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How To Identify If Your Bird’s Poop Is Healthy

Bird in cage with toys

Unlike many other species, birds can often talk. And while they may repeat your favorite words or sing along with your favorite song, they’re probably not using their unique communication skills to tell you about their health & wellness. That’s why it’s crucial to monitor for healthy bird poop. Your bird’s waste contains many clues about their wellbeing, and unhealthy poop can be one of the first signs of illness. How can you recognize the appearance of normal bird poop? And what can you do about common poop problems?

Bird poop can be used to help identify health problems in your bird; just remember that what “normal poop” looks like may vary depending on the type of bird. Regardless of bird type, when analyzing different types of bird poop, there are three main things to look for—color, consistency, and smell.

Color

Waste color varies depending on the species of bird and what they eat. Most pet birds eat a mix of seeds, pellets, fruits and vegetables, but some may eat more of one type

of food than another. In their native habitats, budgies and cockatiels eat a great deal of grains and seeds, while lorikeets feed on nectar and pollen, and many kinds of macaws eat fruits and flowers.

Therefore, guano can appear in a variety of different colors. For example, healthy budgie poop or poop from larger parrots will normally be green or olive with smaller amounts of white uric acid (solid urine). If your bird has brown poop, pelleted food might be the reason why. However, while food may normally affect the color of a bird’s poop, a few color changes can signal health problems. Red or black guano can indicate fresh or digested blood in the stool, while mustard yellow may indicate liver disease.

Consistency

Consistency is one of the most accurate indicators of healthy bird poop—but there are a few things you need to know about how birds poop to be able to identify normal consistency poop. Unlike mammals, birds don’t have separate ways to process liquids and solids, so they expel urine and feces at the same from the same opening—the vent. Urine makes up about 30–50 percent of the dropping and will have both a pasty consistency (the white part, which is called uric acid, or solid urine) and a more fluid consistency (the clear liquid urine). Feces makes up the rest of the dropping and is typically more solid.

Abnormal bird poop may have a different texture or consistency. If the poop contains either too much clear liquid urine or a lot of white, pasty uric acid, there could be a kidney problem. A thick, black, tar-like texture might indicate digested blood in the stool.

Smell

It isn’t a pleasant thought, but one question bird parents must ask is, “What does normal bird poop smell like?” The truth is that for most pet birds, healthy droppings shouldn’t smell like anything. Because most pet birds don’t eat meat, they aren’t digesting animal protein in their bodies, which is what makes mammals’ poop smell bad. Instead, most pet parrots eat grains, fruits and vegetables, so their poop has little to no odor.

You don’t need to make a point of sniffing your bird’s poop; just note any unusual scents in the air around the cage. If you do notice a smell, be sure that it is coming from your bird’s poop and not from old food or soiled water. If you’re sure the smell is from your bird’s poop, contact your veterinarian to see if there is a problem.

How often should my bird poop?

Pooping frequency depends on a bird’s size—small birds have higher metabolisms and will typically poop more frequently than larger birds. Budgies may poop up to 50 times a day, while larger parrot species like macaws may poop up to 20 times a day. No matter what size a bird is, poop is normally frequent.

Why do birds poop so much?

Birds have a high metabolism rate and digest their food quickly. They burn a lot of calories swiftly and need to eat often to meet their high caloric needs. This quick elimination process also helps them stay light for flying—a lighter bird can fly more efficiently.

Monitor your bird’s pooping schedule so that you can take note if anything seems off. A bird pooping less often than average may not be eating as much as normal, while a bird who is pooping more frequently than normal may have problems digesting food. These are signs that it’s time to talk to your veterinarian.

Why is my bird’s poop watery?

Healthy bird poop has three components: a green/brown portion that is stool, a chalky white portion that is solid urine (uric acid) and a clear portion that is liquid urine. Because of how birds defecate, mixing stool with urine before it comes out of their bodies through their vent opening, a dropping that is less formed than usual can indicate one of two things. The dropping may be less formed than normal because the bird is eliminating more water or urine than typical; this is called polyuria and is different from diarrhea. Polyuria can be caused by anything from eating water-dense foods like fruits and vegetables to kidney disease.

