidize.
Many metals are toxic to birds, but aluminum will generally be a safe material. However, for birdhouses, metals can be harmful because of their low insulation, shininess, and ability to heat up in the sun.
Why Aluminum Isn’t Toxic
Aluminum is a metal that doesn’t rust. Instead, it corrodes, meaning that when exposed to oxygen for a long time, it oxidizes and produces aluminum oxide.
Aluminum oxide is a gray powder that will appear on the aluminum of the birdcage or feeder, and it poses no threat to birds. Though not particularly nutritious, aluminum oxide is safe to ingest and will not harm a bird’s digestive system.
Aluminum is a very cheap metal because it is the most common metal on the planet, which is why it’s very convenient that aluminum is safe for birds!
If you want to buy a birdcage, a birdhouse, or a bird feeder, any aluminum structure will be cost-effective and safe for pet birds and natural wildlife.
As the product ages and is exposed to oxygen, you won’t need to worry about the metal. Keep the surface clean to protect from other bacteria and toxins that may take up residence there.
Potential Issue With Aluminum
If you want to buy an aluminum birdhouse, consider that aluminum may be problematic in the hotter months.
In the summer (and maybe even spring) heat, any metal that will heat up may be unpleasant and unsafe for birds. Additionally, the shiny quality of the metal may alert predators to the presence of the birds, putting them at a higher risk of being preyed on.
Aluminum is great for indoor bird cages and bird feeders, but any metal birdhouse may be unsafe or unpleasant for outdoor birds.
Why Birds Encounter Metals
It’s important to be aware of the many ways birds may come into contact with different metals because the metals they encounter will reveal the threats presented to these creatures.
The most obvious of these encounters are cages, houses, and feeders. These structures are built for birds to spend a lot of time in, and therefore, the materials used to construct them must be safe for birds.
Other instances of interaction with metals could be toys and a bird’s general environment. If birds commonly inhabit your front or backyard, they could come into contact with any of the metals present there.
If those metals are liable to rust or house toxic bacteria, it’s possible that these metals could pose a threat to birds.
Similarly, if you are giving a bird toys, consider the materials used to produce the toy. If any metal that is galvanized with zinc or capable of rusting was used in the production (not to mention carcinogenic plastics), that toy could be harmful to the bird.
Why Other Metals May Be Unsafe
Birds need a small amount of zinc to live, but exposure to galvanized metals can cause birds to have an unhealthy buildup of zinc. Birds may pick at these metals and accumulate zinc in their liver, kidneys, and other internal organs.
High zinc levels are toxic to birds and can cause many severe symptoms, such as urine in droppings, high thirst, seizures, weight loss, and weakness. This is why it is crucial to avoid exposing birds to galvanized steel and iron.
Similar to zinc, rust is highly toxic to birds. Rust is a substance produced when iron is oxidized or exposed to oxygen for an extended time.
Rust can house bacteria that can be dangerous for birds and can also cause dangerously high levels of iron in the bird’s blood and digestive system. The symptoms of heavy metal poisoning in birds, which can be caused by ingesting rust, are very similar to the symptoms of zinc toxicosis.
Some other metals are toxic to birds. Typically, heavy metals pose a toxicity threat. Besides zinc and iron, you should be wary of lead, copper, and mercury.
Before purchasing any bird product that includes metal, be sure to research the metal to learn if it rusts, is galvanized, or is toxic to birds. Aluminum will be a safe choice, so long as it is nickel-plated rather than galvanized.
You should not depend on a bird’s need for zinc or iron to protect them from ingesting some zinc or rust. Most birds are small creatures that should not be exposed to an increased level of these metals.
With an awareness that aluminum poses no chemical threat to birds, it is clear that aluminum cages and feeders are a great option for birds. However, considering the problem of heat and predators posed by aluminum birdhouses, it is worthwhile to consider other substances that are safe for birds besides aluminum.
Just like metals, plastic can heat up in the sun and pose a threat to birds’ livelihood. Some plastics also carry carcinogens and can be toxic.
When building or buying a birdhouse, it is best to use wood. Wood is non-toxic, cheap, and insulates the nest better than metal or plastic. Wood won’t shine like metal, making it safer because it will protect against predators and won’t heat up in the sun.
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.