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Signs of a Healthy Bird: Your Bird's Feathers, Eyes, Weight & More

According to statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly four million households were home to at least one pet bird in 2012. If you're one of those happy homes, you're probably well-attuned to your bird's personality and habits, and you likely recognize the basic signs of a healthy bird. Not sure? Here's what to look for in a healthy bird:

  • Bright eyes. A healthy bird's eyes are free of discharge and appear bright and alert without redness or swelling.
  • Clear nostrils. Similarly, a healthy bird's nostrils should be free of discharge and your bird's beak should open and close easily and meet properly.
  • An alert expression. A healthy bird pays attention to his surroundings and is active and interested in what's going on around him. Watch for any signs of diminished interest or lethargy. Your bird should exhibit natural enthusiasm and his usual vocalizations. If your bird is sitting on the floor of his habitat, this could be a red flag.
  • Clear skin. While it's true that birds are covered with voluminous feathers, skin is actually quite vital to their overall health. Healthy skin is clear and free of inflammation, redness or swelling.
  • Beautiful feathers. A bird's feathers are his crowning glory, and a healthy bird's feathers are shiny, glossy and smooth. Damaged feathers or bald areas of missing feathers can be indicative of a problem. Plucking could indicate that your bird is bored, but it can also be a sign of illness.
  • Peaceful respiration. Your bird's breathing should be smooth, calm and silent. The bobbing of your bird's tail feathers as he breathes could indicate respiratory disease.
  • Good eating and drinking habits. Your bird should be interested in his food and water and maintain a regular schedule of eating and drinking. Deviation from this routine could indicate illness, although a sick bird may actually spend an increased amount of time at his food dish—but he may not be eating.
  • A healthy weight. An adult bird's weight should remain generally stable. Inexplicable weight gain or loss should be evaluated by a veterinarian. An annual examination can help to detect even the slightest changes in your bird's weight.
  • Good physical condition. A healthy bird exhibits normal physical characteristics (including his beak, feet and wings) and has a bright and chipper appearance.
  • Healthy bird droppings. Changes in your bird's droppings (including color, consistency and frequency) could indicate a possible problem. Regularly observe your bird's droppings to evaluate their appearance and to ensure a consistent schedule. Diarrhea could be a symptom of simple dietary changes or illness.
  • A clean, dry vent. The cloaca or vent is the opening to a bird's digestive, reproductive and urinary tracts and stores urates, feces, urine and eggs (in females). Fecal matter should not be present and the vent area should be free of discharge or swelling.

An annual veterinary exam for your bird with a board-certified avian veterinarian is essential to your bird's overall health. You'll rest easier knowing that you have a knowledgeable veterinarian available to care for your bird and to help ensure that your bird enjoys a long, healthy, happy life.