The following signs indicate some form of illness.
- An increase in lethargy.Unless they are sleeping, even the most timid of birds will not spend a long amount of time silent and motionless. The first signs of this lethargy are when they show a lack of interest in things that usually stimulate them, i.e. you, new food, their mate, new toys etc.
- Sleeping during the day This can be due to external disturbances during the night, but if you can rule this out, then it is a sign of illness. One possibility is an infestation of feather mites, who keep your bird awake during the night with their blood-sucking attentions.
- Fluffed up feathers. This indicates that your bird is too cold. There are two causes of this -- either your cage or aviary is too cold, or the bird is unwell. A cold parakeet may shiver too.
All fluffed up - it could be a sign of illness
- Excessive squawking. If you notice that your bird is calling out in alarm constantly, then they are in distress. There may be no visible symptom, but if there is no obvious cause for this distress in the general vicinity, they are in pain.
- A change in perching behaviour. If your bird has started perching on the floor rather than on their usual go-to perch, they either have a hurt wing or are too weak to perch. Another, less drastic sign of problems is when a bird who usually perches on one leg starts to perch on two.
- A dirty vent – always a sign of wet or sticky droppings, which usually indicates health problems.
- Droppings. You will be familiar with the ‘burnt popcorn’ look of your parakeet’s normal, healthy poo. Anything that deviates from the norm is a sign that something is wrong. The exception to this is a hen bird during nesting: her droppings may change appearance, and that’s not a sign of illness. Note: some parakeet pellet food contains colouring that dyes droppings. This is something to avoid, as it makes a healthy poo diagnosis much trickier.
- Loose droppings. Sometimes your parakeet may develop a taste for a certain food which causes diarrhea if eaten in excess. If you can rule this out then the most likely cause will be either disease or parasites.
- Liquid in the droppings. This is in fact normal for parakeets. The birds excrete a small amount of urine, but you might not even notice it as all the droppings will be falling onto sawdust or paper. If you think there is more liquid than usual then you might want to talk to a vet.
- Discoloured droppings – green. Green droppings in a bird whose feces is usually brown or black indicates that the bird is not eating enough. This may be due to stress, or malnourishment due to poor diet. It could also indicate an infection in the bird’s crop.
- Discoloured droppings – grey. If the poo is a uniform light grey or grey-brown, your parakeet has a problem with his pancreas.
- Discoloured droppings – red. A dark red color in your bird’s droppings is most likely blood. This is the result of an intestinal problem. However, before you jump to conclusions, ask yourself if the bird has eaten cherries, red berries or beetroot -- these will produce red patches in the bird’s droppings.
- Discoloured droppings – green and yellow. This is a symptom of liver disease, and the green colouring is caused by bile.
- Undigested food in the droppings. This almost always indicates that your bird is suffering from intestinal parasites. If the parakeet has just been treated for this condition, then it’s body is just clearing itself out. If you bird hasn’t been treated, report to a vet right away.
- Vomiting. This is not to be confused with the common practice of regurgitating food for a partner or significant other (note that this can include mirrors). The vomit of an ill bird will be wet, and usually make a mess down their chin and breast. The causes of vomiting are varied, so a professional diagnosis is in order.
- Gummed up nostrils, or nose discharge. A healthy parakeet will never have dry or liquid matter sticking to his cere.
- Hot feet – this one requires your familiarity with the usual warmth of a parakeet’s foot as he perches on your finger: hot feet is often a symptom of illness (kidney problems usually). Note, however, that an obese bird will have hotter feet too, and that one’s down to you – up his healthy food intake, and reduce the fatty seeds or snacks. A stressed or over-exercised bird will also have hot feet, so wait until he’s calmed down before making a judgement on his health.
Are your parakeet’s feet hotter or colder than usual?
- Cold feet – this symptom, if it results from illness, will be accompanied by listlessness, ruffled-up feathers and shivering. Note: a parakeet fresh from the bath may have cold feet too, but that’s nothing to worry about.
- Swollen or sore eyes. If the area around the parakeet’s eye is swollen, or if there is any eye discharge, it needs a vet’s intervention. The underlying problem could be one of a number of bacterial, viral or fungal infections.
- Sticky feathers on head or face. This may indicate an infection of the parakeet’s crop. If this is the case he will be unable to eat and will die very quickly without a vet’s intervention.
- Blood on the feathers. This shows that the bird is wounded. He will be feeling weak, and may need antibiotics.
- Limping. The parakeet has hurt his leg or foot, and will need to be checked to make sure nothing is broken.
- Overgrown beak or toenails. This is a sign of disease, often connected with liver problems.
- Deformed or misshapen beak. This is the work of burrowing mites, and needs treating if the parakeet’s beak – and therefore life – is to be saved.
- Rapid breathing. This could be due to overheating; but it is also a symptom of illness. If the parakeet has his beak open all the time, if you can hear any rasping or clicking sounds when he breathes, or if his tail twitches up and down with every breath, there are problems.
Parakeet Health Care
A sick bird should always be taken to a vet. Separate them from any other birds you may have to avoid the disease spreading. Clean out their cage, using a pet-safe disinfectant, or a mixture of one part vinegar two parts water.
There are a few things you can do to make your bird more comfortable before their trip to the vet.:
- Set up the solitary confinement “recovery cage” in a familiar environment. This helps reduce the stress in the bird.
- Make sure that the cage is warm. Most ailments cause the parakeets body temperature to drop, and a sudden chill can even be fatal. You can buy infrared lamps to provide quick and safe.
- Provide plenty of water, and offer the parakeet’s favourite food.
- Don’t let children and pets fuss around him, and keep him in his cage, to minimize added stress.
Gracious, 10 February 2023
My budgie, Marker, is always fluffed up which hasn't bothered me until he can't fly very far, or when he does, he collides into the wall or a piece of furniture. It scares me, he's been sick before. Usually, his cage is next to a window to let the sunlight in, but he hasn't been flying out and going to warmer places if he's cold. His head feathers are also falling out, which makes think he's molting, it IS February, and pretty decent where we are. He's very picky, and won't eat fresh fruits or vegetables, but he CONSTANTLY eats seeds and millet. (I have a suspicion he has diarreha) His poo used to we 'normal' but know it's crusty white. Does he have a liver problem or something??