Birds are a different group of animals than any other you may know: a bird is not a small dog or a funny cat.
As far as their behavior and diet are concerned, they are not necessarily like any other mammal, rodent or reptile you have ever seen in your life.
This simply means that you will have to relearn everything from the beginning, because simply seeing the difference between a sick bird and a healthy one is not always that simple. Fortunately, it is never too late to learn!
Here is a list (not exhaustive) of the different things to look for if your bird is sick.
- A bird’s appetite is usually quite stable, so if it drops, it’s not normal. Also, although birds are not big water consumers, you can still look to see if the water bowl has decreased or not.
- Do you find your bird quieter than usual? If this only lasts a few minutes, it may not be a big deal. However, if your bird has been quiet for several hours, keep an eye on it.
- Other similar signs to follow in terms of his behavior: he talks or sings less, his voice is not the same, he has his eyes closed a little, he puts his head in his feathers or he seems more bloated than usual, all this is not normal.
- If you look at the stool and it seems different in appearance, color or quantity, this is another warning sign.
- Is your bird breathing regularly? Or is it having difficulty, its beak is open to get it to breathe, it is breathing in and out in a jerky manner, or making abnormal noises when it breathes in and out? The respiratory system of birds is very fragile so this is definitely not to be overlooked.
- Do you observe secretions from the eyes, nostrils, ears, beak, cloaca? If you have never observed these before, and they are suddenly present repeatedly and have an abnormal appearance, you must take care of them.
- If you have noticed a change in feather color, a sore on the skin, or a lump/swelling somewhere on the body, it is probably not normal.
- Obviously, it would not be possible for me to name everything that is abnormal, but here are some of the other signs that can be seen in our little friends: loss of balance, dull plumage, vomiting or diarrhea, weight loss, lameness or pain in a leg or wing, exaggerated beak growth, etc. I wish I could tell you that these are just the ones! In reality, you need to know YOUR bird to know what is standard for him and what is not.
As you can see, you don’t need any fancy equipment to observe your bird.
You really only need your eyes and your logic most of the time. It can also be helpful to make notes in a notebook, as sometimes you can lose track of the latest symptoms and when they started. A scale is also an inexpensive and handy tool.
The general rule is: if the weight varies less than 5% from the normal weight, there is no need to worry. If it varies between 5 and 10%, you start to observe more carefully and weigh the bird again the next day. If it is more than 10%, you are definitely in an abnormal area.
In any case, if you fall into this third category, there are always other visible signs because such a decrease in weight cannot happen without being noticed (because there will be several other symptoms that accompany it).
Finally, the last useful thing is a camera to take pictures or videos. It will be so much more accurate to show a picture or a video if you want to demonstrate something. Believe me, you will thank me later 🙂 Try to imitate a bird coughing and you’ll tell me about it.
To conclude, understand from all this that you must learn to be vigilant.
The goal is not to have you watch everything every day, but rather to allow you to catch a problem early on, which will help your bird not get too weak. Before you have these worries, find yourself an avian veterinarian so you don’t have to look for one when a glitch comes up.
Tell me, I’m curious: what does your bird do that is special just to him?
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Francis Lagacé has been a member of the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec since 2004. He practiced for 16 years in several veterinary clinics across Canada. He treated animals of all types, mainly cats, dogs and exotic animals (rabbits, rodents, ferrets, birds, reptiles). Since 2020 he has been working in the field of veterinary pharmacovigilance. You can find him on LinkedIn.