Written by Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, DVM
The information provided on this page is not intended to be a substitute for veterinary care.
What is normal for your bird?
Observing your bird carefully will allow you to know its "normal" activity, food consumption and droppings. In newly purchased birds, it is especially important to spend the first few weeks recognizing your bird's "normals." The following is a suggested check list you can apply to your new pet:
- Water consumption
- Food consumption
- Activity level
- Droppings. Note volume, color, and consistency. More on bird droppings below.
- Body weight. Best monitored with a digital gram scale.
The key to successfully keeping birds healthy is early detection and identification when things are not well. Learn the normals for your bird. Knowing what is normal for your bird will provide you and your veterinarian with key information when your bird becomes ill. Consult with your veterinarian if there is a change you cannot account for.
A normal bird dropping consists of three parts.
First, there is the poop. This is the tubular part, usually green or brown, but sometimes red (like after they eat red pellets) or blue (like after they eat blueberries). The tubes are often bunched up, but there should be distinctive tubes of poop. Unformed tubes or something that looks like a whisked egg is considered diarrhea.
Second, there is the clear liquid part. This is the bird's urine. The urine and the feces are produced separately within the bird, but the ureters and colon (and reproductive tract) unite internally at a common collecting sac called a cloaca. Thus when the bird produces a dropping, both urine and feces are eliminated at the same time. Persistently excess urine is called polyuria and can be indicative of a health problem.
Third, there is the white opaque part. These are called urates. It is an excretion unique to birds and reptiles that allows them to conserve water. Notice that normal birds produce relatively small volumes of urine compared to mammals. This is because they concentrate their renal excretions in the form of urates.
I advocate layer papers at the bottom of the bird cage and removing the top layer daily. That way you become familiar with the volume of droppings that your bird produces in 24 hours and will be alerted to any changes early on.
Healthy birds molt once or twice a year. This means that every feather on its body is replaced by a new one; however, at no time should the process be so dramatic that the bird has visible bare patches. Molting is influenced by nutrition, temperature, and photo period. Birds that have bare patches or prolonged molts (in excess of 3 months) are likely nutritionally deficient in some way. Molting is demanding process and can be a time of increased susceptibility to illness. As new feathers come in, the bird is likely to spend additional time preening the keratin sheath from the budding feathers and waterproofing it with oil from its uropygial gland. This is normal and does not indicate a problem.