If you ever come across a dump site, chances are there were thousands of crows foraging for food. These birds can eat almost everything that fits in their beaks. Did you know Crows are also some of the most intelligent birds? Crows also have the ability to remember a face. So next time you go throwing stones, be wary of that fact.
Given that crows are always eating from the dumpsite, I got curious whether it’s okay for them to eat chocolate.
So, can crows eat chocolate? Crows should not eat chocolate. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine two substances that are very toxic to birds. Theobromine and caffeine enhance skeletal and cardiac muscle contractility, inhibit cellular receptors, and stimulate the nervous system. The high-fat content of chocolate will cause pancreatitis and gastrointestinal irritation. Crows that eat chocolate will suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, induce tremors and seizures that can lead to death symptoms that will set in within 1-12 hours.
Other foods that crows should not eat include sugary or salted food, avocado, caffeine, fats, fruit pits, and apple seeds, onions and garlic, and xylitol.
What makes chocolate Harmful to Crows?
Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that is very toxic to birds and other animals including dogs and cats. This substance is the main reason chocolate is very harmful to all birds including crows.
So what is theobromine and how does it affect birds?
Well, theobromine is a form of methylxanthine that is one of the alkaloids present in the cocoa plant specifically the cocoa beans.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans after they are processed which means that chocolate has theobromine. Dark chocolate has the highest levels of theobromine compared to white and milk chocolate.
The table below shows the levels of theobromine and caffeine in different types of chocolate. Source
|Compound||Theobromine (mg/oz)||Caffeine (mg/oz)|
|Baker’s unsweetened chocolate||393||47|
|Dry cocoa powder||737||70|
This alkaloid is also found in other plants such as tea leaves and kol nuts, the difference is that it is in higher levels in cocoa plants than these other plants.
While theobromine is perfectly safe for human being, it is lethal to pets such as birds, dogs and cats.
How do Chocolate Affect crows?
Theobromine and caffeine in chocolate affects birds and crows by inhibiting the cellular receptors, and stimulating the central nervous system, they then enhance the skeletal and cardiac muscles contractility. Furthermore, the high levels of fat in chocolate also affecs the gastric system leading to vomiting and diarrhea. In high amounts it will lead to pancreatitis.
While our metabolism system can process theobromine contained in chocolate, tea and coffee plus other caffeinated drinks. Birds including crows cannot process this alkaloid.
Thebromine is classified as diuretic, vasodilator, and stimulant. Given that crows and other birds cannot process it as fast as we humans do, it accumulates in the blood of the crow.
As theobromine accumalates in the blood of the crow it will harm its heart, kidney and nervous system.
Here are the signs and side effects of chocolate poisoning in birds/crows?
- Hyperactive behavior
- heart arrhythmia
- increased body temperature
- increased blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- loose or dark-colored droppings
How much chocolate can kill a crow?
Depending on the type of chocolate that a crow ingest, less than 1 ounce of dark, semi-sweet, Baker’s unsweetened chocolate or dry cocoa powder is enough to kill a Crow.
According to a journal published in the New Zealand Veterinary Journal, a kea parrot ate about 0.7 ounces of dark chocolate, one of the types of chocolate that has a very high level of theobromine, about 130mg/oz of theobromine.
This kea parrot died after eating the dark chocolate, after testing the dark chocolate was reported to have contained about 250mg/kg of theobromine.
This means that even a small amount of chocolate containing theobromine even less than an ounce can be very toxic to birds.
There is no research to show whether birds such as crows that are always scarveging have tolerance to such poisoning.
However, chocolate as small as an ounce can very poisonous to crows and other birds. source
What do you do if a Crow eats chocolate?
Helping a wild crow can be close to impossible since it can be hard for you to catch them to administer the required care. Unless you are in an aviary that happens to have crows and you spot a visitor giving them chocolate.
But if you have a pet crow that happens to eat chocolate, the first step will be to call a vet immediately.
Well, there are circumstances that you may not be able to access a vet immediately especially during the holidays when everyone is taking time of their work or late at night.
In this case you can exercise use the following tips to buy you time before taking your pet crow to the vet.
- Offer crushed charcoal/activated carbon that will help absorb the toxins from your crow’s stomach.
- You should also induce vomiting to get rid of the stomach content and prevent further poisoning
- Offer water to the crow.
- This should buy you time to take the crow to the vet
Otherwise in vet facility they will offer advanced treatments.
Treatment for birds that have eaten chocolate
The treatment adopted is generally determined by the amount of and type of chocolate taken. Based on the table above you can see that different types of chocolate have different levels of theobromine and caffeine.
Treatment is also determined by the time of ingestion as this will help the vet determine how much theobromine has entered into the system of the crow or bird.
The last factor that affects treatment is the cliniccal signs that the bird or crow is exhibiting.
Induced vomiting is the frist line of treatment incase ingestion of chocolate is just recent. Vomiting helps remove the content of the stomach including chocolate ingested to provent it from being absorbed into the system.
In very severe instances, sedation and lavage of the gastric content is administered to remove as much content of the stomach as possible.
Activated charcoal is also given to help remove toxins through binding. If very high amounts of chocolates were injested the bird may need oxygen support, intravenous fluid therapy, intravenous medications to manage abnormal respirations, seizures, and cardiac arrhythmias.
What is safe to feed crows?
Wild crows can most of the kitchen leftv overs as long as they do not have salt, sugar, daily products and chocolate.
For pet crows you can feed the fruits and vegetables, meat, plus pellets meant for other birds, cat and dog food, eggs. The point here is to avoid the toxic foods such as sugary or salted food, avocado, caffeine, fats, fruit pits, and apple seeds, onions and garlic, and xylitol.
Can chocolate kill birds? Chocolate is very harmful and can kill birds within a short time depending on the amount they have ingested. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which increase the heart rate, induces vomiting and diarrhea, causes hyperactivity and death.
Can chocolate kill birds? Teflon fumes from non-stick cooking ware has been known to kill birds instantly.
While you may get away with feeding your pet crow or parrot some chocolate. Chocolate is very poisonous to all birds and you may end up killing your bird in the long run. While it can be hard to prevent crows from eating chocolate the best way is to ensure you do not dump leftover chocolate where crows can easily eat them.
Are you wondering whether crows can help control the population of snakes in your yard or generally whether they eat snakes? We dug deeper into this topic, below we share our research. Do crows...
Are you wondering whether crows can eat small live animals such as rabbits? We did some digging to answer that very question. Do crows eat rabbits? Crows can hunt, kill and eat young, injured...