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Bringing Your New Bird Home

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Bringing Your New Bird Home

Post by Donna » Thu Feb 01, 2007 5:07 pm



1. Is the environment bird friendly?

In other words are there other animals in the house which may pose a threat to the bird? This may happen unexpectedly if acurrent pet feels displaced by the bird. If unaccustomed, children and other animals may cause stress to the bird.

2. Have you educated yourself on the dangers of common household hazards?

There are many hazards in your house that you may not realize are dangerous. Such as odor – removing and scented candles, newly purchased products that might emit Teflon fumes, etc.

3. Do you have the equipment you need at home?

Do you have a suitable cage? Minimum size of 20” X 20”. (Bigger is better) Do you have the food you have selected to feed you bird? If you are changing the diet the bird is familiar with then be sure to have on hand some of the old diet. Slowly convert the bird to the new diet by mixing the two foods together until the bird is obviously eating the new diet.

4. Have you made an appointment with an AVIAN Veterinarian? (optional)

You can make an appointment with an avian vet to have your bird well checked. Most breeders give a guarantee with your bird and this will reassure you that your bird is healthy.

5. Do you have something adequate to pick your bird up in?

Make sure you have a proper carrier. It’s less stressful on the bird (and you) if the bird has a carrier to go home in. You will need the carrier later if your bird needs to go to the vet. Kennel cabs are great, as are critter carriers. These all come in various sizes.

6. Have you thought this through?

Make sure you have taken the time to consider your decision to be a bird owner seriously. Birds need attention; they make noise and require care. If you and your family are away frequently this may not be the right pet for you. Birds cannot be left alone without care. They must have fresh water and food daily. Dirty water breeds bacteria that will make your bird ill. Boarding the bird is an option but causes stress to the bird.

Birds can be a great source of pleasure. Hopefully you are well prepared for your new bird and will enjoy many years together.

By Stewart A. Metz, M.D.

1. GET TO KNOW ABOUT PARROTS BEFORE YOU BRING ME HOME. I am not a domesticated pet like a dog or cat. I still have the spirit of the jungle in me. I have special needs, which you may find it hard to fill. Please don’t learn these too late for my well being. Please don’t acquire one of my cousins wild from the jungle. It will jeopardize his survival and well being and that won’t be a party for either one of us.

2. GIVE ME THE LARGEST HOME POSSIBLE. I am used to flying through rainforests or savannas. I have given up this great gift for your pleasure. At the very least, give me enough room to flap my wings and exercise. I need toys for my amusement and wood to chew – otherwise, I might confuse your home with the forest and its trees.

3. GIVE ME A NUTRITIOUS DIET. I need a wide variety of fresh and nutritious foods, even if they take time to prepare. I cannot survive on seeds alone. Take time to learn what my needs and preferences are.

4. LET ME HAVE A “SOCIAL LIFE”. I am a gregarious flock animal – but I am not one of you. I need lots of socialization to learn how to act with you, and with my siblings. I also need to have adequate quality time with you every day – no matter what your schedule or other needs are. I am a living feeling creature. Above all, I need to be able to have complete trust in you and count on your predictability in looking after me.

5. LET ME BE CLEAN. I may like to drop food or even throw it, but I need meticulous cleanliness to be healthy. My skin itches without frequent showers, the barbs of my feathers won’t seal if they become oily and worst of all, I may become ill if my food or water is not always sanitary.

6. I NEED MY OWN DOCTOR. You may not understand my physiology and therefore you may not recognize it early on when I get sick. It may be too late when you do, because I hide my illnesses (remember what I said about my being an animal of the jungle, where there are lots of predators). I need an avian vet – a specialist (no HMO’s for me please). If you can’t afford one, perhaps you shouldn’t have taken me home.

7. PLEASE DON’T PUNISH ME. Just as I don’t always understand your peculiarities, you may not understand mine. I don’t TRY to get in trouble – remember a house is not the jungle. If I do screw up, don’t yell at me and never hit me. I have sensitive ears and I may never trust you again if you strike me. Hands are sometimes scary things to us (why in the world would you not be zygodactylous like us?) Eve more importantly, we don’t learn by punishment. We are gentle creatures who only strike back to protect ourselves; we learn through patience and love.