True diarrhea—where the feces is less formed and potentially more liquid—can be caused by changes in the diet, stress, gastrointestinal infections with bacteria, parasites or yeast, and more. If you notice any changes in bird poop texture—especially accompanied by a color change or blood in the stool—talk to your veterinarian right away.

What are some causes of unhealthy bird poop?

Identifying abnormal bird poop is just the first step in recognizing a potential health problem in your bird. Next, talk to your veterinarian to get to the root cause so they can prescribe proper treatment. Below are some common causes of unusual guano.

Changes in diet

Droppings will vary depending on your pet’s diet. Birds who eat more seed and grains typically have firmer stools, while those who eat more fruits and veggies ingest more water and generally have softer stools. Food can also affect the color. Changes in diet—such as feeding your bird colorful fruits or multicolored pellets—can cause subsequent changes in the color of their stool.

Stress

Anxiety can speed up the passage of food through a bird’s gastrointestinal tract, causing their stool to be loose or watery. This is why many birds have watery poop when they first arrive at a new home or go to see the veterinarian. When they acclimate and calm down, their droppings will often return to normal unless there is an underlying problem causing the soft stool.

Parasites

Gastrointestinal tract infection with parasites is another cause of loose or watery stool—especially intestinal parasites like giardia, which is commonly transmitted through contaminated drinking water. Cockatiels are especially susceptible to infection with giardia. Intestinal worms can also cause abnormal bird poop. Not all normal bird poop is parasite-free, and a perfectly healthy bird can occasionally have a low parasite burden your vet might find by running a fecal test.

Other infections

Bacteria and viruses can infect birds’ gastrointestinal tracts and cause of unhealthy bird poop. Psittacosis—caused by the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci—is a common infection in parrots that is transmitted through the stool and can cause diarrhea. Salmonella bacteria, polyomavirus infection and candida yeast can also infect a bird’s gastrointestinal tract and cause diarrhea. Your veterinarian can diagnose the cause of your bird’s diarrhea based on symptoms and testing. For more information on infections that might cause unhealthy poop, look at our guide to Common Diseases in Birds.

Renal disease: The kidneys play a vital role in removing digestive waste products that are carried in your bird’s blood stream and then excreted in their urine and feces. If the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, you may notice that your bird’s normally healthy poop contains a larger amount of clear liquid urine. When the kidneys are diseased, they don’t function normally to retain water and keep the bird hydrated, so the bird loses more water through droppings. As a result, they often drink more and seem to have excessive thirst. With kidney disease, birds may also show accompanying symptoms like lethargy, appetite loss and weight loss. Renal disease can occur in any type of bird as they age or if they have inadequate nutrition.

How can I make sure my bird’s poop stays healthy?

Healthy bird poop starts with feeding your pet the proper diet for their age and species. Speak to your veterinarian to ensure your bird gets proper nutrition from the right balance of pellets, fruits and veggies as the primary diet, with seeds as treats. You can check out bird deals for treats to feed them from time to time, but be sure to feed your bird a balanced base diet of pellets and fresh produce. Limit treats to less than 10% of their overall daily food consumption.

Another important aspect is to help protect your bird from illness. One of the best ways to shield your bird from infectious disease is to keep their habitat clean and prevent contact with other animals—especially other pet birds of questionable health or wild birds. Birds housed in habitats in the same room with other birds, or those housed in a screened porch surrounded by wild birds outside, can contract diseases that are spread from bird to bird through the air.

If you see any signs of abnormal bird poop, always talk to your veterinarian. Abnormal bird poop has many causes, and some are quite serious. Since pet birds can’t communicate with us, it can be hard to tell how they are feeling, so it’s always best to get the help of a trained veterinary professional to make sure your bird is OK.

Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.

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