Although we like to think of certain types of birds as domestic pets, they are only a few generations descended from wild birds. In the wild, sick birds are easy prey for a predator, so birds have evolved with an instinct to hide signs of illness in order to survive. This instinct, known as the masking phenomenon, is just as strong in pet birds as it is in wild birds.

This has lead to a belief that as soon as sick birds die quickly. In fact, birds are very tough, and are often ill for 1 to 2 weeks before their owner even realizes it.

Warning signs to look out for

The key to successful treatment of sick birds is the early recognition of warning signs that a bird is actually ill.
Observing a bird’s droppings is one of the easiest ways to monitor a change in a birds health and can give valuable information as to where a problem stems from. Normal droppings are composed of three fractions. The dark green and brown fraction is the faeces, coming from the intestines. The white fraction is urates, the end product of protein metabolism. Urates come from the liver and are excreted by the kidneys. The liquid in the droppings, usually around the edge, is urine from the kidneys.

Bird owners should familiarise themselves with what normal droppings look like, and monitor droppings daily for any changes as listed below:

  • increase or decrease in the frequency of defecation;
  • change in consistency of the faecal portion, especially if it becomes unformed or very black;
  • the white urates or the urine becoming green, red or orange;
  • increase in the urine portion; or
  • gas bubbles in the droppings;
  • presence of blood.

If you see a change in your bird’s droppings, it is important that you have your bird examined by a vet as soon as possible. Make sure you bring in a fresh sample of droppings – placing a piece of aluminium foil under the perch overnight can allow the collection of a good sample for your vet to test.

Being observant is a skill that can save a sick bird’s life.

Article supplied by: Greencross Vets