Cockatiel Sudden Death – Reasons (and How To Prevent)

This guide will share my insight as a veterinarian on the common reasons behind sudden deaths in cockatiels.

Cockatiels are socially-oriented, adorable, and energetic companions. They love to chirp and sing and can even learn many phrases. 

But when a favorite pet dies suddenly, it is a sad occasion for any bird owner.

Since these birds have a lifespan of up to 10 years or more, an unexplained sudden death can be very hard. 

But why do cockatiels sometimes die suddenly?

Cockatiel Sudden Death – Reasons (and How To Prevent)

Cockatiels die suddenly due to ingestion of poisonous foods, developing respiratory diseases, or being exposed to toxic fumes. 

In addition, poor nutrition, injury, trauma, and undiscovered illnesses are potential causes of sudden death in these birds. 

Though it can be tricky to spot, there are several telltale signs of a cockatiel’s sickness.

What Is Sudden Death in Cockatiels?

Sudden death is a medical term that describes the unexpected passing of a living being. 

It can occur due to many factors, ranging from nutritional deficiencies and environmental hazards to disease or injury.

As a vet, I’ve seen far too many cases of cockatiels suddenly dying from conditions that may have been preventable. 

Cockatiel owners must observe their bird’s behavior and provide the proper nutrition and care to ensure a healthy, long life.

How Can You Tell if a Cockatiel Is Dying?

If your cockatiel is displaying any of the following signs – it could be in the early stages of dying: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in behavior or attitude
  • Decrease in activity level
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of balance
  • Sudden weight loss

If your cockatiel’s feathers appear dull, weak, or sluggish, this can indicate a declining health status.

Lack of appetite, sudden change in behavior and weight loss are indicators that your bird might not be healthy.

Why Did My Cockatiel Die So Suddenly?

When a beloved cockatiel dies suddenly and unexpectedly, it can be heartbreaking and devastating.

Unfortunately, figuring out the exact cause of death is not always easy. 

Many people assume their bird must have eaten something toxic or dangerous, but more often than not, there are other underlying factors at play. 

To help determine the most likely causes of death in a cockatiel, I  have compiled a comprehensive list of the top 10 most common reasons. These include:

1. Exposure to Toxins

One of the most common causes of sudden death in cockatiels is exposure to toxins. These can include a range of potentially hazardous substances, such as:

  • Household cleaning products
  • Pesticides
  • Fumes from burning appliances
  • Smoke
  • Chemicals

These can build up in the bird’s system and cause serious health issues if not addressed quickly, including sudden death.

2. Food poisoning

When your cockatiel ingests something poisonous, the toxins can damage the internal organs and even lead to death. Examples of potentially dangerous foods include:

  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Avocado
  • Caffeine-containing food items 

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    Chocolate, onions and other alliums, avocados, caffeine, alcohol, teflon fumes, pesticides (among other things) can cause sudden death in cockatiels

    3. Shock and Stress

    Stress is caused by several factors, including:

    • Changes in the environment
    • Diet
    • Social interaction or lack thereof
    • Extreme temperatures

    When your bird is stressed for a long time, its immune system becomes weakened – making it susceptible to diseases and even death. 

    4. Heat exposure

    When temperatures rise above 30-32 oC (86-90 oF), a cockatiel can quickly overheat and suffer life-threatening consequences. 

    If left untreated, prolonged heat exposure can cause dehydration, exhaustion, and even organ failure. 

    5. Heart Failure

    Heart failure can be caused by various factors, including:

    • Genetics
    • Poor nutrition
    • Inadequate exercise
    • Prolonged exposure to stress
    • Environmental toxins

    The bird’s heart muscles weaken over time – leading to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), congestive heart failure, or cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease).

    6. Cockatiel Died of a Stroke

    Cockatiels are prone to strokes due to their small size and delicate systems.

    Causes may include stress, dehydration, excessive nutrients (calcium/fat), or lack of exercise.

    Symptoms can include loss of balance, tremors, seizures, drooping wings/legs, and difficulty breathing.

