Recognizing a Sick Bird

How can I tell if my bird is sick?
A wild bird cannot stop and rest for long when it is ill or injured. They must continue to forage and maintain themselves. Also, birds that behave oddly will be more visible to predators. This instinct is still present in many pet birds such that illness and injury may not be obvious to you. Annual health evaluations by your avian veterinarian help in recognizing a sick bird and to detect subtle trends of illness but cannot substitute for a daily evaluation by the owner at home. Take note of the droppings, the appetite, how the bird is breathing at rest, and how they respond to you. If something is off from the normal routine, carefully examine the cage, food, water, and environment. Sometimes there may be simple solutions that prevent big problems. If it still doesn’t add up, call your veterinarian. Don’t wait until a small problem becomes a big one—especially if you are a new bird owner and still learning what is normal for your bird.

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 Lack of appetite
  • Drinking more or less than usual Weakness
  • Drooping wings
  • Listlessness Reluctance to move Sleeping more
  • Lumps, bumps, swellings or bulges on the body Trauma
  • Bleeding


  • Breathing louder or quicker than usual Changes in the voice
  • Sneezing
  • Getting out of breathe easily
  • Tail bobbing while breathing (greater effort)
  • Obstructed nares (nostrils) Staining of feathers around nares Breathing with beak open
  • Nasal discharge


  • Slower responses Unusual tameness Aggression
  • Screaming Repeated behaviors Frantic behavior


  • Closed eye Eye discharge Red eye
  • Cloudy eyes or other visible lesions
  • Swelling around the eyes Nasal discharge
  • Quieter than usual (going blind)


Skin and feathers

  • Abnormal color, texture, shape, or growth of feathers
  • Bleeding blood or pin feathers (new feathers) Prolonged molt
  • Baldness or feather loss
  • Feather damaging behavior (picking, chewing) Flaky or crusty skin
  • Excessive scratching
  • Overgrown beak Abnormality of beak growth
  • Abnormal beak texture, color, Overgrown nails
  • Abnormal color or texture of nails Sores on skin
  • Trauma, cuts, bruises


  • Sore feet Sore wing
  • Lameness or shifting of body weight Swollen joints

Paralysis Weakness Drooping wings

Not perching, sitting on bottom of cage

Digestive and urinary Diarrhea (watery feces) Wet droppings

  • Change in the color of the droppings (i.e. Red,
  • yellow, tarry, pale)
  • Staining of the feathers around the vent (anus)
  • Decreased droppings Straining to defecate

Wet feathers around face and head Vomiting or excessive regurgitation Protrusions from the vent (prolapse)

Neurological Balance problems Head tilt

Falling Seizures

Unconsciousness Paralysis

Not perching, sitting on bottom of cage Weakness

If you are concerned about anything, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Do not wait until tomorrow