How to Tell If Your Bird is Happy & Healthy

How to Tell If Your Bird is Happy & Healthy

It’s not always easy to tell what kind of mood your bird is in. Sometimes they can be cheerful and playful, and the next minute, moody and reclusive. If they are ill, they may be trying to hide any signs of this due to vulnerability in the wild, which can make it even more difficult for bird owners to tell how their pet is feeling.

It is important to be able to tell if your bird is not only happy and comfortable, but also healthy and free of any illness. Some signs are more obvious than others, but being able to read their body language is the first step to understanding your avian friend.

In this blog post, I will talk about the signs of a happy, healthy bird, and what to look out for if your bird may be feeling unwell.

Dr Bobby Ortiz, small and exotic pet vet, posing with a bunny patient

Dr. Bobby Ortiz, M.V.B.

Dr Bobby Ortiz, aka 'Dogtor Bob', is a small animal and exotic veterinarian based in Dublin. He has a strong interest in Small Mammal (rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets) and Reptile medicine and surgery.

He grew up in a family of avid animal lovers, which led him to work as an Aquarist at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific in California. It was there he decided he wanted to become a vet, and specialise in exotic animals, that needed the same care and medical attention that dogs and cats are given.

He lives with his wife and Brittany Spaniel Bodhi, and has dreams to build a new tropical marine fish tank in the near future!

Signs of a Healthy Bird

A high quality diet, appropriate sized cage and a hygienic, well maintained environment will all ensure your pet bird is at top health. Some signs to look for if your bird is healthy are…

1.Bright Eyes

The eyes should be bright, free of discharge, and no redness or swelling. Their cere (the fleshy area below their eyes with their nostrils) should be free of debris and any crusts.

2. Normal Appetite

Your pet bird should have a normal appetite and regularly eating his food. Make sure he is receiving a balanced diet of formulated mixes, seed mixes and a mix of suitable fruit and vegetables. If he is refusing his food, it could be a sign of stress, a parasite, or he does not like his food.

Macaw close up of camera looking in opposite direction

3. Claws

Their claws should be a normal length and they are able to grasp around your fingers and arms and their posts; some bird owners get their pet’s claws trimmed once a month. This can largely depend on the species so make sure to consult your veterinarian on this before taking them for a trim.

4. Feathers

A healthy bird’s feathers are glossy, shiny, and smooth. Your bird will normally groom his feathers, but watch out for over-grooming. Damaged feathers or bald patches of missing feathers may be a sign of a more serious issue. Over-grooming or excessive plucking could be your bird’s way of telling you he is bored, or, he could be very ill. Always consult with your veterinarian if you see any of these signs.

5. Beak

Their beak will be normal and strong without cracks, crusts or irregular lines. Your bird may also ‘click’ with their beak, which could mean several things. A rapid series of clicks in a row could be his way of telling you he feels threatened, and should not be handled. Beak clicking is often seen in cockatoos and cockatiels.

6. Droppings

Depending on their diet, their droppings should continue to be their normal consistency. The different fruit and vegetables they consume could cause their poop to be an array of different colours, which is normal. If you notice a sudden change in colour with no explanation (such as no new food in the diet), I recommend consulting with your vet.

Healthy and Happy Macaw Parrot hanging upside down on its perch swing.

Signs of a Happy Bird

1.Good vocalisation

If your bird is chattering a lot, this could be a sign he is happy and content, or that he could be learning to talk. Birds often talk, sing or whistle when they are happy. They also click their tongue as a sign they want to be petted.

2. Hanging Upside Down

If you have noticed your bird hanging upside down, this usually means he is happy and comfortable in his environment.

3. Regurgitating

Birds feed their young by regurgitating their food into their mouths; so if you notice your bird doing this for you, it means they really care for you and are trying to look after you.

4. Bowing

If they are bowing or crouching their head towards you, this means they want to be petted and trust you!

5. Flapping Their Tail

Just like when a dog wags his tail when he is happy, it could mean the same thing for birds. If you find your bird is flapping his tail feathers when you’re near, this is a good way to tell that they’re happy to see you.

Signs Your Bird May Be Ill

If you notice any of the signs below, I recommend consulting with your local vet, preferably one that specialises in exotic bird care, right away. For more on healthcare issues in birds, see my blog post here. 

  1. Feather Loss/Bald Patches
  2. Biting
  3. Screaming
  4. Lethargy
  5. Heavy breathing
  6. Lack appetite
  7. Lack of interest in toys
  8. Sitting at bottom of cage
  9. Change in colour or consistency in droppings

Any More Questions?

If you have any concerns regarding your pet birds’ health, I recommend you consult with your local veterinarian. For more on feeding and caring for your pet bird, speak to a member of the Petmania team in store today.

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