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      If your cockatiel shows any of these signs, seek veterinary help immediately.

      Cockatiels are susceptible to heart failure and stroke

      7. Dehydration

      Cockatiels need to be provided with a steady supply of fresh water daily. Without enough, they can become quickly dehydrated due to the dry air inside homes. 

      To ensure that your bird is getting enough water and that proper hydration is maintained, look out for the following signs of dehydration: 

      • Dry beak
      • Dull feathers 
      • Lethargy 

      If left untreated, severe dehydration may cause sudden death in cockatiels. 

      It’s essential to watch for signs of dehydration and ensure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean water every day.

      8. Injury or Trauma

      Cockatiels are delicate and can easily suffer severe internal injuries if mishandled or involved in an altercation with other birds. 

      Traumatic injuries may be challenging to detect until it is too late and can result in sudden death. 

      To avoid such occurrences, you should always hold your cockatiel properly and make sure that it stays away from any other aggressive birds in the house.

      9. Respiratory Diseases

      Cockatiels are susceptible to hazardous respiratory illnesses.

      Avian Influenza, ND, Aspergillosis, Cryptococcosis, and Chlamydiosis can damage the bird’s lungs – leading to sudden death in severe cases.

      Symptoms of these illnesses include: 

      • Difficulty breathing
      • A decrease in appetite
      • Lethargy
      • Discharge from the nose
      • General weakness. 

      If left untreated, the disease can quickly progress, leading to sudden death due to respiratory failure.

      Respiratory diseases such as Avian Influenza, ND, Aspergillosis, Cryptococcosis, and Chlamydiosis are a common cause of sudden death in cockatiels

      10. Undiscovered Illnesses

      Cockatiels can succumb to sudden death due to undiscovered illnesses or disease-causing agents, which have not yet been detected. 

      These diseases are difficult to identify as their symptoms are often subtle, going unnoticed until it is too late. 

      Possible causes of these undiagnosed diseases include

      • Infections
      • Tumors
      • Metabolic disorders
      • Hormone imbalances
      • Vitamin deficiencies

      All of these conditions can be fatal if left untreated.

      11. Egg Binding/Infection

      Egg binding, or egg retention, is a condition in which the female cockatiel cannot expel eggs from her body. 

      If left untreated, the retained eggs can become infected and lead to septicemia, a systemic infection accompanied by fever, weight loss, and sudden death. 

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        12. Cockatiel Died After Laying Egg

        A cockatiel’s death after egg-laying may be due to extreme strain on its body. 

        When laying eggs, female birds use calcium from their bones to form shells. 

        It can put them under great strain if they don’t get enough calcium in their diet. This might lead to heart attack or other serious complications.

        13. Baby Cockatiel Sudden Death Reasons

        Baby cockatiels are prone to respiratory infections, poor nutrition, and environmental hazards. These can quickly lead to death if left untreated. 

        A high-quality diet (with the right mix of vitamins and minerals) is essential for their good health.

        My Cockatiel Is Dying What Should I Do?

        If you suspect your cockatiel is dying, it is essential to take the necessary steps to ensure its comfort and provide it with medical care. Here are a few recommendations:

        Assess the Situation

        First and foremost, try to assess the situation. Look for signs of injury or illness, such as 

        • Labored breathing
        • Increased heart rate
        • Excessive shivering
        • Nasal and lacrimal discharge
        • Discoloration of the beak or feet

        Take Your Bird to the Vet

        Your bird should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible if it has a terminal illness or if you suspect that there may be something seriously wrong with it. 

        The vet can provide assessment and care to help ease your pet’s suffering.

        Provide Comfort and Care for Your Bird

        Even if the prognosis is not good, there are still ways to provide comfort and care for your bird until it dies. 

        Make sure to give your pet plenty of love and attention and provide a warm, quiet, stress-free environment.

        Consider providing a soft bedding material or blanket.

        Keep perches available to your cockatiel and provide it with love and attention. You can also offer soft food that is easy to digest, such as cooked vegetables or mashed fruits.

