Caring for birds is actually quite easy, all it takes is just care and awareness. How a bird looks, acts and behaves is usually an indication of of their state of being: happy or down, healthy or sick. Under the two sections below are some questions one should have in mind when you're in the aviary and some guidelines to follow:-

  • What to look out for?
  • Check list of questions 
  • What are the Common Injuries and First Aid for Birds?
  • History of our Bird Health/Ailments
  • What do you do when a bird passes away?

What to look out for?

Is your bird feeling a bit "under the weather?" Would you really even know if he was? As bird owners, we bear the responsibility of making sure our pets stay healthy. In order to fulfill this obligation, we must learn to identify common signs and symptoms of illness. Protect your bird by learning to recognize when it's time to go to the vet. 

When a bird gets sick, it is often very serious. Although birds can be very effective at hiding signs of illness from their owners, there are a few tell-tale symptoms that owners should be on the lookout for in order to have the best chance of saving their pet. If your bird exhibits any of these symptoms, he needs to be transported to a vet immediately.

  • Unusual Droppings: The color of your bird's droppings will vary slightly depending on what you feed him. Nonetheless, you should watch out for droppings that are yellow, rusty brown, or tarry black. These can be indicators of internal bleeding, amongst other serious problems. You should also notice if there is a major change in the consistency of your bird's droppings. If they are too runny or too firm, it can cause complications for your pet. 

  • Ruffled Feathers: Birds that sit with their feathers fluffed out for prolonged periods of time are often affected by respiratory problems or other disorders. Ruffled feathers conceals weight loss, which can be life threatening for a bird. If you observe this behavior in your pet for more than a day or so, you should contact your vet as soon as possible. 

  • Red, Inflamed, or Runny Cere: Your bird's cere is what we perceive as his nose -- the little patch above his beak that holds his nostrils. Pay close attention to your bird's cere. If you observe any redness, inflammation, or discharge, there is a very good chance that you pet could be seriously ill. Make sure to keep your bird wrapped up and warm on the way to the vet. 

  • Cloudy Eyes: If your bird's eyes look cloudy or have a discharge coming from them, he may be affected by a respiratory, nervous, or muscular disorder. You should rush to the vet as soon as possible as your bird needs immediate treatment.  A healthy bird will have eyes that are bright, clear, and shiny.      
  Sick Bird with tired looking cloudy eyes. 

  • Reduced Appetite: Birds have extremely high metabolic rate. So it is vital that they receive adequate nutrition every day. If your bird stops eating and begins to lose weight, it may be a sign of an intestinal blockage or impaction, in which case he could die very quickly if he does not receive medical attention. As precaution, ensure the bottom of your bird's cage is cleaned every day before you feed him. This provides an easy way to monitor food consumption, not to mention changes in droppings.

Check list of questions you should ask to monitor your pet bird’s health…

1. Does the bird look depressed, not active, not eating while others around it are?

2. Are the eyes not bright and sleepy looking during the day when they should be bright, clear and shiny?

3. Are there any signs of discharge from the nose / eyes? This would appear as crusted build up around the nose, or bubbles coming out from the nostrils are an indication of respiratory infection - see above on Cloudy Eyes.

4. Is the bird's voice different/unusual?

5. What is the consistency/texture of their feces (hard/soft)? Does it have a dark color? Normal feces are dark green in color, is a little watery around the solids, but not hard - see above on Unusual Droppings.

This here is a picture of how healthy bird droppings should look like. 

6. Is the bird losing weight? Putting on weight? 

7. Is the bird eating?

8. Are the feathers clean/dull/missing/plucked?

9. Are there any broken nails, abnormal growths?

10. Are they biting themselves?

11. Are they fighting with each other?


When it is a very hot day and we notice the bird(s) breathing with their mouths open, we can shower water lightly (using a spray hose) on their backs, carefully avoiding their nose/beak area. We must be very careful not to let water get into their noses as this may cause them to get a chill / flu! Alternatively we can place a bird bath in the aviary, which must be washed daily with replenishment of fresh water. The reason why we have a bird bath or we would spray the birds at times is because in the wild, there is natural rain that would wash and shower them. As this setting is unavailable in the aviary where the birds are mostly sheltered, we need to create access to fresh water for them. On a lighter note, a bird bath gives the birds an opportunity for them to clean themselves and cool down when they feel the need on a hot day. 