8. SPEAK MY “LANGUAGE”. I know you get upset with me when I knock over my water bowl, throw food, scream or pluck my feathers. I don’t do these to annoy you – I am probably trying to tell you something (perhaps that I am hurting, lonely, or sad). Learn to speak MY (body) language. Remember that I, alone of all creatures on this planet learn to speak yours.

9. SEE ME AS AN INDIVIDUAL. I am a unique and feeling being. No two of us are alike. Please don’t be disappointed in me if I don’t talk like you wanted, or can’t do the tricks that your friend’s parrot can do. But if you pay close attention to me (and I always empathize with you, whether you know it or not), I will show you a unique being who will give you so much more than talking and playing. Give me a chance to show you who I am; I think you’ll find the effort worth it. Remember – I am not a status symbol – I If you use me as such, I might nip at your turned up nose!

10. SHARE YOUR LOVE WITH ME. Above all, please remember that you are my special person. I put all my trust and faith in you. We parrots are used to being monogamous. (No barhopping for us!) So please don’t go away for long periods or give me away – that would be a sadness from which I may never recover. It that seems to be asking a lot, remember – you could have learned about my needs before bringing me home. Even having a baby or taking a new job isn’t fair reason – you made a commitment to me FIRST, and if you think that you must leave me because you might die, provide for me forever after you leave. I may live to a ripe old age but I can’t provide for myself. Remember I’m in a small cage amongst people who are not of my blood.

11. YOUR RIGHTS. You have lots of rights, but I can only assure one and that is if you treat me the way I described above, I will reward you with unwavering love, humor, knowledge, beauty, dedication and a sense of wonder and awe you haven’t felt since you were a child. When you took me home, you became my Flock Leader, indeed, my entire universe – for life. I would hang the moon and stars for you if I could. We are one in Heart and Soul.

courtesy of the

Ten Reasons Not to Buy a Bird
By the Late Michael Held, Former Owner 33rd & Bird, NYC
(Published in Cage Bird Hobbyist 1993)

There are a lot of things you should know before deciding to buy a bird as a pet. We want you to be happy with your bird, and we've found that it's best to prepare potential bird owners by pointing out the down side first.

After falling in love with and buying a bird, many people find that birds just don't fit into their lifestyle after all. We take in many unwanted birds and try to find homes for them. It's heartbreaking when someone has no choice but to get rid of their bird, even though they've grown extremely attached, and perhaps it's sadder for the bird, as birds are capable of forming strong attachments to humans, and it can take months or even years before they can adapt to a new home. We try to do our part to help anyone and any bird in such a situation, but we'd rather prevent it from occurring in the first place. That's why we want you to make an informed decision, so that both you and your bird will be happy.

The following ten points are the most frequent concerns and complaints we hear from new bird owners:

l. This is the most demanding animal I've ever had.

Don't be mislead by salespeople and magazines who try to popularize birds and promote their suitability as pets by selling them as an easy animal to care for. They are anything but easy to care for. Not only are their nutritional and environmental needs exacting, but also mentally and emotionally they are so extremely sophisticated that many people find the relationship to be too demanding. Birds in the wild are either monogamous and bond for life or live in flocks and bond periodically. In a natural environment they would not be exposed to the experience of being alone. They are together more than most human couples would find tolerable. Although it is true that a bird, even a large parrot, can adapt to a nine-to-five person's schedule, many people find after buying one that this is hardly the best situation and feel guilty for leaving the bird alone for such long periods. This leads to another problem at times, when people decide to get a friend for their bird and find owning two to be nothing short of twice the difficulty of caring for one.

2. He's bored and unhappy. He doesn't do anything. She's laying eggs all the time. It's pulling its feathers out. I think he needs a friend.

Deciding to get a companion for your bird is a difficult thing to do. In many if not most situations however, birds are happier when paired, and at some point in a bird's life, one of its owners, if not the only owner, decides to "set the bird up" with one of its own kind. This will inevitably lead to some degree of what can only be called the loss of pet quality. Once a bird has bonded with a bird mate, its attachment to humans has to decrease somewhat. Many people find the bird's new behavior difficult to handle. The closeness they once felt with their pet is now absent. Even worse is the frequent outcome where the birds don't get along at all and the owner simply finds himself with the problem compounded.

