Bird Weight: An Indicator of Good Health or Disease

Other Relevant Web Resources:  Index of Bird DiseasesSymptoms and Potential CausesBird Species and Diseases They are Most Susceptible to

One of the easiest and most important method to keep an eye on your pet’s health is to monitor its weight on a regular basis, establish a healthy base weight and alert your vet to changes.

Refer to this webpage for average weights of common parrots / cage birds.

Health problems associated with …

Weight Gain:

  • Fatty liver syndrome (hepatic lipidosis)
  • Fatty tumors (lipomas and xanthomas)
  • Lipornatosis (abnormal fat deposits under the skin).
  • Metabolic problems, heart or liver problems can result in resulting in a fluid build-up
  • Obesity can cause or is associated with egg binding, egg yolk peritonitis in hens; as well as certain tumors.
  • Obesity is mostly a result of:
    • Lack of exercise — Common in birds that are kept in small cages that don’t allow for sufficient exercise and birds that are not given enough “out-of-cage” time to exercise their wings in.. Wing-clipped birds also may not get enough exercise.
    • Another obvious contributor factor for weight gain is inappropriate diet – please refer to bird nutrition

Weight Loss / Prominent Breastbone (no layer of muscle or fat on each side of the breastbone):

  • Heavy Metal Poisoning – common in pet birds that chew on inappropriate items: – Symptoms: feather picking, depression, gastrointestinal stasis, intermittent lethargy, seizures, dysphagia, ataxia, increased thirst and urination, loss of balance, dehydration, weightloss, green or bloody diarrhea and death.
  • Infectious diseases (bacterial / viral / fungal), including – but not limited to
    • PDD (proventricular dilatation disease) – Typical symptoms may include undigested seeds in droppings, progressive weight loss
    • Bacterial Hepatitis: Weight loss, watery droppings containing little or no feces and often light green urates. Some birds will regurgitate food. Birds should be assessed for hydration (crinkly skin around the eyes or skin pinch that remains tented).
    • Aspergillosis
    • Psittacosis: Common symptoms may be: diarrhea, weight loss or respiratory problems.
    • Avian Tuberculosis – bacterial infection, which can be found in a wide range of bird species. Usual symptoms: progressive weight loss in spite of a good appetite
    • Canary Pox (Canaries / Finches) Spread by mosquitoes and mites. Canaries housed outdoors are most susceptible. Most common symptoms seen in Canaries:
      • In the dry form, nodular or crusted areas of the non-feathered skin are observed. These lesions often occur around the face and beak and on the legs and feet. Beginning as white or yellow areas they rapidly progress to form crusts.
      • In the wet or throat form of pox virus, thickened plaques occur in the mouth, throat, or sinuses. Wet and Dry lesions may occur together.
      • Other symptoms are weight loss, rapid breathing,listlessness, fluffed up feathers.
    • Candida: If the digestive tract is impacted, the symptoms range from depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. In the respiratory tract, Candida may cause nasal discharge, a change in the voice, difficulty breathing, rapid breathing and inability to exercise.
    • Canker – Trichomoniasis (fowl, pigeons, doves, hawks) – Mostly characterized by caseous accumulations in the throat and usually by weight loss.
    • Polyoma / Avian Polyoma: Causes high levels of mortality in young psittacine birds. Prevalent in macaws, conures, Eclectus parrots, lovebirds, cockatiels, budgies, finches and gallinaceous birds, including chickens and turkeys.
      • Infected chicks / young birds may bleed profusely. Subcutaneous hemorrhage over the crop and across the skull is common. Those exposed to this virus at two to four weeks of age may develop feather abnormalities. Clinical signs are common at weaning and infected fledglings often die 12 – 48 hours after the development of clinical signs.
      • Disease symptoms: anorexia (appetite loss), depression, delayed crop emptying, and subcutaneous hemorrhages.
      • Adults may develop subclinical infections but remain infected.
      • Observed may be feather abnormalities such as dystrophic primary and tail feathers, and no down feathers on the back and abdomen. Primary and secondary feathers may fall out. Similar feather abnormalities may be seen with Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), but PBFD progresses, while feather abnormalities due to polyoma may resolve after several molts.
      • Larger psittacines may die suddenly without signs of illness, or die after showing depression, anorexia, weight loss, delayed crop emptying, regurgitating, diarrhea, dehydration, subcutaneous hemorrhages, ataxia and paralysis.
    • West Nile Virus (WNV): Transmitted by mosquitoes. Common symptoms: acute death, clinical signs involving the nervous system (seizures, uncoordination, weight loss, diarrhea, intention tremors, difficulty walking or enteritis), or the infection may be unapparent. Infected birds can die or recover spontaneously (with or without supportive care).
  • Parasites:
    • Giardia: Possible symptoms: feather plucking; acute, chronic or recurrent diarrhea (a bad odor and lots of mucus may occur with the diarrhea); depression, lethargy, anorexia and weight loss, and even death, if untreated.
    • Roundworms
    • Sarcoptiform Mange (skin mite) – Severe itching. Infected birds become very debilitated, lose feathers, suffer weight loss and develop red, scaly, thickened skin.
    • Myialges Nudus: Flies and lice may be involved in transferring these mites to other birds. Common symptoms: Severe itching. Infected birds become very debilitated, lose feathers, suffer weight loss and develop red, scaly, thickened skin. If untreated, death occurs within several months.
  • Avian Goiter (Thyroid Hyperplasia or Dysplasia)
  • Diet:
    • Inappropriate diet / nutritional deficiencies – please refer to bird nutritition and also make sure that your pet isn’t prevented from eating by another cage mate
    • Internal Blockage – could be caused by grit, ingested toy parts, etc. Birds may show neurological symptoms, weight loss, and eventually death.
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Certain tumors
  • Beak problems that may make it difficult or painful to eat, such as beak deformities or Beak and Feather diseases Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.

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