How can I tell if my bird is sick?

In the wild, a bird will endeavor to uphold a strong appearance when sick. This is called, “survival of the fittest”. By the time a bird actually shows an owner that it is unwell, it has likely been sick for some time. It is because of this that bird owners must learn to recognize the subtle signs a bird presents when unhealthy before it is too late. Many things contribute to ill health. Improper diet is the most common cause of ill health. Trauma, poor upkeep, inferior hygiene, stress and genetics may lead to ill health. Just because the bird’s outward appearance is normal does not mean the bird is healthy. Any deviation from normal should be taken as a sign of ill health.

If you are concerned about anything, consult your veterinarian immediately.  Do not wait until tomorrow!

The following is a list of signs by general category that should alert you that your bird is sick:


Poor general appearance (feathers “ratty”) Fluffed feathers Anorexia (not eating, changes in eating habits or reduced eating)
Changes in amount of drinking Weakness Drooping wings
Listlessness, inactivity, depression Reluctance to move  Sleeping more
Bleeding Trauma Lumps, bumps, swellings or bulges on the body


any change in regular attitude, behavior or personality unusually tame behavior irritability, agitation, biting


Closed eye(s) Eye discharge Red eye(s)
Cloudy eye(s) Swelling around eye(s) Swelling of the eye(s)


labored breathing or open mouth breathing nasal discharge staining of the feathers around the nostrils wheezing or “wet” breathing
tail “bobbing” with each breath blocked nostrils cere (the skin around the nostrils) irregularity sneezing (excessive)
increase or decrease in the size of the nostrils coughing change in voice or no voice

Skin and Feathers

abnormal feathers, dull color, texture, shape, structure, growth baldness or feather loss prolonged molt
bleeding blood or pin feathers (new feathers) trauma, cuts, bruises excessive scratching
feather changes, color, chewed, plucked, damaged abnormality of beak growthv sores on skin
abnormal nails (i.e. color, texture) abnormal beak texture, color, overgrown nails
lumps, bumps, swellings or bulges on the body flaky or crusty skin overgrown beak


sore feet paralysis swollen joints lameness or shifting of body weight
sore wing weakness drooping wings not perching, sitting on bottom of cage

Digestive and urinary

wet droppings diarrhea (watery feces) change in the color of the droppings (i.e. red, yellow, tarry, pale)
decreased droppings wet feathers around face and head staining of the feathers around the vent (anus)
straining to defecate vomiting or excessive regurgitation protrusions from the vent (prolapse)


balance problems head tilt falling seizures
not perching, sitting on bottom of cage unconsciousness weakness paralysis