A Bird Bath is placed in our Big Aviary

Normally, it is suggested to observe signs or symptoms of illness for a minimum of 3 days. If the bird continues to display the above symptoms, you would need to contact the vet to clarify your suspicions and identify what needs to be done next. If the vet confirms illness and injury, the sick bird will have to be quarantined in a smaller cage. The vet may also advise that the bird be brought to a sheltered or indoor environment. To learn how to transfer birds from one environment to another please check out Transfer to New Environment

Watch the video below of how to spray water on your birds using a spray water....

Common Diseases in Pet Birds

As bird owners, it's important to be aware of the diseases and disorders that can affect our precious pets. Early detection of illness is key to successful treatment and survival.

  • Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)

    This is perhaps one of the most confounding avian disorders because the way PDD can spread from one bird to another is still unknown. Symptoms of PDD include weight loss, vomiting, changes in the bird's droppings, and a swollen crop. PDD is also known as Macaw Wasting Syndrome and Parrot Wasting Syndrome.

  • Psittacosis
    Psittacosis or "Parrot Fever" is a form of the Chlamydia bacterium that can affect all hookbills. The disease is highly contagious and can be passed from birds to other animals, including humans. Symptoms of Psittacosis include difficulty in breathing, eye infections and inflammation, loose-watery droppings and general lethargy.
  • Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)

    PBFD is a serious illness that can affect all members of the parrot family. Although birds under the age of 2 years are most susceptible to PBFD, this disease can affect birds at any age. Symptoms of PBFD include feather loss, abnormal feather development, abnormal growths, lesions, and abnormalities of the beak.

  • Polyomavirus
    Polyomavirus is a disorder that causes a bird's flight feathers and tail feathers to develop abnormally. In some cases, no development at all. Symptoms of Polyomavirus include appetite loss, an enlarged abdomen, paralysis, and diarrhea. Some birds may not show outward symptoms at all, but are carriers of the virus and may shed it in times of stress, posing a risk of infection to other birds.
  • Candida
    Candida or Candidiasis infections can affect all birds, and involve an overgrowth of yeasts that are normally found in a bird's digestive system. Common symptoms of Candida infections include white lesions in and around the mouth and throat, vomiting and appetite loss, and a crop that is slow to empty. Most Candida infections are successfully treated using antifungal medications.

What are the Common Injuries and First Aid for Birds? 

Anytime a bird is attacked by an animal, it should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible for an examination and treatment of wounds. Mouths and teeth carry a lot of bacteria which can cause nasty infections if left untreated. If the toxin is inhaled such as fumes from a Teflon pan, remove the bird to a well-ventilated area, and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Birds can hide illness for a long time as a defense mechanism in the wild because display of weakness would make them easy target. In our homes, birds continue to hide their illness. One of the easiest ways to monitor the bird's health is to weigh the bird on a monthly basis. If the bird is losing weight and you do not have him on a diet, he is probably ill. Some of the most common injuries or illnesses are listed below with at-home care instructions, which buy time before getting to the veterinarian.

Broken blood feather

Broken blood feathers can cause what appears to be a lot of blood loss. They are relatively easy to treat. At home, pack the broken shaft with styptic powder or flour. Apply minimal pressure with a gauze or telfa pad while traveling to the veterinarian. At the clinic, the veterinarian will probably pull out the bleeding shaft. If you have been shown how to do this, it is something you can do at home. The bleeding will stop once the shaft is removed.

Cat or dog attack

When a bird is attacked by another animal, it should be taken to the veterinarian urgently for examination and treatment of wounds because mouths and teeth carry a lot of bacteria which can cause nasty infections if left untreated.

Handle the bird quietly and calmly to avoid adding to his stress. Keep the bird quiet and warm (to help prevent or treat shock).

If the wound is bleeding, apply direct pressure with a gauze, but do not restrict breathing. Transport the bird to your veterinarian immediately.

Check for broken bones. If a wing is broken, wrap both wings loosely to the body with gauze and then tape to prevent further injury from flapping of the wing. Do not tape tightly or the bird’s breathing will be hindered. If other bones (skull, legs) are broken, do not attempt to treat at home as further damage may occur.

Small wounds or abrasions

If your bird has a small, superficial, and nonbleeding wound not caused by an animal, clean the wound with betadine or chlorhexidine (Novalsan). Use a tweezers to remove any dirt or feathers. Then apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment/ iodine / Betadine Antiseptic Solution. It should heal within a couple of days. Do not allow the bird to pick at it. In case of deeper cuts or wounds, seek veterinary advice as further treatment may be necessary.

