Death by chocolate: a fatal problem for an inquisitive wild parrot

N Z Vet J. 2007 Jun;55(3):149-51. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2007.36759.


Case history: An adult male kea (Nestor notabilis) in good body condition was found dead at Aoraki/Mt Cook Village, in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The bird had previously been involved in behavioural tests of problem-solving ability.

Clinical and pathological findings: The bird had substantial subcutaneous and abdominal reserves of fat. The crop contained 20 g of what appeared to be dark chocolate; a conservative estimate of the dose of methylxanthines ingested by the bird was 250 mg/kg theobromine, 20 mg/kg caffeine and 3 mg/kg theophylline. Histopathological examination revealed acute degenerative changes to hepatocytes, renal tubules, and cerebrocortical neurons.

Diagnosis: Acute combination methylxanthine toxicity after opportunistic ingestion of chocolate.

Clinical relevance: This is the first report of the pathological findings of methylxanthine toxicity in a wild parrot, and illustrates the need to ensure that kea are protected from the toxic by-products of human habitation, and the difficulties in ensuring this against a neophilic, inquisitive and innovative parrot.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Cacao / poisoning*
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage
  • Caffeine / adverse effects
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Male
  • Parrots*
  • Theobromine / administration & dosage
  • Theobromine / adverse effects
  • Theophylline / administration & dosage
  • Theophylline / adverse effects
  • Xanthines / administration & dosage*
  • Xanthines / adverse effects*


  • Xanthines
  • methylxanthine
  • Caffeine
  • Theophylline
  • Theobromine