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Dr. Lisa
Dr. Lisa, Small Animal/Avian Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1883
Experience:  26 yrs of small animal vet practice. Dog, cat and parrot caretaker for 35 yrs! Former Zookeeper
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My african grey parrot is shaking his head frequently as if

Resolved Question:

My african grey parrot is shaking his head frequently as if he has an itch or ear problem. What might be the cause
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Lisa replied 7 years ago.



I am Dr. Lisa; in order to best help you, could you please tell me the following?


-What does Ako eat daily? Supplements? Treats?


-What type of light: sunlight through glass/unfiltered?, full-spectrum light bulb?


-Indoor/outdoor cage/aviary?


-Other birds?


-How long has this been happening?


-Does it go on all the time, or can you pinpoint when it happens?



Dr. Lisa



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Ako eats a parrot mix that I purchase from a local bird farm. It contains safflower seed (primarily), sunflower seeds, corn, peanuts, a cereal product, and a small black seed. He occasionally gets some raw vegetables (broccoli and squash) and very occasionally fruit (usually a grape or two). He receives no supplements.

He is currently indoors and does not receive any direct sunlight. We brought him in for the summer because he did not seem to be tolerating the heat very well.

He is outdoors for most of the year. He has been indoors for about eight weeks.

We also have a Mexican red head parrot, but he is outdoors in his own cage.

The twitching has been occurring for a few weeks.

It seems to happen more at night or when he is still and lacks stimulation.

Expert:  Dr. Lisa replied 7 years ago.

Thank-you for that information.


My guess is that Ako may have a sinusitis secondary to specifically Vitamin A deficiency, and to a general malnutrition. Unfortunately, the diet that he is eating is lacking in most all important nutrients; safflower seeds are as bad as sunflower if they are fed as the base diet. Peanuts in-shell may contain fungus, so that is another possible cause of the shake, as is a foreign body in his choanal slit. He may have an internal build-up of thickened secretions secondary to lack of Vit. A.


Below is a plan to help with his overall well-being (also applicable to your MRH). The fact that he is outdoors on the one hand, is superb for his health, but on the other, may be a little dangerous because then it becomes important to consider disease transmission from wild birds.


Before you start on changing things, I would recommend that you take Ako in for an exam (I see my healthy Greys at least twice yearly to evaluate them, and for grooming) to rule out medical causes for the problem.


Happy Management Plan


As you might know, a seed-based diet is virtually deficient in Vitamin A, Calcium, and Vitamin D: all three of these nutrients are essential to any bird, but particularly to an egg-layer. A bird's feathers will look gorgeous with a seed diet, because the seeds are loaded with fat. So are nuts. Peanuts in shells are considered by some to be 'fungus factories', so please feed almonds or walnuts in shells instead.


-To convert to pellets may take upward of a year, but the results are well worth it. I prefer Harrison's (, but any organic pellet without additives will do. This website has a wealth of information about nutrition and conversion, so it is worth a peak even if you choose something else. Pellets should comprise approx. 80-85% of the diet. Conversion should only occur after your bird has been deemed 'healthy' by a vet. Here is the link to help you find one:


-Next on the list is the 'seven layer salad': ( . Not only are these fun for your bird, but I think they are a blast to make. Your goal is to pick things laden with Vitamin A, like dark leafy greens, or red, yellow, and orange veggies. Think of fruit more like dessert. Use lots of healthy whole grains also. You may need to make food size allowance to suit your bird. Be aware however, that these salads are expensive, time-consuming, and messy for you, but tons of fun for your bird!


-Sprouted seeds have much more nutrition (they are actually healthy!) than regular seeds. Here is the site I like : . Once sprouted, the birds enjoy these as not only a food, but an activity as well. You can serve them as a snack, a salad dressing, or diet mainstay.


-Try a full-spectrum light bulb for 7-12hrs / day ( . This will allow Vitamin D3 to help Calcium be absorbed, which the bird would otherwise get from direct sunlight (not filtered through glass). Calcium is extra-important in females, especially if they begin to lay.


-Mist with plain warm water at least three times weekly.


-Listen to your bird. They are wonderful communicators and we generally fail them by ignoring what they are saying because it is not easy to interpret.


Your vet may choose to give vitamin and/or mineral injections to get a jump-start on good nutrition. S/he may want to radiograph your bird to check out liver size, and run some blood tests to check for infectious or metabolic reasons. If you are worried about cost, please talk to your vet first so they can pick and choose tests accordingly.


If you have more questions please click on 'reply'. If you find this answer helpful please click on the green ACCEPT icon. Bonuses and feedback are always appreciated.



Dr. Lisa

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