Of course there are solutions. Keeping birds of different species who can provide company if not companionship for one another is a good idea. Birds can also get along with other animals, and if approached creatively, keeping a single pet bird can be quite satisfying for the owner, and a happy situation for the bird.

3. My apartment is a mess.

Birds are messy. They don't really care where they go to the bathroom. It is possible to "toilet train" some species, but this is difficult and time consuming. Birds also tend to scatter their food, and feathers seem to be around all the time. The flapping of wings can make seed and feathers travel some distance from the cage or play area as well. Although there are measures you can take to minimize the mess, you cannot hope to eliminate it.

4. He chews on everything.

Birds, especially parrots, love and need to chew. Toys are designed to provide an outlet for this very natural behavior, but unless you limit your bird's mobility and access, he will make toys of your books, picture frames and furniture. Again, this is more of a problem with larger birds, but even small chewers like lovebirds and parakeets are capable of being extremely destructive.

5. I can't stand the noise.

This is a major problem for some people. Birds make all kinds of sounds and noises. There are some that are quieter than others are, but some people find even the low-volume chattering of finches to be monotonous and annoying. Among the larger birds, cockatoos and amazons are the loudest. Conures are capable of incessant screeching, and even parakeets and lovebirds can give rise to complaints from neighbors.

6. It doesn't talk.

Many people find the capacity for speech to be the most appealing reason for buying a parrot. Be forewarned. Even if you buy a bird with an outstanding reputation for talking such as an African Grey or an Amazon parrot, there is no guarantee that it will ever speak. If you have your heart set on a talking bird, you would be well advised to buy one that already speaks. Otherwise you may be very disappointed. And besides, even the most talented of talkers needs time to learn. Birds usually don't start talking until one or two years of age.

7. It bites.

And it's true. Birds bite. They sometimes even bite the hand that feeds them and the person to whom they've bonded. It's not like a dog biting. Birds certainly do bite out of aggression, but it's more likely to be out of fear, frustration or anger. Birds bite one another as part of their natural interaction, and they expect us to tolerate some degree of this natural behavior. It's a means of communication that leaves many people feeling hurt and rejected. To put it simply: birds are excellent communicators. Biting is a way of saying "I don't like that," and a very effective way of saying it at that. We humans are often not so direct or assertive, and we tend to hold a grudge when somebody or some bird is more assertive than we are.

8. He doesn't like anyone but me. I'm the only one who can handle him.

Birds are often purchased as family pets, and many birds are quite gregarious and friendly with a variety of people. But quite often, birds become closely bonded to individuals and will not tolerate handling by anyone but their chosen person. In fact, many times this turns out to be someone in the family other than the person who wanted the bird as a pet in the first place. Flock birds tend to be more social, whereas birds who spend little or no time in flocks in the wild will be less likely to get along with more than one person.

9. I've spent hundreds of dollars on veterinary bills.

Avian medicine is very specialized. There are few avian experts around. Tests, procedures, and treatments tend to be expensive. In addition, birds tend to exhibit symptoms only at the point where they are fairly if not acutely ill, and treatment at that point is often of an emergency nature and therefore more costly.

l0. I'm moving. I'm getting married. The baby sitter is allergic. Etc.

Birds live a long time. Budgies, or parakeets, can live well into their teens, and among the larger parrots, ages of eighty years or more are well documented. However, the statistics may be misleading. Most birds succumb to illness or accidental death long before nature runs its course. Still, it's important to remember that your bird may outlive you or your current lifestyle. In fact, many birds will outlive more than one owner. So consider this: birds all last a long time. Pets don't "grow up" like our children do. They are forever dependent on us for their continued survival and well being.

If you still want a pet bird, there can only be one reason. Birds are fantastic pets. To those of us who love them, they are truly incredible and capable of the most amazing expressions of charm, intelligence and love. If you have what it takes to be a bird owner, and you know what you're getting into, then you're probably in for the pet experience of a lifetime.

Congratulations on making a responsible decision, whether it's to own a bird or not.
courtesy of the


Poisons, unfortunately, are not just the chemicals found in cleaning agents and pesticides. Many houseplants, food items, cookware and aerosols can be just as deadly. Below are listed just some of the countless substances, which have been determined to be toxic to our birds.


