Signs of a sick bird/how to know when they need an avian vet


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Jan 7, 2022
South Africa
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Pippen(?)Lutino cockatiel
Being able to tell if your bird is sick can save their lives. As prey animals, they need to be able to hide their illnesses, because if they look vulnerable, they are more likely to be hunted by predators. If you notice that your bird is ill, please try to get them to an avian vet as soon as possible. Yes, an avian vet, as a normal dog/cat vet can not successfully diagnose your bird, while an avian vet can. If there is REALLY no avian vet in your country/area, try looking for an exotic vet that can treat birds. It's not the best but they'll be better than a dog/cat vet.(NOTE!!: I am NOT an avian vet and I can't diagnose your bird's illnesses. if you are worried about your bird, please, PLEASE contact an avian vet instead of me. I am just a person who does a lot of research and knows a lot about birds)

  1. observe their behavior

    If a bird is unwell they most likely will have a sudden change in behavior.
    If this happens, talk to your avian vet about it.

  2. Observe their poop

    how their poop looks will depend on their diet, health, and species.

    typically(depends on species), birds poop every 10-20min.

    If your bird had just had fruits, their poops might take on the colour of the fruit, and if your bird just had a lot of water(example: it was a very hot day and they drank a lot or they had a bath and drank the water).

    Birds might also have coloured poops if they have coloured pellets in their diet(I'd also recommend feeding them more natural pellets)

    Lorikeets tend to have watery poops as they eat a lot of fruits/nectar.

    You should monitor their poops AFTER their first morning poop as it almost always looks different.

    When you are checking their poops do so RIGHT AFTER they pooped otherwise it'll get dry and shrivel up, giving you inaccurate observations.

    Stress can also have an effect on how the poop looks. Get to know what your bird's normal poops look like.

    poops will have three parts:

    Feces(the solid, worm-like part)
    Urates(the white part)
    Urine(the watery part)

    (it should be uniform in shape.)

    Contact your avian vet if you notice the following:

    diarrhea or if poops look watery or splotchy(can mean they ate spoiled food, stress, fungal/bacterial infections, parasites, or from being on anti-biotics)

    bright red poop not related to food/diet or poop with blood(means bleeding near the cloaca (aka vent)

    partially digested food in poop(can be a sign of viral infection/parasites)

    smelly poop(can be a sign of infections/intestinal problems)

    foamy or bubbly poop(can be a sign of bacterial infections/gastrointestinal problems)

    only urine and urates or less feces(can mean your bird hasn't eaten, or if belly looks swollen it could be a blockage)

    Increased watery poops not related to diet/consuming more water/watery foods(could be an infection, kidney/liver disease, diabetes, etc.)

    Black or tarry poop not related to food/diet(internal bleeding)

    Bright green/yellow poop(can be liver disease(which is most likely related to bad diet)/bacterial infection)

    brown/red urine and/or urates(metal poisoning/internal bleeding)​
  3. weigh your bird

    a bird's weight depends from the bird itself as well as different species. If your bird loses more than 10% of its weight, get them to an avian vet as soon as possible. It's best to weigh them first thing in the morning (using a gram scale) after their morning poop and before they've eaten anything to find out their average weight, do so for a few days to find out, then weigh them at least once a month, but it's recommended to do so once a day/week, to pick up changes much easier.

  4. Physical signs of illness

    If your bird shows these following signs, they could be in SERIOUS danger:



    lack of energy/alertness

    sleeping all/most of the day

    puffing up most of the day

    eyes are fully/half closed most of the time

    bird is at the bottom of the cage most of the time(this doesn't apply to bird that have been in your care for only a few days or very young birds)

    droopy wings

    bad posture

    heavy tail bobbing/a tail pointing downwards that is not aligned with back

    Poorly preened/plucked or barbered feathers(feather plucking/barbering can also indicate anxiety, depression, or boredom)

    excessive sneezing/discharge around the nose not related to having something in their nose

    open beak breathing/ wheezing/squeaking sounds while breathing

    not eating/loss of appetite

    Vomiting(not regurgitating. regurgitating is a hormonal behavior, example: regurgitating to their mate/toy/you)

    Panting that is not related to hot weather/having flown a lot

    Discharge around eyes/ears

    Swollen body parts

    crusty skin(can be a sign of mites!!)

    exercise intolerance(if your bird was happy flying around/exercising and suddenly doesn't want to)

    dull/abnormal feathers(more info here:

    Very long beak/nail growing very fast/very long nails

    bleeding/bumps/lumps/wounds(if you see any of this get them to a vet IMMEDIATELY or as soon as you can(if "immediately" isn't an option)

    Epilepsy or seizures

    and many, MANY more.

    Thanks for reading this and I hope it helps you!☺️ Here are some more videos to help:

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Well-known member
Parrot of the Month 🏆
Aug 30, 2021
Indiana, USA
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Another great thread, Pippentiel! Thanks! This will be very helpful for anyone new to birds!

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