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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 29724
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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My cockatiel about 2 hours ago started looking not so good,

Customer Question

My cockatiel about 2 hours ago started looking not so good, then I noticed several watery droppings. He is also bobbing his head up and down sporadically. He was fine this morning and last night and I have been with him all day today, but visible he does not look the same. I have been trying to look online at normal symptoms of sickness, we live in a really small city and I don't believe we have an avian vet here.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
He also has mucous around face and neck and a few seeds...I have called the vets in my area and there is only one avian vet and he is out of town....the other ones won't see a bird
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. We don't have many avian vets on this site. His watery droppings and head bobbing which accompanies regurgitation and vomiting in cockatiels as evidenced by the vomitus around his face and neck are impotant symptoms but they're not pathognomonic (specifically indicative) of any one particular disorder.

A bird that bobs its head up and down in a sort of pumping motion, 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 (toys, mirrors, people) they are particularly fond of - especially if they’re in a breeding season, when a bird wants to please their owner and/or is of a nervous temperament. Regurgitation that is unusual enough for you to make note of it like you have, might be a symptom of crop infection/impaction and a bird losing ingesta in that manner will become malnourished.

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. When there’s blood showing in the vomitus it may indicate esophageal or proventricular ulcers.

An avian vet (please see here: will take a look into your bird’s mouth as part of a thorough physical examination and is likely to examine a swab of the oral cavity for abnormal numbers of either bacteria, yeast, or parasites. A good exam will also check for any growths or tumors.

Vomiting is a more serious symptom and seeing a vet as soon as possible is important. I understand your logistical constraints, however.

There are far too many possible etiologies of vomiting to list in this venue, but as in any case of illness, getting it evaluated, diagnosed and treated right away is often the best outcome at the lowest cost. I would be more comfortable knowing that Cypher was examined by an avian vet.

Gram negative bacteria are a common cause of gastrointestinal infection. These bacteria can proliferate after a bird is stressed. Stress can involve changes in their environment, being frightened, having their sleep hours reduced or other changes in schedules or even a difference in food. Another possible cause is contamination of food or water by fecal matter or from bacterial contamination on our hands.

If Cypher won't drink and eat on his own please consider eyedroppering an infant fluid and electrolyte replacer such as Pedialyte every 20-30 minutes. Put the dropper gently inside his beak and let the drops fall into the bottom beak under the tongue rather than trying to get into the back of his throat. We don’t want to chance Cypher inhaling the fluid and developing aspiration pneumonia. Please heat up his environment to 85F so he need not expend excess energy keeping his body temperature up.

A good bland feeding option at this time is to offer all natural, organic baby food (squash, yams, sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables) which many birds take readily; also try some pablum or baby rice cereal and live-culture yogurt.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you...he seemed like he was looking a little better last night but for the last hour or so he is picking at everything, sort of like a hyper mania something...not really sure...only one of the emergency vets in this area is an avian vet and he is out of town, coming back tomorrow is what they said...I'm hoping cypher can make it til then....I don't know what else to do...he does appear to be trying to eat but it's weird
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Can you clarify "picking at everything" for me? Picking himself or different foods, or ?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Right now he's picking at my hair, picking at the bed, acting like there is something he is eating, but there is nothing there to eat...he has food, it's hard to describe...his behavior seems panicked
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. Curious indeed. I'd like you to offer him a variety of food and see how he acts. Nutritional imbalances are a common cause of illness in our pet birds. Seeds should compose less than 20% of his diet. A diet of mainly seed and nuts has excessive fat, carbohydrates, and phosphorus; marginal protein; adequate vitamin E, and are deficient in amino acids, calcium, available phosphorus, sodium, manganese, zinc, iron, vitamins A, D3 (necessary for efficient absorption of calcium), K, and B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, choline, and available niacin. Ideally, a balanced pelleted diet such as can be found here: or here: should be fed as well as hard boiled egg yolk, pancakes and cornbread, the tops of fresh greens, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, fresh fruits such as apples, pears, melon, kiwi, and berries, vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, beets, asparagus, cabbage, sweet potato, and squash, and even tiny pieces of meat.

Keep me posted, please.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok, I will try and offer him those different kind of foods and will let you know how it goes.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. I'll be in and out today.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Hi Christine,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Cypher. How is everything going?

Dr. Michael Salkin