        When you see any of the signs we mentioned, please take your bird to the vet immediately rather than trying “home remedies”

        Seek Emotional Support

        It can be difficult to watch a beloved bird suffer. So seek emotional support from those around you during this time. 

        Talk to family and friends about what you are going through, or consider joining a pet loss support group.

        Say Goodbye

        Ultimately, you’ll have to make the difficult decision of when and how to say goodbye. 

        If your bird is in a great deal of pain or if its quality of life has significantly decreased, consider humane euthanasia. It can be helpful to talk with your veterinarian.

        By following these steps, you can ensure your cockatiel will receive the best care possible during its final days or weeks.

        Frequently Asked Questions

        Why Cockatiel Died With Eyes Open?

        Cockatiels may pass away with their eyes open, as the muscles of the face and eyelids become rigid following death.
        This is a common occurrence when a bird dies suddenly. Their eyes can stay open for hours afterward.

        What Happens When a Cockatiel Dies?

        When a cockatiel dies, carefully dispose of the body. Contact a local veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator for advice on properly disposing of your dead bird.

        Why Did My Cockatiel Die So Suddenly?

        Cockatiels may die suddenly due to various causes, such as respiratory distress, toxin ingestion, trauma, or an underlying health issue.
        In order to determine the exact cause of death, you should consult an avian veterinarian who can perform a post-mortem examination.

        What Kills a Cockatiel?

        The leading causes of death in cockatiels are poor nutrition, improper housing, and diseases.
        New Castle disease, Avian Influenza, Aspergillosis, psittacosis, and other viral or bacterial infections are some of the most common diseases leading to death.

        What Is the Most Common Cause of Death for Birds?

        The most common cause of death among birds is a disease.
        Birds can be susceptible to various illnesses, including bacterial infections, viral diseases, and parasites.
        It is essential to regularly inspect your bird for signs of illness, such as weight loss, poor feather condition, lethargy, or digestive issues.

        Final Thoughts

        The death of a pet can be heartbreaking, so it is important to ensure your cockatiel receives the proper care and comfort during its final days or weeks. 

        If you suspect your bird is dying, take it to the vet immediately for assessment and treatment.

        Make sure to provide plenty of love and attention and a stress-free environment to make your bird’s last days as comfortable and peaceful as possible.

        Cockatiel Oscar’s Memorial Page

         

        Oscar
        by Lisa Bocchiaro

        Oscar was physically challenged from his birth, but his story begins when I first spotted him.

        Oscar

        A few years back I went pet shop hoping to try to get advertisements for our newsletter. The last stop was a shop in another state. When I walked in with another SCEBC member, she noticed a cockatiel in a cage with a bunch of parakeets. She called me to the cage, knowing I wouldn’t leave this little bird behind.

        I was shocked when I saw this bunch of white feathers, since it didn’t look much like a bird, much less a cockatiel. This bird was a pitiful sight. He had no crest, tail or wing feathers (flight, 1st, 2nd, primary) and his feet were all disfigured, with all the toes wrapped around each other. (We later found out that over half of his toes never developed bones). The SCEBC member commented that “This one’s for you Lisa….we know you can’t leave it behind”.

        As I watched this bird for a while, I noticed the parakeets beating on him as he huddled on the floor in fright. I asked the sales woman how much for the tiel and she remarked $150.00.

        Stunned, I looked at her and told her who I was and offered to give the bird a good home, along with a custom cage, and a girlfriend with similar disabilities.

        She plainly said she could care less about what I had to offer, and repeated the price, informing me she didn’t care about the bird either… she had to recoup on the thing.

        Having bred tiels a few times, I knew that this lady was trying to pull a fast one on me. It was obvious how this bird would mature as soon as its pin feathers started coming in (there is something seriously wrong with no tail or wing feathers!)

        The sales woman and I argued over the price, and yes I wound up buying him. But the price was reduced to $25.00! I contacted a vet in the area and dropped the bird off for a checkup before it came home.

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          When I returned the next day to pick him up, the vet remarked that I was a saint for taking in such a pitiful creature. There would be no charge for the health check, just my promise to give it a good home.

