A division of Kindred Spirit Kindred Care, LLC

Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, DVM


A website about birds and bird-related services on the island of Hawaii.

Signs of Illness

Written by Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, DVM


Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not intended as a substitute for veterinary care.
Abnormal Droppings

Loose droppings are often one of the first indicators of illness. Learn what is the normal quantity, color, and consistency of your bird's droppings.

  • Droppings can vary with diet. Interpret droppings according to what your bird consumed earlier that day.
  • Bloody droppings are an emergency.  Seek veterinary care.
  • Absence of droppings is always indicative of a problem.  Seek veterinary care.
  • Lime-green droppings are suggestive of liver problems. Seek veterinary care.
  • Black droppings can be indicative of upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding. Seek veterinary care.
  • Diarrhea in birds looks like the dropping was whisked. Seek veterinary care.
  • Persistently watery droppings are often significant. Seek veterinary care.
Regurgitation or Vomiting

Regurgitation is normal in some birds when displaying affection toward an owner, another bird, or a mirror. Usually this type of regurgitation consists of food and does not have mucous or an abnormal odor and usually the bird is otherwise active and alert with normal appetite and droppings.

Vomiting is abnormal and indicates a problem with your bird. Birds can't spit so when a vomiting or nauseous bird shakes its head, the sticky saliva can stick to its head and face giving the appearance that mousse has been applied to those feathers.

  • Note what your bird is vomiting -- contents and odor.
  • Remove food and water for a few (4 to 6) hours.
  • Monitor.
  • If the vomiting stops, reintroduce water and very bland and easily digestible food like cereal.
  • If the vomiting persists or recurs, seek veterinary care.
  • Vomiting birds that cannot hold down food or water will rapidly dehydrate and deteriorate without medical intervention.
  • Yeast infections are a common cause of vomiting and GI stasis in baby birds and often accompanied by a sour odor.
  • Vomiting and polyuria are common symptoms of heavy metal toxicity.
  • Early detection, diagnosis and treatment are the keys to successfully treating sick birds.
Sneezing and Wheezing

Sneezing, wheezing, and other breathing noises indicate respiratory problems. Other symptoms include:

  • Nasal or ocular (eye) discharge.
  • Swelling around the eyes or face.
  • Tail bobbing and or movement of wings with each breath.
  • Vocal changes.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Decreased stamina.
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Labored breathing.

All respiratory diseases in birds are potentially serious and should be dealt with accordingly.

  • Vitamin A deficiency or hypovitaminosis A predisposes birds to respiratory diseases. Amazon parrots appear particularly susceptible to hypovitaminosis A. Vitamin A is necessary for maintaining a normal lining of the respiratory tract. When adequate vitamin A is not present, the lining breaks down and bacterial infection is more likely to occur.
  • Smoking around birds can have detrimental effects on their respiratory health.
  • Canaries can have mites in their respiratory system which results in wheezing and failure to sing.
  • Early detection, diagnosis and treatment are the keys to successfully treating sick birds.
Fluffed or frumpy bird
  • Quiet
  • Droopy eyelids.
  • Face buried in its feathers.
  • Sleeping in the middle of the day.
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Frumpy

These are all non-specific signs of illness. Something is dragging this bird down. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are the keys to successfully treating sick birds. Seek veterinary care.

Abdominal distention

Birds should have a flat belly. Moreover, they should stand with their feet approximately shoulder width apart.

Other signs that can accompany abdominal distention include:

  • Broad-based stance.
  • Decreased appetite and droppings.
  • Labored breathing.
  • Preovulatory birds tend to hold water and have a doughy abdomen.  This is normal; however, abdominal swelling may also occur with ovarian cysts and egg binding.
  • Fat, fluid, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), splenomegaly (enlarged spleen) can also cause abdominal distention. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are the keys to successfully treating sick birds.
  • Some birds will twitch their wings when molting and growing new feathers.
  • Tremors can also indicate abnormalities in blood sugar (either too low or too high).
  • Tremors can also indicate abnormalities in blood calcium (either too low or too high). Egg laying birds and African Grey parrots are particularly susceptible.
Feather damaging behaviors and feather picking
  • Sometimes associated with disease. Work up should be considered, especially if accompanied by other changes.
  • Birds that grow abnormal feathers should be evaluated.
  • Often not associated with illness. Many of these cases can be improved with dietary and environmental enrichment.
  • Rarely benefit from antidepressant drug therapy.


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