Apple seeds
Bird of Paradise
Cherry Laurel
Cherry seeds
Common Privet
English Ivy
Honey Suckle
Jack-in-the pulpit
Lily of the Valley
May Apple
Morning Glory
Narcissus Bulbs
Oak (acorns)
Peach Seeds
Pear Seeds
Plum Seed
Poison Ivy
Skunk Cabbage
Snap Dragons
Tiger Lily
Tomato Plant
Tulip bulbs
Trumpet Vine
Venus Fly Trap
Wild Cherry
Virginia Creeper


Fruit Seeds


Aerosol Sprays
Bath Salts
Bubble Bath
Denture Solutions
Moth Balls
Natural Gas

These lists are not all-inclusive, as there are hundreds of items that are toxic to our birds in some quantity.


Controversy over which plants are safe around birds and which are toxic continues to confuse bird owners trying to safe guard there feathered friends. Although we don’t know if each plant tested could poison all birds we believe your birds are safest if you avoid the following plants:

Arum Lily
Autumn Crocus or Meadow Saffron
Australian flame tree
Beans: castor, horse lava, broad, glory, scarlet, runner, mescal, rosary peas, precatory, navy
Bird of Paradise
Bishop’s Weed
Black Laurel
Black Locust
Bleeding Heart or Dutchman’s Breeches
Bulb Flowers: Iris, Amaryllis, Daffodil, Hyacinth, Narcissus
Camel Bush
Caster Bean
Calla Lily
Cardinal Flower
Chaliace (trumpet vine)
Cherry Tree
Chinaberry Tree
Christmas Candle
Coffee (senna)
Coffee Bean (rattle bush, Rattlebox, coffee weed)
Coral Plant
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Indiana Tulip)
Jasmine (Jessamane)
Jimsonweed (thornapple)
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Lily of the Valley
Lily (Arum)
Corn Cockle
Cut leaf Philodendron
Death Camus
Devil’s Ivy
Dieffenbachia (dumbcane)
Elephant Ear
Eucalyptus (especially dried, died or treated for floral arrangements)
False heilebore
Flame Tree
Felt Plant (maternity plant, air plant, panda plant)
Four O Clock
Fox Glove
Golden Chain
Grass (Johnson, Sorghum, Sudan, Broom corn)
Ground Cherry
Heaths (Kalma, Icucotho, Peires)
Rhododendron (Mountain Laurel, Black Laurel, Andromeda, Azaleas)
Horse Chestnut (Buckeye)
Ivy (English, or other varieties)
Sandbox Tree
Skunk Cabbage
Sorrel (Dockey)
Spurges (pencil tree, snow on the mountain, Candelobra Tree)
Sweet Pea
Locoweed (milk thistle)
Locusts (black, honey)
Lords and Ladies
Marijuana (hemp)
Mayapple (mandrake)
Mexican Breadfruit
Mexican Poppy
Milkweed (Cotton Bush)
Mock Orange
Morning Glory
Mountain Laurel
Nightshades “DEADLY” (black, garden, wood, bittersweet, eggplant, Jerusalem cherry)
Philodendron (split leaf, Swiss cheese)
Poison Ivy
Poison Oak
Potato shoots (eyes)
Rain Tree
Ranurnculux (buttercups)
Red Maple
Rhubarb Leaves
Tansy Ragwort
Virginian Creeper
White Cedar (Chinaberry)
Yellow Jasmine

This list should not be considered all-inclusive, as there are hundreds of items that are toxic to our birds in some quantity!

Recognizing Illness in Pet Birds

One of the most important responsibilities of pet ownership is to recognize when your animal is sick. Most people can tell when dogs and cats are ill, but sickness in birds is not easily recognized. One of the greatest frustrations that face avian veterinarians is that by the time a pet bird owner brings a sick bird into the veterinarian the disease condition is usually well-advanced, making treatment difficult, if it can be treated at all.

The failure to recognize illness in birds is not due to the negligence of the bird owners but rather the unfamiliarity with the subtle signs of early disease, which when addressed promptly result in effective treatment of the condition. Anyone can tell that a bird on the bottom of the cage, with ruffled feathers and partially closed eyes is indeed very ill. The purpose of this discussion is to describe the early signs of disease in pet birds so that you can better recognize them.