          Once home, Oscar was quarantined for 3 months in my bedroom. That’s when he acquired the name “Oscar the grouch”. After that period, it was off to see his new girlfriend and his custom cage. It was love at first sight. Cricket

          Soon after that I noticed one eye starting to turn cloudy and white. Once again off to the vet. It was determined he had cataracts. That was when this poor little creature started getting confused between day and night. He serenaded his girlfriend 24 hrs a day. She enjoyed it, but at 2 AM, I didn’t.

          About a year ago, he became more quiet than usual, I noticed both eyes were now cloudy. The poor little guy is probably legally blind, to add to all his other problems. Many people would think that I am being selfish about keeping his around, and I should have him put down.

          The way I look at it is that he is not in any pain, His weight has remained stable and he eats enough for 2. He has no problem maneuvering around his home. In fact his girlfriend “Cricket”, has now become his eyes. He follows her closely, except when he is sitting on his cowbell (he thinks it is an egg, it’s been over a year, and it still hasn’t hatched!)

          Every once in a while he’ll burst out in song at night. But usually before I get up to quiet him, you can hear a voice from a neighboring cage say “Oscar bad”…..and then everyone falls back to sleep.

          I really don’t know how old Oscar is, or how much time he has left, but we’ll keep a close eye on him and make him as comfy as possible.

          ED note: Both Oscar, a lutino male and Cricket, a whiteface hen, have since passed on. Cricket was the first to go, and disabled tiels were placed in the house with Oscar, but he did not respond to them as he had his cagemate of 8 years. Luckily he had memorized his ramps and perches, and where his food dishes were. He lived on for another year or so, and quietly went one night in his sleep. Oscar sat on his cowbell waiting patiently for it to hatch for nearly 3 years.

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          Causes of Sudden Death in Pet Birds

           

          Did your bird die all of a sudden? Is it sick and you are afraid it might pass on?

          There can be many causes of sudden death in pet birds. Here we explore the most common ones.

          Possible Causes for Sudden Death are …

          Toxins / Poisoning (either through ingestion or air-borne toxins):

          Classic “sick bird” appearance

          Teflon Poisoning – overheated non-stick coating. Common if bird in or near the kitchen and non-stick coating cookware is used.

          Household Toxicities

          Toxic Foods / Toxic Plants

          Heavy Metal Poisoning – Can affect all birds — but especially those that have access to and like to chew on inappropriate items

          Aspergillosis

          Avian Goiter; Observed in many species of birds, including pigeons, canaries, budgerigars and wild birds

          Avian Tuberculosis:Was common among imported birds. Common / possible symptoms: Sudden death or progressive weight loss in spite of a good appetite, depression, diarrhea, increased thirst, respiratory difficulty, decreased egg production often occurs in birds that were laying eggs. for more info

          Canary pox – Affects canaries. Common symptoms: Sudden death or the sudden onset of difficult breathing.

          Egg yolk peritonitis (females / hens only) – Common / possible symptoms: Sudden death, loss of appetite/anorexia, weakness, depression, respiratory distress, lethargy, fluffed feathers, lack of vocalizations, yolk-colored droppings, swollen vent and/or abdomen (the swelling feels spongy to the touch), and ascites.

          Some of these symptoms also mimic egg binding. Most commonly seen in cockatiels, lovebirds, and waterfowl.

          French Molt: Affects chicks of budgerigars, lovebirds, cockatiels and other psittacines (parrot birds / hook bills). Clinical signs usually appear about five to six weeks of age.

          Common / possible symptoms: Excessive molting, occasional breakage of wing and tail feathers, feather loss. Watch for signs of bruising, bleeding and sudden death in chicks.

          Fowl Cholera – Affects fowl. Common / possible symptoms: Sudden death, greenish diarrhea, high temperature, comb and wattle purple. Also swollen wattle. A chronic form of the disease exists in which lesions localize in a joint, wattle, infraohits, sinuses or other tissue. Treatment: Many drugs are available

          PDD – Affects most parrot species, including macaws, African Greys, cockatoos, cockatiels, conures, Eclectus parrots, Amazons and budgies.