Bleeding from the tongue

The tongue contains many blood vessels and if injured, may bleed profusely. Seek veterinarian attention immediately.

Bleeding toe nail

Apply a styptic stick or powder to the toenail. The bleeding should stop within a minute or so. If the bleeding does not stop, take the bird to the veterinarian.

Breathing trouble

A breathing problem should be considered an emergency. If you notice that your bird is having problems breathing, first check the nostrils for blockage. If an external blockage is noted (such as with mucus), wipe with a damp cloth. Look for any other blockage such as seeds or dirt. After checking for blockage, contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Next, gently transfer the bird to a carrier cage and transport him to veterinary care.

NOTE: The operculum, a small part of the bird’s anatomy inside of the nostril, could be mistaken for a foreign object, so it is suggested to have your veterinarian remove any suspected blockage.

Panting or open-mouth breathing could be caused by overheating due to fright, exercise, or environmental temperature. Overheated birds can develop heatstroke. In these cases, the bird may also hold its wings outstretched from his body, pant heavily, and collapse. Allow the bird to remain quiet in a cooler place. Mist the bird with cool water or have her stand on a cold wet towel. Do not cool the bird down too fast. Contact your veterinarian to determine if further treatment is needed.


Gently run cold water over the affected area for several minutes. Then dry the area gently with gauze and apply cold compresses. If the burn is severe or extensive, take your bird immediately to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Burns may cause a bird to go into shock and need prompt care. Typically, antibiotics will also be prescribed to prevent infection.


Provide a warm environment by supplying heat with a heat lamp or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Be careful about the temperature so as to not burn the bird. Keep the temperature of about 85-90ºF and monitor the air temperature to avoid overheating. Once your have comforted your pet bird, determine the cause of the chill. If it is due to illness or injury (shock), seek veterinary attention. If it is due to environmental conditions such as power failure during cold season or cold air draft, fix the problem by relocating the bird.


If the toxin is inhaled such as fumes from a Teflon pan, move the bird to a well-ventilated area, and contact your veterinarian immediately.

If the bird had external contact with poison such as insecticide, bathe the bird immediately and contact your veterinarian.

If the bird ingests a toxin such as plant or household cleaner, get the name of the toxin. Contact your veterinarian immediately in all cases of possible poisoning. In relation to (possible) poisoning cases, the veterinarian or Poison Control Center must be notified on the name of the toxin, active ingredients, how much of the toxin was consumed (relative to the weight of your pet bird), time of exposure, symptoms displayed by the bird currently.


It is always good to be well prepared to face possible emergencies in relation to the health of your pets. Like the saying: prevention is better than cure, it is important we learn about animal care before undesirable conditions arise. Further to that, it is encouraged that pet owners learn more about their pets so that they know what to do when the bird falls ill. It is also suggested to have a first aid kit available and placed in an easily and known storage location.

For more information on what is considered an emergency for birds, see below to Contact the Veterinarian recommended when the Bird shows these signs . 


History of our Bird Health/Ailments: 

1. Malaysian Pigeon (Betty) - Salmonella  

Salmonella spp. bacteria cause gastroenteritis—inflammation of the intestine—in animals, including humans and birds. These bacteria are carried normally by some birds, and can survive for long periods in soil and water. Ingested in water or food, salmonella bacteria cause abdominal distress with diarrhea, and sometimes spread to the blood and internal organs.

Salmonella infection usually strikes birds when they are stressed: when food is scarce, in extreme weather, when the weather is very hot, very cold, or even cool and wet. Spread through droppings, the salmonella bacterium passes easily among songbirds congregating at birdfeeders, and among flocks of water birds.

What are the symptoms of salmonellosis?

Birds infected with salmonella tend to huddle and may appear surprisingly tame. These sick birds shiver, appear 

unsteady, have drooping heads and wings, suffer from lack of appetite, and lose weight. They may appear excessively thirsty or they may not drink at all. Their droppings are yellowish or greenish and possibly bloody. Death is common.

Read more at Suite101: Salmonella Infection in Birds: Maintain a Bird Feeder that Won’t Spread Salmonellosis |

2. Cockatiel - Colibacillosis

Colibacillosis occurs as an acute fatal septicemia or subacute pericarditis and airsacculitis. It is a common systemic 

disease of economic importance in poultry and is seen worldwide. To find out more about this type of decease please go


What do you do when a bird passes away?

1. You can pour a bit of holy water on the bird and then chant Medicine Buddha Mantra and blow on the bird. 

The mantra is...


For more on Medicine Buddha:

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