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The ways to tell if your Pet Bird is Sick
Dr. Don Harris

The key to early detection of illness in pet birds is to learn
to recognize some subtle signs.

"A sick bird is a dead bird," or so the saying goes. The truth
is, however, a sick bird usually only dies if no one notices he's
sick. Veterinary care for birds has reached a point where many
illnesses can be treated effectively – if they are discovered in

It's pretty common knowledge that birds mask illness in an
instinctive attempt to avoid predators. In reality though, birds
are rarely capable of acting perfectly normal in the face of
illness. With most sicknesses, subtle signs are usually
displayed. The key to early detection of illness – and successful
treatment – in pet birds is to learn to recognize some subtle

Behavioral Signs

Two categories of symptoms suggest the presence of a problem –
behavioral signs and physical signs. Behavioral signs consist of
changes in the birds’ routines, such as:

Sleeping later in the morning

Sleeping more during the day


Unusual complacence

Eating more selectively and picking at food

Eating less

Vocalizing less

A change in the character of the voice or hoarseness

Coughing or sneezing

Different breathing pattern

Making unusual sounds when breathing

Physical Signs

Physical signs are those characterized by the appearance of
abnormal physical features including:

Runny nose

Matted eyes

Matted feathers on the face and head


Black stools

Weight loss

Any swelling, perhaps under the eyes or on the legs

Irregular discoloration of the feathers

Fluffed appearance to feathering

Loss of feathers, in concentrated areas or in general

Scaling or crusting of skin

Increased temperature of feet or beak

A change in the white part of the droppings to another color,
such as red, yellow, or green

Nothing takes the place of appropriate laboratory tests in
determining the significance of these signs. Immediate action is
indicated when any of the above – or any other unusual symptom –
is observed. Remember: If a bird is sick, every day that goes by
is a lost opportunity to resolve the problem, and an increased
chance that the condition will reach a point of no return.

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