Alright, so this isn’t prettiest topic, but it is one you should know your way around as a parrot owner. Since birds so completely mask their illnesses, there are really only two ways we have to monitor their health at home.
One is by weighing them frequently, and the other is by watching the quality of their poop. Your parrot’s poop will remain fairly consistent as long as it is healthy. It only takes me a couple seconds, several times a day to take a look at the bottom of the cage and I can tell what they’ve been eating and assess their general health at that time.
Speaking of the bottom of the cage, I want to recommend that you use newspaper as a cage liner. Litter, wood chips and shredded paper don’t allow you to really get a good look at the whole poop. Since it is an uneven surface, parts separate from each other or get hidden underneath pieces of the litter and you just don’t have a good overview. I guess you could argue that as being the point of litter or wood chips, but it makes the monitoring much less effective.
Check the quality of your parrot’s poop everyday
Bird droppings are made up of three parts: the feces, which is the green or brown solid matter of the dropping, the urates, which are the white to cream colored by product of the kidney, and the urine, which is clear fluid, the watery waste of the kidneys. The three components are brought together before they are expelled by the body and come out in the form of a single dropping, looking similar to soft serve ice cream. I apologize to anyone on their way to Dairy Queen for a snack.
For the most part, your parrot’s poops will remain the same in size and consistency. Your parrots diet can affect the color of the fecal matter at times. This is normal. The seed eating parrots will produce green feces, while the pellet eating parrots tend to produce brownish colored feces. Carrots can give the fecal part of the dropping a distinctly orange hue and certain berries will also effect the coloring, making my black raspberry loving goffins cockatoo’s poops a horrifying red color. Once these foods have been digested, the color of the poop will return to its normal green to brown range. Be aware that the color of the urates should always remain white and the urine should always be clear.
The consistency of your bird’s poop can tell you a lot as well. When a parrot is stressed (like mine are at the vet) and their blood pressure rises, they will produce very liquid-y poops. Also, after they eat fruit, which has a high water content, the poops can be runny. This is increased urine, also normal under these circumstances, and will return to a typical consistency once the stress is removed, or the fruit is digested. This is often incorrectly thought of as diarrhea, which is only truly the case when the fecal potion of the dropping is not well formed. It is a cause for concern.
In a stressed or fruit eating bird, there will always be the presence of tube shaped fecal matter. The size of the droppings should also remain consistent. If they decrease in size or frequency, it could be a sign that your parrot is not eating or has an intestinal blockage. There should be no odor to the droppings.
In any of these cases, call your vet right away:
- Red or black blood in the droppings. This is a sign of internal bleeding, egg binding or intestinal infection. It can also mean your parrot has swallowed an object.
- Bubbles or air pockets in the droppings are signs of gas or infection.
- Undigested food can mean pancreatic problems, infection and is a symptom of Proventricular Dialation Disease (or PDD).
- Diarrhea can be brought about by many things including parasites, infection and digestive problems.
- Persistent (lasting a day or two) liquid-y droppings (called polyuria) can be the result of infection or kidney disease.
- Decreased urine suggests dehydration.
- Yellow or green urates signal liver disease.
- Yellow urine indicates infection or kidney disease.
Our birds are pooping machines. They poop all day long, and we have all gotten up close and personal with it. Take the time to know what is normal for your bird and make it easy for you to identify a problem at its onset.
Prevention Is The Best Medicine
While a veterinarian is always a good idea, most of these problems are preventable by correcting your bird's diet.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.