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January 3, 2022 – Owning a companion bird is no small commitment. Did you know that cockatiels can live between 15 and 20 years, with larger parrots living decades longer? These feathered pets also have very specific health and care needs. They also are masters at hiding illnesses; owners sometimes don’t even know their bird is sick until it’s too late.

As a pet bird owner, it’s important to look for subtle signs of illness and see a veterinarian who has experience in avian medicine immediately if you suspect your bird is sick.

Common signs that a bird is sick include: 

  • Change in appetite, especially loss of appetite (birds have high metabolic rates, so even missing one meal can spell trouble)
  • Sitting at the bottom of the cage
  • Difficulty balancing or reluctance to perch
  • Change in color and consistency of droppings
  • Ruffled or fluffy feathers

The good news is there are simple things you can do to ensure your pet bird is happy, healthy and fit.

  • Bird health starts with a proper diet. Consult your veterinarian on the proper food to feed your bird; different species often have very different nutritional needs. A poor and unvaried diet can lead to major health problems.
  • Regularly clean cages. Birds defecate a lot! You can do quick cleanups daily, but thorough weekly cleanings of cages, food and water bowls and any other favorite object enjoyed by your pet are a must.
  • Bring your bird in for regular checkups. A veterinarian can help monitor signs of health and illness through bloodwork, fecal analysis and other means.
  • Provide clean water. Birds don’t just like to drink water, they love to bathe to keep their feathers clean. Some birds like a shower and other birds prefer to baths. Sometimes these preferences are species specific.
  • Trim nails and beaks. Long nails make it difficult for your bird to perch and beaks that are not well cared for can cause eating and other health problems. Veterinarians can provide these services for you.
  • Exercise your bird. You must provide your feathered pet with an environment where they can easily move and exercise, from climbing to flying (inside or in an aviary). You don’t want a perch potato! Just like dogs and cats, obesity is linked to many health problems in birds.

Advances in Avian Health

Morris Animal Foundation has been funding avian health studies for more than three decades. Thanks to our funded studies, avian veterinarians now know more about the nutritional needs of companion birds and have better medicines and treatments to care for these exotic pets. And, we are continually funding research to improve avian care.

Our ongoing research includes a study looking at solutions for reproductive diseases, including chronic egg laying, ovarian disease and cloacal prolapse. A newly funded study is working to improve diagnostics and treatment for fatty disorders, including high cholesterol, in Quaker parrots that could benefit other species as well.

And, we don’t just fund companion bird health. Wild birds from cranes to eagles to songbirds also benefit from our avian research. Visit our website to learn more about our bird health studies.