Recognizing signs of illness in a bird needs extra keen eyes. This is because birds tend to mask their vulnerability as a part of their survival instinct.
Birds in the wild try to avoid being targets of predators by appearing as strong and invincible as they could be. This is survival of the fittest.
Pet birds acquired this instinct from their ancestors who lived in the wild, but it also makes it difficult for their owners to detect whether something is already off.
By the time the birds start showing obvious symptoms, they are more likely to have been sick for quite some time.
Factors that make birds sick:
- Improper diet. An imbalanced diet may lead to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. On the other hand, a balanced diet will ensure higher immunity against illnesses and keep their overall appearance fresh and vibrant. Aside from their regular seeds and pellets, they should also eat fruits and vegetables. A daily dose of vitamins is also needed to boost their immune system.
- Stress. Factors that can make a bird stressed include: not receiving enough attention, environmental changes, changes in daily routine, seeing unfamiliar animals, and being confined in a dark room for a long time.
- Poor upkeep. A well-maintained cage and proper hygiene in birds is a must in keeping them healthy. A birds’ cage should be cleaned and wiped at least twice weekly. Their food and water should be regularly changed to avoid molds and contamination.
- Trauma. Bird trauma includes cuts, wounds, and bumps. If they are not properly addressed, they could cause infection and stress to the bird.
Signs of Illness:
- Fluffed feathers – Birds are meticulous when it comes to maintaining their feathers, so if their feathers appear unkempt, something is wrong.
- Bobbing tail when breathing – Tail bobbing with each breath indicates labored breathing and respiratory / heart problems.
- Changes in appetite – Increased or decreased appetite means that their appetite is affected by the discomfort they are feeling.
- Closed eyes – Birds often sleep with only one eye closed and half their brain awake. This allows their brain to be half asleep (to rest) and half awake (to look out for predators).
- Sleeping excessively – Oversleeping means allowing themselves to be vulnerable, so if they are sleeping excessively, it means that they are being overpowered by their bodies.
- Moist nose – A consistently moist nose is not normal for birds.
- Vomiting or Regurgitating food – If they are unable to keep their food down, they need to be checked immediately.
- Poop stuck in feathers – This is commonly seen on different kinds of illnesses, so it’s best to bring your bird to an avian vet to be examined.
- Changes in poop – Their poop should be odorless and well-digested, but not runny. No traces of undigested food should be seen in their poop.
- Sneezing – Frequent sneezing is a sign that something’s wrong.
- Lethargy – If the bird is disinterested in any kind of activity, is lacking energy, or is not playing the way it used to, it needs to be checked.
- Weight loss – Birds need to be regularly weighed to monitor their weight. If the weight loss is so apparent even without weighing, then your bird is most likely sick.
- Plucked feathers – Plucked feathers can be caused by boredom, parasites, and other problems.
- Blood – Any sign of blood warrants an emergency vet visit.
- Crooked beak/toenails – This is a common symptom of many illnesses. It is best to have your bird examined by an avian vet to have a proper diagnosis.
Birds are often considered low-maintenance pets, but it doesn’t mean that owners can just come and go without giving them enough time and attention.
Their ability to disguise their illness means that bird owners should be extra attentive. They should be familiar with them well enough to know which is considered normal and which is not.