How to Know If Your Cockatiel Is Sick

Always consult your avian veterinarian if you suspect illness.

Always consult your avian veterinarian if you suspect illness.

Does your playful cockatiel friend suddenly seem different? Has he stopped playing with his toys or eating? Although the symptoms may be subtle, he may need to see an avian veterinarian. As a survival mechanism, cockatiels disguise illnesses to avoid appearing weak to predators.

Egg Binding

If your female cockatiel is sitting at the bottom of her cage with her feathers puffed out, she could be suffering from egg binding. Egg binding occurs when an egg gets stuck inside her reproductive tract. Further symptoms include a decrease in droppings, or really wet droppings; loss of appetite and depression. The causes include calcium and vitamin D deficiency, or lack of exercise from being in a cage that is too small. Sick or elderly birds are at the highest risk of egg binding.


Young cockatiels between the ages of 14 and 56 days are at the greatest risk of contracting polyomavirus. This disease lowers a cockatiel’s immunity, leaving him at risk of catching other diseases and parasites. Among the many symptoms he may display include a swollen belly, loss of appetite, vomiting and depression. Polyomavirus is contracted by contact with other infected birds. Everything from feces to feather dust can carry it.


A cockatiel who loads up on nothing but seeds, and does not eat a varied and healthy diet including pellets, vegetables and fruit, may develop malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to a host of health problems brought on by vitamin and calcium deficiency. If you notice his feathers are dull and thin with bare areas, he may be suffering from malnutrition.

Respiratory Infection and Conjunctivitis

If your cockatiel develops red, swollen eyes he may have conjunctivitis. This common ailment is caused by bacteria and frequently accompanies a respiratory infection caused by the Aspergillosis fungus, whose spores cause his air sacs to fill with mucus and affects his windpipes and voice box. Additional symptoms such as a loss of appetite and trouble breathing may also be present.


Chlamydia psittaci is a bacteria that was discovered at a South American bird show in 1930 when both humans and cockatiels became infected. It is contracted by exposure to (among other things) contaminated droppings and feather dust. It occurs both in the wild and in captivity, and symptoms include diarrhea with watery, yellow-green feces, excessive thirst, and lethargy. Your bird may also have tremors and convulsions.

Avian Veterinarian Care

It is important to recognize any change in your cockatiel's behavior as signs of a possible illness. You may notice that he is down in the dumps and disinterested in his toys, or he may hang his head and have droopy wings. Obvious signs such as a change in his appetite and droppings may indicate illness, but also keep on the lookout for weight loss, dull eyes and a lack of coordination. If you believe your cockatiel is sick, take him to an avian veterinarian immediately for proper treatment.

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About the Author

Yvonne Ward began her professional writing career in 2004. She wrote a true-crime book published in 2010 and has two more underway. She also has a strong background in business, education and farm living. Ward is pursuing a Master of Arts in history and culture from Union Institute and University.

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