Birds hide their illnesses very well as it is part of their natural defenses. A bird that is obviously sick in the wild will be subject to predator attack or harassed by other birds. Therefore, a bird that has been sick and ruffled all day may perk up when someone walks into the room thus appearing normal in an effort to mask their illness. When birds are no longer to effectively conceal their illnesses, they are usually seriously ill.

Many people believe that birds are frail creatures and the slightest draft could prove fatal. Birds are actually very hardy animals and tolerate conditions as well as any other animal. Unfortunately, the bird that "suddenly got sick and died" had probably been sick for some time; the disease changes unrecognized, so that even the healthiest bird would eventually succumb.

Outlined below are some basic signs to evaluate in the assessment of a bird’s condition. The secret of success is to develop a feel for what is "normal" for your bird. After you are familiar with normal activity, attitude, appetite, etc., changes from the norm may serve to indicate early signs of disease.

General Appearance

Feathers - A healthy bird should be bright-eyed, alert and have clean, nicely preened, sleek feathers held closely to the body. Sick birds will usually ruffle (puff up) their feathers for extended periods of time. When a bird ruffles it is chilled and its ruffled feathers trap a layer of warm air around the bird. The bird will also close its eyes in a sleepy fashion. Birds that huddle on the bottom of the cage and are extremely ruffled are critically ill.

Dirty tattered feathers may indicate lack of preening due to illness, mechanical damage due to poor housing, or "emotional upset." Staining of the feathers above the nares (nostrils) indicates rhinitis (nasal discharge). Pasting of head feathers is usually seen with vomiting. The feathers around the vent should be clean. If droppings are stuck to the vent it could indicate an intestinal tract infection or abdominal enlargement.

Posture - The bird should maintain an erect position on the perch, weight evenly distributed on the feet, wing tips crossing over the back and the tail feathers maintaining a straight line with the back. Sick birds will sit with either one or both wings drooped and its tail directed downward. A bird that has their tail directed downward may have a respiratory tract disturbance or abdominal discomfort (infection or enlargement). Tail bobbing/flicking also can occur.

Unsteadiness on the perch, wobbliness or low posture on the perch are signs of abnormality. Birds with severe respiratory or abdominal disease may maintain a horizontal position on the perch. Restlessness, shifting of body weight or favoring of one leg may indicate pain or dysfunction due to disease or injury. In budgerigars paralysis or weakness in one leg may be due to kidney tumors.

Attitude - Changes in a bird’s attitude may indicate a problem. A decreased activity level, the bird that is no longer playful, talking less or not singing may be indications of early disease. Personality changes may also provide early clues, such as the aggressive bird, that you could never handle easily, suddenly becoming passive or the normally friendly bird that becomes aggressive/irritable and wants to remain alone.


The beak grows constantly and with normal activity should wear down, if this does not occur and the beak overgrows it must be trimmed. However, if the beak quality changes or if the beak suddenly grows rapidly and abnormally it could serve to indicate disease. For example, in fatty liver disease (mainly in budgies eating an all seed diet) the beak overgrows, deteriorates and black/brown spots of hemorrhage are noted on the beak and toenails. Therefore, do not be fooled into thinking that an overgrown beak is strictly due to "not using the cuttlebone". Always check for any unusual crustiness, scaling or enlargements around the beak and mouth.


Infections of the feet occur despite precautions. Pressure sores on the bottom of the feet may develop from improper perch sizes and could lead to ulceration’s/bumblefoot. Keep the perches clean, vary the sizes, and provide a soft or non-rigid type perch. If you notice weight shifting, redness, swellings, sores on the feet/legs or lameness, veterinary care should be sought quickly.

The sole purpose of the leg band is for identification, it should be removed to prevent problems. We very often see irritation of the leg due to the band or injury (such as fracture or dislocation) if the band becomes caught on an object. If the leg band is necessary always check the leg for free movement of the band and any unusual irritation.

Unusual crustiness/flakiness on the legs may indicate a nutritional or parasitic condition and should be properly evaluated. One strong caution-care must be taken whenever cream or ointment are applied to a bird. Never apply it to the feathers as it will spread and destroy the insulative properties of the feathers. If it is to be used on the feet or legs, use it sparingly.