          Common / possible symptoms: Constant or intermittent regurgitation, chronic bacterial or fungal crop infections, pendulous crops, weight loss, passage of whole intact seeds in droppings, incoordination, depression or sudden death. Concomitant central nervous system signs may include ataxia, abnormal head movements, seizures, and proprioceptive or motor deficits.

          Pulmonary Sarcocystosi– Most prevalent among non-American (African, Asia and Australian) psittacine species. Cockatoos, cockatiels and African parrots are most commonly affected with the acute fatal illness.

          Common symptoms: A hyper acute disease and birds are often found dead or near death without showing previous signs of illness. Birds may die unexpectedly after being observed as normal just a few hours before. Clear fluid usually exudes from the mouth when the dead bird is lifted.


          Related Web Resources:  Index of Bird DiseasesSymptoms and Potential Causes

          Bird Species and Their Respective Syndromes (Lists diseases specific bird species are most susceptible to)


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          My Bird Died

           

          I bought this couple of cockateils 50 days ago exactly aiming at having them breeding and giving to new babies which I had in mind to raise and train one myself. I bought this couple of cockateils 50 days ago exactly aiming at having them breeding and giving to new babies which I had in mind to raise and train one myself. The seller had told me they were in good health and nothing wrong with them except their feathers were falling because they did so “since it is the autumn season when some birds change their feathers” (I am not sure of this fact), but both birds were bald. In general, they were lovely and good looking (yellowish white) and they aged around slightly more than a year each, as I was told by the pet shop owner and as I could read the date on their rings attached to the feet. However, the female was afraid and agressive every time I approached them; she used to hiss and never allowed me to carry her, and she felt day by day as if unwell and was more sleepy than the male. I took them out once to allow them to fly in the room, to break the routine and move their muscles, but the female could fly; I thought she was weak to do so and would gradually be stronger. It is worth mentioning that I used to see feather at the bottom of the cage but I thought it was the feather changing season. One day, me and my family were all out of the house and when we came back we found a lot of feathers on the floor of the cage in a strange quantity and we thought they would have fought. After several days I noticed that the area of skin under her both wings was almost bare. After another week I entered my room one evening to see the bird (the female) rolling on the floor of the cage and looking in pain. The next morning I took her immediately to a vet (who treats all kinds of animals, but seemed to treat cats and dogs mostly). I explained everything of the above to the vet as well as the fact that sometimes I saw blood on one of the bird’s wings. The vet said that the lack of feathers is due to skin fungi and the blood might be caused by pecking from the fellow, so the vet prescribed two creams for it: Travazol and Madécassol, fungi and antibiotic creams respectively, and advised to put the creams three times a day for two weeks. I did as prescribed, but after one week I realized that the female bird is not getting well. On the contrary, she was getting worse and weaker and started to have extreme Diarrhea; she started to tremble during the day and her eyes were half open; it seemed she was rubbing her face in the creams and even eating them. The next morning, she was completely closing her eyes and walking and looking for water and food blindly. I rushed her right away to the vet, who then prescribed a spray for fungi instead of the cream and gave me a solution for dropping in the bird’s water to take care of the Diarrhea. He also gave me drops for the eyes and advised to open her eyes and leave one drop inside each of them on daily basis. The female cockateil was not eating and was weaker more and couldn’t stand. Unfortunately, I wake up this morning to see she had passed away. I just wanted to share this and tell the birdkeepers not to trust vets. Had the pet prescribed the spray instead of the cream in the first place, my cockateil would not have died. I still don’t know what happened to her and what she was initially suffering. I hope someone give me some advice or comment on the tragedy I faced.
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          Dr Majid Tanveer

          Dr. Majid, DVM, RVMP, is a licensed veterinarian with over five years of experience in veterinary care. He has dedicated his life to helping and caring for animals of all kinds, from cats and dogs to exotic birds and reptiles. He is also a passionate writer who uses his knowledge to share experiences, educate pet owners, and promote animal welfare.

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