Nandina toxic to birds?

Asked January 25, 2014, 3:31 PM EST

On Jan. 22, 2014, an article appeared in the Beaverton Leader section of the Oregonian concerning the potential toxicity of nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) berries. It was written by Jennifer Nelson, an outreach specialist at the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District. She referred to a recent press release from OSU Extension wildlife specialist, Dana Sanchez, outlining the danger of birds ingesting the berries and being poisoned by cyanide and other alkaloids which produce "highly toxic hydrogen cyanide" causing sudden death. Nandina is wide spread and pervasive in our area. Are studies underway about this issue? Why has there been no other information made public?

Washington County Oregon

1 Response

Although all parts of the Nandina produce toxins, the berries are prompting concern because they are sometimes eaten by fruit-eating birds that don't recognize the non-native plant's chemical risks. The waxwing mortality incident in Georgia prompted study which was reported in the scientific journal Veterinary Medicine International http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005831/
Jerry Davis, a wildlife professional in Arkansas, saw the scientific article and wrote the news brief (which I then shared) in order to raise awareness among people who otherwise wouldn't have seen the article in the Vet Med journal. I know of no ongoing projects in our state, but did share the news release and journal article to our wildlife veterinarian colleagues at Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife. Other information is available on the web. There you'll find articles with advice and concerns for pet owners and owners or managers of plant-eating herbivores that might also have opportunities to consume the leaves or berries of Nandina.