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What is Weight Change?

Evolution equipped birds with the habit of masking any illness as a survival tactic. A sick bird was an open invitation to predators who were attracted to target the weak and sick. Even today, your pet bird still retains that instinct to hide how it is feeling.

By regularly weighing your bird and teaching him to step up to the weight perch and hold, then step down, it will make your life easier to monitor his weight. Weight change is one of the best early indications that your friend is not feeling the best.

A weight change in your pet bird may be a sign of a serious health issue; it is often the first warning of disease.

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Symptoms of Weight Change in Birds

You will need to weigh and record your bird's weight around three times per week to establish a normal weight. 

  • Be observant for other signs that can indicate all is not right such as behavioral changes 
  • Your bird may act bright and alert when being watched but lapse into a huddle and fluff up when it thinks it is not being observed 
  • Wing droop, one wing may dip lower than the other 
  • Sitting on the ground rather than on its perch 
  • Tail bobbing
  • Open mouthed breathing 
  • Changes in appetite and eating habits 


A weight loss of more than 3% of body weight from your bird over several days, indicates that your pet should be taken to your veterinarian soon. If your bird loses over 5%, then this is a very serious situation and needs immediate help. It may be life threatening for your pet so don’t linger. 

  • Weight gain is usually less of a problem, often caused by diet but any significant changes need discussing with your veterinarian 
  • Knowing your pet’s base weight helps to keep him healthy – any significant change can trigger action to provide help before it is too late

Causes of Weight Change in Birds

  • Weight gain can indicate a lack of exercise due to an inadequate amount of space available in the cage to move around in
  • An inadequate diet can result in weight gain – you need to be sure that your bird’s diet suits its requirements 
  • Sometimes a weight gain can mean more serious problems such as a tumor or heart problems
  • Any major gain or loss of weight needs to be investigated by a qualified specialist 
  • Weight loss can also be from an inadequate diet that is not fulfilling all your bird’s dietary needs- a seed only diet for some birds can result in weight loss  
  • Many types of diseases such as yeast infection, parasites, or goiter may result in weight loss, so a veterinarian examination will help find the cause and process to initiate treatment

Diagnosis of Weight Change in Birds

Because of the very nature of your bird in wanting to keep its health status hidden, the best way to determine any impending health problems is to be aware of slight behavioral changes. Performing this observation when your bird is not aware of it is best. As well as that, if you teach your bird to become used to being weighed and you establish a baseline of normal weight, any noticeable fluctuation from the normal weight will be the best estimation on its health. There will be slight changes on a daily basis due to what is happening in your bird’s life that need to be taken into consideration. 

If you weigh your bird after a meal, it will show a weight gain. If you weigh it first thing in the morning after its first poop, then you may notice a weight loss. It is the larger overall gains and losses over time that are important. Your bird’s health can decline rapidly, and early detection can save you a lot of heartaches. It is in the early stages of an illness that treatment is at its most effective. If your bird has lost approximately 10% of its body weight within a month, your pet needs an avian veterinarian. 

Your specialist will examine your bird and take tests if needed to determine the cause, and the treatment which should be administered. The veterinarian will want to rule out possible causes for a weight change such as inadequate diet or nutritional deficiency, thrush, obstruction due to ingestion of toy particles or rope, and diseases like pancreatic insufficiency.

Treatment of Weight Change in Birds

The treatment required for your bird depends on the results of your avian veterinarian’s diagnosis. It may be as easy as a short course of antibiotics to correct your pet’s health. There are many possible causes for weight changes within your bird. But because weight change is a constant symptom of disease in birds, it makes an ideal tool to get an early warning of health condition before it spirals into an advanced stage. Therefore, purchasing a bird scale that is suitable for the size of your bird and one where you can train your bird to sit on until you invite him to hop off is best. Either your veterinarian can help you determine your bird's appropriate weight for its breed and size, or you can do it yourself by a series of weighings and recordings to find the base weight. A good time to weigh your bird is after the first dropping of the day, and before the first feed. At these times your bird is ‘empty’ and you can get a true reading. Ensure you get a scale that measures the smallest measurements such as grams or millimeters. Birds are very light in weight, and the slightest snack or exercise routine can dramatically change its weight. With careful observation and teaching your bird to be weighed regularly, you can ensure that your bird is well and happy.

