If you’ve owned parrots for years, you may already know these facts.
But I receive queries every single day from around the globe from novice parrot owners who are concerned as to whether their parrot has become ill or not. If you are concerned about whether your parrot has become sick suddenly, here are the steps to determine whether to be worried or whether you can relax because the behavior is normal.
These tips are organized as ascending criteria. If you find that Step One results are normal, you will likely find the other steps are normal. If you find that several of the steps to check appear abnormal, then you should seek medical attention for your parrot immediately. While awaiting medical attention, you should take precautionary steps to protect the parrot.
Step One: Look at Your Parrot’s ‘Poop’
Every parrot owner should become aware of their parrot’s excretions of feces and urine (commonly called poop or poopie) and check it frequently because this is often the very first clue that something is wrong with your bird’s health. Once you are aware of what your parrot’s poop looks like when it is healthy, you’ll easily identify is anything appears to be different. It is important to act at this first symptom of potential illness since parrots do hide their illnesses from people and other parrots.
Things to look for include:
- Has the consistency of the poop changed? Is it runnier than normal and you can not explain the difference due to the bird having eaten juicy fruits such as grapes or orange slices within the past 12 to 24 hours? Note: If you own a Lorikeet, this is not a good measure of health since Lorikeets tend to have runny poop normally since they are nectar-eaters.
- Has the color of the poop changed? A healthy parrot normally excretes poop which is fairly firm and has a white center and greenish-brown outside ring. The white center is the urine and the greenish-brown material is the feces. The color of the feces can be impacted by what has recently been consumed to be a slightly reddish color, orange-tinted, or greener. Review the food your parrot has eaten recently and if the color of the poop has changed but you can not explain it based on diet eaten with the past day, then you need to watch your parrot for other signs of ill health.
- Has the frequency of pooping increased? Often a sick parrot will poop more frequently and strain physically when pooping. Every parrot poops shortly after eating and again a while after that. They also poop upon awakening usually. Small parrots such as budgies and cockatiels poop more often than larger birds and generate smaller poops, but if you know what is normal for your parrot, you’ll be able to tell if there is a difference or not.
- Is there poop on the bird’s feathers around the vent? When a healthy bird poops, the poop does not stick to the bird’s feathers around the rump (vent) area. A healthy bird may sometimes come in contact with a poop that has not dried completely and get it stuck to their tail feathers, but if the area around the vent is badly soiled and stained, there is clearly a reason for concern.
Step Two: Determine Amount Eaten
You should have a good idea of how much and how often your parrot eats. Healthy birds eat upon rising and pick at their food periodically during the day. Tame birds and even some which are not tame but comfortable with their people will eat when they see people eating because parrots are social creatures by nature.
If you notice your parrot is not eating normally, you should monitor when it eats and if it is eating significantly less than usual, there may be a problem with its health. If it will only eat treats but not its normal pellets, seeds, fruits, veggies and other people foods, then you should monitor for a problem.
Step Three: Watch for Changes in Play Habits
You probably have a good idea how much your parrot plays alone during hours spend in its cage or on its play area. You also know how playful the parrot is when outside the cage interacting with you. If a normally playful parrot becomes significantly less playful, this can be a signal that something is amiss.
Of course, parrots have moods just as people do. If your parrot doesn’t play much for a few hours, that alone is no need for concern. If it returns to being playful later that same day and no other signs of illness are present, it is likely the parrot just was in a quiet mood and didn’t feel playful. However, longer-term changes in play behavior can be a signal that the bird’s health is not up to par.
Step Four: Determine if Parrot is Sleeping on Both Feet Frequently
Keep in mind that this step does not refer to a parrot that is lightly napping. It refers to a parrot which is soundly sleeping. At night or when in a deep sleep during naptime, a parrot will pull one foot up into its feathers and stand on only one foot. This is true of large birds as well as small ones. If you’ve ever seen a flamingo asleep, it is a funny sight to see one leg bent and pulled up as high as possible; flamingos however can’t hide their long legs in their feathers. But the concept is the same with your companion parrot.
When your parrot is soundly sleeping, especially if it has turned its head backwards to hide its beak in the back feathers, check whether one or both feet are on the perch. If you consistently see two feet on the perch, even before the parrot has realized you are watching, then you should be concerned.
Step Five: Monitor Perching Posture and Feather Posture
A health parrot sits tall on its perches with feathers tight and smooth most of the time. When it is sleeping, the parrot will probably fluff its feathers up somewhat and snuggle down so that the lower feathers on its body cover the foot on which it is sleeping. Healthy parrots also like to sleep on high perches rather than low in the cage and they often choose the upper corner of the cage or play area on which to sleep. This is part of their basic instincts and nature.
If you notice that your parrot is sitting low on the perch with feathers fluffed all the time, even when not napping, and you know the temperature in the room is sufficiently warm for the bird, there might be a health issue involved. If you see your bird perching lower and lower in the cage with feathers fluffed and sitting crouched on the perch along with other signs of illness, then you definitely have a health problem and must get help quickly.
Any parrot that presents signs of illness should be immediately taken to a qualified avian vet. It is not wise to go to the pet shop and buy those over-the-counter products for your parrot because they often do not work and can cause even more problems with the bird’s health. If you love your companion parrot, see help at the earliest symptom of illness.
When a parrot gets sick, it can easily be dead within only 24 hours. While some illnesses do not take a bird’s life so quickly, you can lose your beloved feathered friend so quickly when its health is compromised. Parrots tend to hide illness until they are no longer strong enough to do so. By the time the parrot is showing more symptoms than changes in poop, it can be too late. So, if you see changes in your parrot’s behavior and bodily functions, move quickly to seek professional help for your parrot.
About the Author: Nora Caterino, known as the Mississippi Bird Lady, or just Bird Lady for short, has trained, raised, and lived with birds for over 30 years. You can subscribe to access news, articles, videos, forums, and receive unlimited one-on-one advice and coaching for one full year. For one-on-one coaching and advice, simply join the Elite Parrots Club at