Respiratory Tract

When a bird breathes there should be very little effort. Breathing hard while at rest or heavy breathing for prolonged periods after exercise/exertion can indicate a problem. Any noises heard while breathing such as clicking, wheezing or frequent sneezing are signs of sickness; a bird should breathe with no noticeable respiratory sounds.

Upper respiratory tract infections are very frequently seen in birds. A nasal discharge may appear as fluid in the nostrils or staining of the feathers above the nostrils. Conjunctivitis (pink eye) may also be seen with swollen, reddened eyelids and discharge around the eyes. Early signs of conjunctivitis may be indicated by frequent blinking or partial closing of the eyes for prolonged periods. If the condition worsens into a sinusitis there can be swelling around the eyes. Early recognition of respiratory disease in birds is important because pus in birds is not liquid, rather it becomes "cheesy." Thus when the pus builds up in the sinuses and air sacs removal is very difficult.

A bird that is dyspneic (difficult breathing) with mouth open and gasping is extremely ill and must be handled with extreme caution, if at all. Not all dyspneic birds have a respiratory tract infection. One possibility is a space occupying mass in the abdomen that may prevent full expansion of the air sacs so that air flow through the lungs is greatly reduced. Tail bobbing is another sign of an impaired respiratory tract, whether it is a primary respiratory disease or abdominal enlargement. Heart disease in birds can also cause labored breathing.

Extreme breathing difficulty can lead to the development of cyanosis, indicated by a bluish color of the skin, legs and beak. However, do not be fooled by the normal bluish color of the legs of some birds, particularly budgies.

The incessant, high-pitched squeaking sometimes heard in budgies may be due to goiter and pressure of the enlarged thyroid gland on the syrinx (voice box)/trachea (windpipe). The condition responds nicely to iodine therapy.

Digestive Tract

Food Consumption - A bird that is not eating well is at great risk due to its very rapid metabolic rate and its condition can deteriorate rapidly. It is important to check daily that your bird is eating, and if so, how much. A bird may be picking at the food cup and not actually eating. You must determine if the seeds are being hulled or if they are just being scooped out of the dish onto the floor of the cage. Sometimes a bird may hull the seed but not ingest it. Check the seed cup and bottom of the cage for seed hulls as well as making sure there is not an increased amount of hulled seed present.

If there is hulled seed on the bottom of the cage it must be determined if the bird is not ingesting the seed, regurgitating or vomiting. Regurgitation is a normal part of the courtship behavior. During courtship, regurgitated seeds may be seen on or near the mirror or toys. The bird may even begin to regurgitate to you in a courtship gesture. However, vomited seeds can be seen in sticky clusters throughout the cage - often adhering to the bars of the cage. Further evidence of vomiting is that the head feathers of a vomiting bird are pasted together with vomitus, and this can occasionally mixed with seed.

Grit is a controversial subject. It should only be used sparingly as it is not continually required for the replenishment of the gizzard. However, for the purposes of our discussion, sick birds, especially those with gastrointestinal upsets, tend to overeat grit. This could lead to impaction/blockage. Very often it is believed that a sick bird is eating, when in fact it is consuming only grit. Thus excessive consumption of grit could be indicative of a problem.

The best means of determining whether or not a bird is eating enough and that food is passing through normally is to check the droppings daily. In an upcoming section we will discuss this in detail.

Water Consumption- Birds may not appear to drink a large amount of water but they do require an adequate fresh, clean source, changed daily. Birds that begin to drink excessive amounts of water may be suffering from a metabolic disorder (such as diabetes), kidney disease or a digestive tract disturbance. You should have a feel for daily water intake. You do not need to determine the exact amount consumed as some will be lost due to evaporation, for example. Rather you would notice that the water cup is half as full as it normally has been and also that the droppings have become more watery.

Evaluation of the Droppings - Droppings are an excellent indicator of a birds condition. Changes in the appearance of the droppings or their number may be early signs of an abnormality. First and foremost develop a feel for what is normal for your birds. Check the cage papers daily. The number of droppings per day should be fairly consistent, a reduction in number indicates reduced food intake (or passage of food material) and should alert you to a potential disease condition. For example, a healthy budgie should have more than 30-40 droppings per day. Also the appearance of the droppings should be roughly similar. Droppings will change depending upon the variety of food consumed, but if the bird has not had any unusual dietary changes and the droppings appear significantly different, a problem may be developing.

