Do Birds Catch Colds?

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My mind has been thinking of birds more and more as I continue on this birding journey and a thought crossed my mind, “Do birds catch colds?” So I set off to find an answer.

Now, I am aware that birds can sneeze because my parents own a male Australian eclectus parrot named Jerry (a.k.a. “little brother” since I am one of 4 girls) and I have personally seen him do it! But do birds in general catch something similar to our common cold?

The short answer is–drum roll, please–YES!

Although there is no one illness that birds can get that is referred to as a “cold,” they can catch various respiratory illnesses that mirror some of the symptoms that humans get when they get a cold. They can sneeze, have swollen sinuses, secrete mucus and even “cough.” A bird’s cough is not actually a cough though, because birds do not have diaphragms. Their cough may actually sound like another chirp.

Now that we know birds can get sick, here are the top 5 ways to know if your bird is not feeling well.

  1. Weight Loss – The best and easiest way to know if your bird is ill is to monitor their weight. If they lose more than 10% of their normal morning weight (their wait before they eat but after their morning poop), there is something serious going on.
  2. Poop Color or Consistency Change – If their fecal matter is ever bright green, black, or red, they may have a health issue that requires treatment
  3. Watch Their Breathing – Your bird’s breath should be consistent without any sounds coming from their nostrils; clicking sounds, wheezing, whistling, or raspy sounds could be indications of a respiratory infection. Also, if their tail is moving up and down while they breathe (a.k.a. tail bobbing), that is a sign of labored breathing which also signals a respiratory infection.
  4. Dull Feathers – If a bird is feeling well, their feathers will be bright, vibrant, and sleek; if their feathers look dull, it might signal a nutrient deficiency. Feathers that are plucked or frayed at the end could also signal mental or physical distress.
  5. Off Behavior – If your bird starts deviating from their normal behavior, this may also be a sign of illness.

Overall, birds are excellent at hiding any signs of distress or illness. If you see signs of potential illness, know that the cause of it may already be advanced. So, if you own a bird, be sure to keep a weather eye to ensure your feathered friend stays healthy and feels their best!

Thanks for reading!