The reason for the weight change, once determined, will be assessed and a treatment plan put in place. Treatment for weight gain may be as simple as providing more exercise for your bird. A larger cage or a variation of perches to climb on may be the antidote needed for natural weight loss. Dietary adjustments could be recommended; however, if a tumor or heart issue is the reason, then your vet will advise accordingly.

Weight loss correction may involve medication or products to eliminate parasites, or treat infections such as yeast or fungal diseases, common reasons for weight decrease.

Recovery of Weight Change in Birds

Early warning is the best management tool to prevent disease and infections in your bird. It takes a little effort on your part, yet can pay massive dividends for the life of your bird. Once a disease becomes established, it can become heartbreaking (and expensive) to treat your pet. Prevention is the best possible health management tool you can do for your beloved bird.

The basics for pet health are always a good diet, clean water, and regular exercise. A nice safe home and lots of interaction between pet and person are essential. Add in careful observation when your bird is not aware of it (otherwise, it will act healthy) and monitoring changings in weight, and you have a recipe for success. A healthy happy bird will be the result of your care.

Weight Change Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

African Grey
20 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Weight loss. Itching. Feather pl

Medication Used

S76 30ml Sample Airsac Scaly Mite

I have AG and he seems to be losing weight but he stills eats & happy but seems ok.blood test where normal so not sure what to do.Weight loss.
Feather plucking.
Excessive pecking of the skin.
Increased vocalization in the infected bird.

Have a fecal checked for roundworm parasites. My AG had similar issues and she had roundworms. My vet said the worms will make them itch.

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Thirteen Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Mass

My Amazon parrot lost more than 10% of her weight in a short time. She has had all the relevant tests plus x-ray and endoscopy. Her white blood cell count was high and there was some inflammation round some of her organs.No clear illness has been found. She has had anti-biotics and Voriconazole in an attempt to treat the unknown cause.She eats really well but nods of until her head is right down in front of her which jerks her awake. Some days she is really perky so we are trying to build her up with any food she likes.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Without knowing more about Tacho, and her test results, it is very difficult to comment on what might be going on with her, unfortunately. If she is not improving with therapy, it would be best to have her rechecked by your veterinarian to see if any further medications may be needed.

Thank you for your comments. The fact that she is eating well just seems incongruous.

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Violet and Sharifa
Lovebird Species
2 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss

Ok got four birds at home that have all share the same problem, 3 x love birds and a rainbow lorikeet. We've already had three other love birds die from this illness, while the four we have now only recently became sick. The birds are still very active and happy, eating normally but they are losing weight rapidly. Visited a vet with two of them last year, the vet could not identify what was wrong with them, have been supplied with Vibravet (0.02ml twice daily). We're also syring feeding them Critter Care Avian supplement (roughly 1ml per love bird and whatever we can get the lorikeet to take) to try and increase their weight, however all birds are not getting better. Two have been brought into the house and a lamp is being used to warm up their body temperature. The birds basically lose weight and near their end lose body temperature/chest bones protrude. Please if you have any advice that we can act upon it would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, without examining the birds, I can't say what might be going on with them. It seems that they may need more than the supplemental nutrition that you are giving them, and may have something contagious or environmental since they are all affected. If your veterinarian was not able to treat their condition, perhaps a second opinion or a referral to a specialist is in order. You can talk with your veterinarian about the situation and ask if there is a specialist in the area that might be able to identify and treat what is happening to them before it is too late. I hope that you are able to get a solution to the problem.

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