Signs of a Sick or Ill Bird:

Parrots are prey animals, which means if they show any sign of weakness in the wild, they will be more likely to be attacked by predators. For this reason, our pet birds will also often hide signs of illness for as long as possible until they are very unwell.

Becoming familiar with the signs of illness in birds can help you notices changes quickly and seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Always take your bird to an avian vet as they have the specialist knowledge to help make your bird well again. If you are struggling to find an avian vet in your part of the world, send us a message and we can help you. You can also book an online consultation with avian vets across the world 24/7 via Vetster *. You can use our code BIRDNERD25 to get 25% off your first Vetster consultation.

Knowing what’s normal for your bird is very important when assessing their health. Weigh your bird regularly so you can get an accurate idea of any change. We recommend weighing them first thing in the morning – after their morning poo but before breakfast.

There are many signs and symptoms of a sick bird, so we have compiled as many as possible here for you to look out for.

Signs of a sick bird from head to toe:


  • Dull eyes with no shine
  • Crust or discharge around the eyes
  • Keeping one or both eyes shut
  • Rubbing eye on wing
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Swollen eyes or red eyelids


  • Discharge or smell from the ears
  • Missing feathers over the ear hole


  • Discharge in and around the nares
  • Crusty nares
  • Swollen or red nares
  • Excessive sneezing
  • A visible blockage in the nares (not to be confused with the operculum)

Beak and inside the mouth:

  • Excessive or abnormal peeling of the beak
  • A shiny or smooth beak (particularly in cockatoos)
  • A soft or brittle beak
  • Beak overgrowth or deformities
  • White substance in the mouth
  • Sweet smelling or sour breath
  • Non-hormonal regurgitation
  • Vomiting

Body condition:

  • Overweight
  • Underweight
  • A rapid loss of weight (10% or more over a week)
  • An unplanned decline in weight
  • Visible injuries
  • Drooping wings
  • Any swelling anywhere on the body

Feather condition and skin:

  • Feather plucking
  • Stress bars on the feathers
  • Brittle feathers
  • Dull feathers
  • Greasy feathers
  • Flaky skin
  • Red or irritated skin
  • Signs of external parasites
  • Excessive scratching
  • No interest in preening


  • Red or swollen cloaca
  • Faeces stuck to feathers
  • Visible straining


  • Limping
  • Grazes or cuts on the footpads
  • A change in colour of the feet or legs
  • Swelling of the feet
  • Overgrown nails


  • Lethargic
  • Sitting on the base of the cage
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fewer vocalisations
  • Fluffed up and inactive for most of the day
  • Increased thirst
  • Unbalanced
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Irritable or aggressive


  • Any sound when breathing (this could be clicking, wheezing, or loud breaths)
  • Panting
  • Tail bobbing with each breath
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Wet breathing
  • Change in voice


  • Increase or decrease in any component of the poop (faeces, urates, urine) such as diarrhoea or polyuria
  • A change in colour of any component of the poop that can’t be linked to food
  • An unpleasant odour
  • Sticky/tar-like consistency
  • Poo sticking to their feathers and cloaca
  • Straining to poo
  • Undigested food in the faeces

This is a comprehensive list but there might be individual signs of illness for your individual bird. If you have any doubts at all, take your bird to an avian vet or use our link at the top of the article to speak to an avian vet remotely.

*This is an affiliate link, meaning at no extra cost to you, we will earn a commission if you sign up through our link.

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