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


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)

Find Your Local Avian Veterinarian

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