Because nature has so successfully equipped our avian friends with the ability to conceal illness from their predators, it is often a challenge as well for their caretakers to detect signs of illness. Taking the time to become familiar with your bird’s normal behaviour will alert you to any subtle changes that need to be further investigated. You may even want to secretly observe your bird from a distance because sick birds can be great actors and will sometimes feign wellbeing when they know someone is watching. Keep in mind that that by the time most people notice signs of illness, the bird is already sick – don’t wait in seeking veterinary care.
A healthy bird – is generally calm, yet alert, and will energetically play with its toys and interact with its cage-mates and/or visitors. It will spend time playing with toys and preening itself.
- Lethargy, decreased responsiveness, increased sleepiness or closed eyes, decline in grooming.
- Displays more aggression, or becomes more passive, is harassed by other birds, or displays juvenile behaviour.
- Prolonged or repetitive motions: tail bobbing, trembling, walking in circles, flicking or twitching of the head.
A healthy bird –is strong and stable with good muscle tone, holds its wings at attention, and sits upright with both feet on its perch. It exhibits smooth, lustrous feathers, smooth skin, bright, clear eyes, clear nasal passages, and a symmetric, properly-proportioned beak.
- Abnormal or poor posture, compromised wing position or symmetry, sitting low on the perch or on the cage floor, huddling, head tucked under wing, lameness, weakness or loss of balance.
- Overgrownnails, flaky, crusty, discoloured or ulcerated feet.
- Lost, misshaped, broken feathers or bald spots. Messy, clumped or matted feathers, particularly around the face or tail. Picking, pulling or puffing out of feathers.
- Weight lossas indicated by regular weighing, or excessive prominence of the keel (breast) bone.
- Change in colour or clarity of the eyes, excessive blinking or squinting, scabs or swelling on eyelids. Any discharge from the eyes.
- Inflammation of, or discharge from, the nares, continued sneezing.
- Changes in colour or growth of the beak. Asymmetry, crustiness, scaling or enlargement of tissue surrounding the mouth.
- Anyswelling, growths, abscesses, cysts or tumours.
A healthy bird –breathes easily,may or may not vocalize, eats and drinks regularly, and may leave 30 to 40 droppings per day. Droppings will vary slightly depending on the bird’s diet, but will always contain three parts:whiteurates, clear urine, and faecal matter in shades of green, yellow or brown. (A wise owner will clean the bird’s cage regularly and use plain paper as a liner in order to monitor possible changes.)
- Change in appetite or water consumption, inability to pick up or manipulate food.
- Vomiting, diarrhoea or straining.
- Gasping, clicking, open-mouthed or laboured breathing,wheezing, coughing, or changes in frequency or tone of vocalisation.
- Change in colour, odour, volume or consistency of droppings, absence of urates, continued large amounts of urine, presence of undigested seeds or blood.
A healthy bird is –examined daily by its owner, and taken to the vet at least once per year for physical, blood and faecal exams. If you have ANY question or concern about your bird’s health, consult an avian veterinarian. Should a problem arise, the following comforts will help to minimise your bird’s distress before and during a trip to the vet.
Heat: – A sick bird can become quickly chilled. Keep your avian friend out of drafts and cover the cage if necessary to retain heat. The ideal temperature of 26 to 29 degrees celcius can also be obtained by using heating lamps or pads; however, caution must be taken to monitor the temperature.
Food: – Birds have such a high metabolism that they can quickly become weak and dehydrated if food and water consumption is not maintained. Make sure nutrients are easily accessible, and double check the water bottle to ensure it’s working properly. With your veterinarian’s approval, you might offer comfort foods such as warm cereal, cooked rice, peanut butter or applesauce. Never try to force feed a bird without veterinary assistance