We recommend the cage bottoms be lined with paper so that the droppings can be observed easily on a daily basis and the cage papers discarded daily. If wood shavings or corn cobs are used, although convenient, the character and number of droppings cannot be easily determined. Also if these are used in cages they are not changed as often which could increase the possibility of elevated bacterial populations in the cage bottom. Therefore if you do use wood shavings or cob you must make special efforts to check the droppings daily as well as perform frequent cleanings.

A normal dropping consists of three basic parts; a formed fecal portion, an off white urate portion, and a liquid urine portion. The fecal portion is usually green in seed eating birds as seed imparts no color to the droppings so the green bile color predominates. However if the bird would eat foods other than seed the color of the fecal portion would change. For example, a bird eating pellets would have brownish droppings, a bird fed strawberries would have reddish droppings. The consistency of the droppings will vary with the variety of bird and its diet. A bird that eats fruit, vegetables and other succulent foods will have more watery droppings. Pelleted diets, in addition to causing brownish droppings, may also lead to increased water intake and hence more watery droppings with a less formed fecal portion and increased urine.

Droppings that have suddenly changed consistency and color could indicate disease. The amount of fecal portion should be checked. If the bird is not eating, there may be a scant fecal element or a dropping that is mainly urine with a small amount of bile. It is normal for a bird to "urinate" when it will pass only liquid urine and urate crystals with no fecal matter. However, this is an occasional occurrence and if it predominates a problem exists. Remember that although a reduction in the number of droppings or amount of fecal portion indicates reduced food intake, it may also indicate interference with normal passage of fecal matter, such as with vomiting.

Watery droppings should be carefully evaluated to determine if they are due to gastrointestinal disturbance or increased urine production (polyuria). A somewhat formed fecal portion with an extremely watery urine portion or excessive urate portion may indicate a kidney problem or metabolic problem such as diabetes.

A more liquid consistency in the fecal portion of the droppings is suggestive of an intestinal tract infection. Occasionally, birds with an intestinal disturbance may have a grayish coating on the fecal portion due to excessive mucous. When a bird has pancreatic disease it has characteristic "popcorn" droppings which are bulky and off white to gray in color. Undigested seed or grit in the droppings are abnormal and could indicate a gizzard malfunction.

Blood in the fecal portion of the droppings is usually from the cloaca or oviduct. Severe inflammation in the cloaca, ulcerations or tumors may be responsible. Blood may also be seen in female birds encountering difficulty passing eggs. In Amazon parrots and macaws, blood in the droppings could be due to cloacal papillomas, which are of viral origin. Other signs of this condition include straining to defecate and the presence of granulation tissue (appears almost like a strawberry) around the vent and in the cloaca.

The urate portion (urine crystals) should be off white in color. If the urates are yellow or neon green it may serve to indicate hepatitis. The neon green urates may be suggestive of psittacosis. Blood in the urine or urates (to be distinguished from blood in the fecal portion) are indicative of a kidney disturbance or toxicity, particularly heavy metal poisoning such as lead.

Unusual Growths/Enlargements

Birds can develop abscesses, feather cysts and tumors, so any unusual swellings should be properly evaluated. Fat deposits may develop on the chest and/or abdomen and should be considered abnormal. Other abdominal enlargements could indicate the presence of a tumor or an egg. Many times these growths are not detected until they are quite large. Early detection may be accomplished by noting irregular displacement of the feathers. Keep a close watch on your bird as the earlier these problems are treated the greater the success rate.


The above discussion provides some basic tips to help you better understand some of the signs of illness in pet birds. If you observe any of these signs or have questions about your birds condition, do not hesitate to notify your veterinarian for aid a sick bird that is treated promptly and properly has a much better chance of recovery.

Yearly physical examinations including blood testing and fecal analysis are strongly recommended for all birds. New birds should be examined shortly after purchase so that their state of health can be properly evaluated. Early detection is the key.

In conclusion, develop a sense for what is normal with your bird, deviations from the norm could indicate disease. The more you handle and interact with your bird the greater will be your understanding of the bird as well as your ability to detect potential problems.