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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 29771
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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I have a female cockatiel (~ 1 year old or less) that has

Customer Question

Hello, I have a young female cockatiel (~ 1 year old or less) that has been regurgitating/(vomiting?) seeds very shortly after eating...
Within moments. She head pumps & then shakes her head & lots of seeds go flying everywhere out of her beak.
My birds eat a seed pellet blend & avi-cakes/nutriberries.
& they have had fresh water of course daily.
We only noticed this behavior start a few hours ago.
Her head feathers look sticky(for lack of better description) I'm assuming from the liquids coming up with the seed.
She pecked at some ash from a burnt incense stick that was on the counter earlier this afternoon but I am not sure if she actually ingested much/any...
She keeps attempting to eat her seed mix despite having eaten & spit up three times the past few hours. She doesn't seem lethargic but maybe a little grumpy & doesn't want her head pet.
Her poo looks normal.
I'm not sure if I should take her to the vet or wait...?
My male, whom I've had for many more years has
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. It's important to distinguish regurgitating from vomiting and that's not always easy to do. A bird that bobs its head up and down ("head pumping"), beak open and then a purposeful delivery of partially digested food is regurgitating. This is something they would do to feed offspring or a mate. It’s done by some birds to objects they are particularly fond of - mirrors, toys, or their owners whom they want to "please", especially if they’re "hormonal" and ready to breed and lay. Unusual regurgitation might be a symptom of crop infection or other problems and so it's best that an avian vet (please see here: take a look at Dottie and sample her oropharynx (back of her throat) for abnormal numbers of bacteria, yeast, or parasites (Trichomonads, e.g.).

Vomiting is more of a head ‘flicking’ event. The bird will often seem uneasy, pacing or uncomfortable and although the head bobbing might be similar to the regurgitation action, it’s usually more of a shaking and the end result is a very splattered, sticky substance that may or may not include food. If blood is apparent in the vomitus it may indicate esophageal or proventricular ulcers. Vomiting is a more serious symptom and seeing a vet as soon as possible is important. There are far too many possible diseases to list in this venue (Please see here: but we must remember that when a bird acts ill they're already quite ill. This is a protective mechanism because sick birds are attacked in the wild. Bacterial infections involving the gastrointestinal tract are very commonly incriminated in vomiting birds and can be treated with oral antibiotics prescribed by Dottie's vet.

I'm hopeful that such a young bird is hormonal rather than ill but it would be best to rule out illness before addressing Dottie's hormones! Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.