Cockatiel Signs Of Sickness You Must Be Aware Of

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

Cockatiels are experts at masking any sicknesses they have.

If your cockatiel has recently begun showing signs of sickness, they have likely been ill for quite a while without showing any obvious symptoms.

This is how they act in the wild as well.

Because if they look sick, predators will see them as an easy target.

This instinctive ability to hide illnesses means that we, as responsible cockatiel owners, must be constantly watching out for any signs of potential illness.

This article will provide a list of the common signs of sickness in cockatiels.

My aim with this article is not to scare you into thinking your bird is dying, nor is it to give you any medical advice. I just want you to have an informative, reliable, and digestible list of common signs cockatiels show when they’re sick.

Full disclosure: I’m not an avian vet nor am I a medical expert in any way. Do not ask me for medical advice. Any serious concerns should be taken to your avian vet. This article is to be used only as a guide.

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Cockatiel Signs Of Potential Sickness/Illness

  • Wobbling or unbalanced
  • Excessive sleeping throughout the day (could also be due to a lack of sleep)
  • Lower energy than normal (general lethargic behaviour)
  • Dramatic or sudden weight changes
  • Falling off perches
  • Cannot grip perches or cage bars for climbing
  • Vomiting or choking
  • Sneezing (Or any other fluid discharges from the face is a sign of illness)
  • Coughing (This is not normal behaviour, birds don’t cough)
  • Reduced appetite, or not eating at all
  • Watery, discoloured, or abnormal poops
  • Droppings with undigested food (seeds, pellets)
  • Droppings stuck to vent feathers
  • Straining to poop
  • Scruffy-looking feathers (and poor-looking appearance in general)
  • Fluffed up feathers for long periods during the day
  • Sudden decrease or increase in drinking
  • Anti-social behaviour (more biting and aggressiveness)
  • Lack of interest in activities they usually love (such as training, flying, singing)
  • Open mouth breathing (often with tongue flicking, like they’re out of breath)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tail bobbing when perching (visible up and down motion of tail feathers)
  • Prolonged closed eyes throughout the day
  • Excessive tremors/shaking (could also indicate sleepiness or coldness)
  • Feather plucking
  • Inflamed nostrils or eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Crusty eyes (looks similar to the crust around our eyes when we wake up)
  • Any physical anomalies on the body (lumps, bumps, swelling, bulges, bruises)
  • Abnormal body language (hunching over, drooped wings or head)
  • Tilted head (for prolonged periods)
  • Uncoordinated or disorientated (when flying, walking, climbing)
  • Foul odours from poop, breath, or their cage

This is not a complete list, but these are the most visible signs cockatiels show when they’re sick.

A vet visit is highly recommended if you see 1 or more of these signs.

Now, I want to point out 3 common illnesses cockatiels get so that you know what your bird is susceptible to.

What Illnesses Can Cockatiels Get?

Here are 3 illnesses that commonly infect our pet cockatiels.

  • Chlamydia Psittaci – A common bacterial infection in wild, caged, and aviary birds. Can cause other diseases such as avian chlamydiosis. Humans and other birds can get the disease by inhaling an infected bird’s dust that contains dried poop, saliva, or feathers. Direct contact with an infected bird’s feathers, droppings, and mucous can also spread the disease.
  • Giardia – Microscopic motile organism that can be seen in an infected parrot’s faeces at 400x magnification. Most commonly found in cockatiels (especially lutinos) but can spread to all parrots. This sometimes fatal disease is often given to birds through contaminated water supplies or contaminated faecal matter.
  • Fatty Liver Disease – A healthy bird’s liver is used to break down fat in the body. Fatty liver disease causes the liver to gradually become ineffective with that task, causing the fat to build up in the liver. It’s commonly caused by obesity from seed-only diets, but can also be caused by long-term exposure to certain toxins. This is why feeding a varied diet of nutrient-rich foods to your cockatiel is so important.
cockatiel signs of illness
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

How To Treat A Sick Cockatiel At Home

As soon as you notice a sign that your cockatiel might be sick, you should separate it from your other birds.

This will help prevent your other birds from getting the same sickness.

Keep the sick cockatiel and their cage, bowls, and toys in a separate room from your other birds.

They can still chirp and talk to each other from different rooms, but no physical contact is recommended.

Other than that, the best thing to do when you notice a sign of illness is to take your cockatiel to an avian vet as soon as you can.

Avian vets will check up and diagnose any sicknesses that your cockatiel has.

They’ll also give you various instructions on what you can do at home, and depending on the sickness, might even give you some medication to provide your bird.

It’s very important that you follow your avian vets’ advice carefully.

My cockatiel was recently discovered to have a yeast infection…

Although I didn’t want to, I was instructed to grab my bird twice a day to provide some medicine from a syringe for 21 days.

cockatiel signs of sickness
(Arthur, my cockatiel)

Both Arthur and I hated it, but it had to be done for his health.

I know he doesn’t like being grabbed, but it was for his health, which is more important than what he likes.

(He’s all good now by the way)

What I’m trying to say here is that you must follow any instructions given to you by your vet, even if you or your cockatiel won’t like it.

This might seem like common sense to you, but I guarantee others need to hear this.

I can definitely see some people skipping important medication because they don’t want to grab or stress their bird.

If I’m being honest, I definitely considered not giving the needed medication for these reasons.

But despite how stressful it was, I still did what was instructed to me by my avian vet.

Other avian vet instructions might include:

  • Providing more or less of a certain food
  • Providing vitamins or minerals in their water
  • Giving them more sunlight

Overall, the best way to treat a sick cockatiel at home is to simply do what your avian vet has instructed you to do.

How To Prevent Sicknesses In Cockatiels

The best way to deal with cockatiel problems is to prevent the problems from starting in the first place.

This also applies to health problems and sicknesses.

Cockatiels, and most other pet birds, have very sensitive respiratory systems.

This means they will get sick when exposed to toxic fumes such as cigarette smoke, Teflon fumes, or perfume, even for just short periods.

The solution?

Make sure these toxic fumes don’t get anywhere near your bird.

Related: Full List Of Common Household Dangers & Threats To Cockatiels

cockatiel signs of sickness
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

As well as toxic fumes, cockatiels can also get very sick after ingesting toxic foods.

Make sure you know what you’re feeding is 100% safe before giving it to your bird.


Along with clean air and safe food, cockatiels also require a sanitary living environment to remain healthy.

This means you need to:

  • Properly clean the cage once a week
  • Prevent excessive dust or poop build-up
  • Clean food and water bowls every day

These 4 tasks are extremely important for ensuring that your bird stays healthy.

Lacking in any 1 of these 4 tasks increases the chance of your cockatiel picking up a bacterial infection from unclean surfaces.

Here are my cleaning guides:

How To Effectively Clean Rope & Wooden Bird Perches

Give these a read to learn how to clean your bird’s equipment.

What illnesses can cockatiels get?
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

One more thing…

Make sure that you’re always interacting with your cockatiel with clean hands.

Human hands are almost in constant contact with germs throughout the day.

Phone screens, computer keys, door handles, and pretty much anything that is commonly used by the public is usually a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Always wash your hands with antibacterial soap before touching your bird or their items.

I hope you found this article informative.

Again, don’t take this as medical or professional advice, I’m just a fellow cockatiel owner trying to inform other owners like yourself.

Any serious concerns MUST go to an avian vet.


Categories: General Care


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