Is my Cockatiel sick?

by NCS Online Pet Consultant, Mary Beth Voelker
All Rights Reserved

It can be very hard to tell if a bird is ill. Being prey animals, rather than predators like most of our familiar pets, they hide their illnesses so a predator doesn’t target them as easy game. Your best chance of catching a disease in the early, treatable stage is to know your bird well and to stay alert for significant changes.

Some signs to beware are:


Listlessness, lack of energy, and lack of interest in normal activities.

Dull, rough, un-preened feathers or a general un-groomed look.

Fluffed up feathers despite moderate room temperature.

Abnormal feather growth.

Sleeping with both feet on the perch.

Sitting quietly on the cage bottom (this can be tricky — tiels are ground feeders and spend a good deal of time on the cage floor but they are usually busy there scratching around and playing with floor toys).

Discharge from the eyes, nose, or any other place where no fluid should be.

Wheezing, clicking, or raspy sounds when breathing. Normal breathing is silent.

Tail-assisted breathing. That is, the tail moves up and down pumping to aid in moving air through the distressed lungs.

A change in the color, quantity or consistency of the droppings that isn’t immediately traceable to a change in diet (seed only poop is more green than pellet poop, fresh foods give a more watery texture, beets may color the poop reddish, etc.). Birds who are nesting (or who think that they are nesting), have huge droppings that you wouldn’t believe came out of such small birds. These droppings are likely to be a bit wet and may smell a bit stronger than normal.

A foul odor either from the bird or from the droppings.

A “pasted” vent — droppings stuck to the feathers around the vent.


Any kind of growth, sore, blemish, wart, skin abnormality, etc.

A vague feeling that something about your bird isn’t quite right. If you observe your bird carefully and know it well you can probably trust your instincts when you think that something may be out of the ordinary even if you can’t put your finger on a specific symptom.

Do not try to treat your bird’s illness yourself with over the counter remedies. By the time you know a bird is ill the sickness is usually well advanced. Delaying a visit with an avian vet and masking the condition with over the counter medicines is very likely to cost your bird its life. Until you can get the bird to the vet keep the bird warm (85-90F degrees), quiet, and in strict quarantine. Provide fresh water in abundance and offer its favorite foods. Also remove perches so the bird can just rest on the bottom of the enclosure. These small birds have high metabolism and few resources to cope with the drain of a long period of illness so every calorie and every drop of water they can take is critical. You may even need to hand feed to keep your bird alive while the vet’s treatment does its work. Most illnesses can be prevented by good care, adequate nutrition, careful sanitation, and wise quarantine procedures. But, if illness should strike a vet visit is the first priority. A sick bird should always be considered an emergency.

19 thoughts on “Is my Cockatiel sick?”

  1. My cocate is around 17yrs old he belong to my mother. She pass away in 07 and I toke him over. I never had a cocatile be for so when I so tbat the bird did not want to walk I was concern he stays in the bottom of is cage he cant seem to not be able to stand up hes still eatting but he cant walk plz help I dont have a bird doc near me

  2. Kenny
    Any unusual behavior should be checked with a veterinarian. Closing her eyes constantly can indicate pain or discomfort and should be checked by a veterinarian.

  3. My bird is so puffed up but he’s always like that and he always eat right and drink plenty of water.but today Iwhen I woke up I saw vomit on top of the bird cage and on him a little.i went online to find any deseases hopefully I found about vomiting just that.i checked if the dropping was ok,how he was acting,his eyes,his balece.everything was ok.maybe he ate to much last night or was his mate but he was acting himself not sure what to do

  4. Stephanie

    Any time our birds show any sign of illness, it is best to take them to a vet. There are many websites offering symptoms and information but as individuals, we often miss important clues in the diagnosis of our birds. You can not rely on just reading about possible illnesses. Birds are masters as hiding sickness until it is too late. If you feel your bird might be sick, please have him checked by a veterinarian. This way you can be sure you are doing the best thing you can for your feathered friend. :)

  5. We just purchased a Cockatiel for Christmas. He has been a little nervous since we got him. His feathers are puffed up and he has been spending alot of time at the bottom of the cage. He is only 6 months old according to the pet store we purchased him from. They told me to wait a week to get his wings clipped, so I did, and that just seemed to stress him out. It is cold in the Chicago land area, and I am concerned that he may have gotten sick from the ride home from the pet store, and then taking him out in the cold to get his wings clipped. The car was very warm but the journey from the house to the car was cold, but he was in a box wrapped in a blanket. He does not show any other signs of being sick other then the puffed up feathers and staying at the bottom of the cage, that he really didn’t do before.

  6. My four year old female has developed a condition of falling off her perch or any of her toys. She will sway back and forth then down she goes.. I have been keeping a soft towel at the bottom so to soften her fall. Is this something to worry about.

  7. Hi I have a male cockatiel of 12 yrs, who is very loud in the evenings but of late he seems to sit in a corner of his cage during the daytime, he’s eating and drinking fine, no vomiting or sneezing and his plumage is excellent…any concerns?

  8. My Mom’s 14 year old cockatiel male, has a strange clear diarrhea. What can be the cause and remedy

  9. Hello,

    My cockatiel’s feathers were clipped and right after that she began plucking her feathers out… It got so bad that I had to make a homemade collar for her and it seemed to be working. She started laying eggs and I bought her a nest… Everything was normal until yesterday… I had to adjuster her collar since it kept falling off, so I made it a little bit small. When I woke up today, she was on the perch but she had seed all over her face and her it was kind of sticky. Her mate was in front of her and he had seeds stuck to his back. She looked sleepy… I immediately took out the collar and gave her a bath. She is now on her perch… Should I take her to the vet? Or could the vomiting be a consequence of the collar?

  10. Hi I have a cockatiel that’s about 11-13 days old I wanted to know if it was normal for it to have one of it eye completely open and the other closed? If no is there anything I can do to help it open it eye? Thanks

  11. My albino cokatiel is 12 years old, and during the last 6 months he is loosing the feathers at least twice a month, that hes feathers did not reach the normal size when it start to droping them, he only keeps some on the wings and in the head.
    He is eating singing,.Tell me if it is some parasite o disease?

  12. Hi I have a cockateil that is 2 and a half years old, and for the last 4 days hes been laying his head on his back, staying fluffed up, I don’t know if he has distressed lungs but he is kinda moving his tail up and down.
    Should I be worried if he’s staying fluffed up ALL the time?

  13. Hi
    I just got a bunch of cockatiels from a lady who couldn’t take care of them anymore
    On the way home I didn’t know that one bit a 1 year old?
    He was bleeding but looked like he had previous injuries as if his feet had been bitten a lot.
    They are deformed now
    He cant really fly
    So I took him out of my parrot cage outside and brought him inside
    I soon noticed there was a bad scent and checked his bottom.
    He had poop stuck there. I washed him and sometimes it was still. Stuck in his butt
    What is happening to him

  14. My cockatiel just vomited full seeds on me, but she only did it once and then appeared to be alright. Is that normal?

  15. I just got a cockatiel 2 weeks ago! She always has her eyes closed! Even when perched on my finger! She is eating very well! She loves her fruits and vegetables! She also always puts her claws in her mouth like she has something stuck in her beak! I don’t get paid but once a month on the 1st! She was given to me because her wing was broken and no one wanted her at the pet store!

  16. I am babysitting a neighbors cockatiel. Lately I noticed him to keep puffing up. What to make of it?

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