Obesity in parrots is one of the most common health concerns we owners face, maybe second to certain vitamin deficiencies. It is a serious concern and one that will affect the health and well-being of your parrot in the years to come.
I have found that many parrot owners really don’t have any idea what their bird’s healthy weight should be. There are lists out there that will give you the approximation for your bird’s species, but few of them take into account that each bird is an individual – some are just small and others large for their species. I have two male standard cockatiels whose weights differ by a whopping 30 grams, more than a third of the weight of the smaller bird. Both are healthy and right on target.
The best listing I have found is this one, because it gives you a high end and low end weight to gauge by, and because it has been compiled by someone with actual bird experience and not just text book knowledge. Still, it can’t be considered gospel.
I weigh my birds frequently and log the numbers into a journal so that I can see any weight fluctuations on a week by week basis. This is one of the best ways to determine their overall health. A rapid weight loss will tell you immediately that there is a health matter that needs to be addressed right away. A slow decline in weight should also send up red flags.
Aside from using a scale, I also take a hands-on approach by handling each of my birds. If a bird is underweight, the keel bone, which runs down the center of the chest, will protrude to varying degrees. It isn’t always evident by sight. I also put my hand around their chest and tuck a finger under each wing where it connects to the body. In this area, and down along the sides of the body, I am checking for anything that feels fat or flabby. A bird’s chest is very muscular and should feel that way.
In order to ensure that your bird is a healthy weight, food should be offered in moderation, especially the treats. A healthy diet isn’t an over-abundant one. Providing your bird with lots of opportunities for exercise and activity will help keep weight issues under control and improve muscle tone.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.