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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7611
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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Hi, My 17 year old peach-faced lovebird has developed a

Resolved Question:


My 17 year old peach-faced lovebird has developed a slight droop of his head but what worries me the most if that it is twitching ever so slightly. The twitching is constant and to his left side but not in a violent way.

I trained him to eat fruit and drink liquids from the tip of my finger but when I try and give him a drink that way, he can't keep his head straight and it shakes all over the place. He is able to drink from his water bowl and feed himself from seeds I placed on a feeding dish near his feet but he has the same head shaking problem. He aims for one type of seed and his head wobbles all over the place missing the target. He eventually gets it but it is obviously a struggle for him. I am taking him to the vet as soon as I get back home from work, but I just need to have an idea what am I dealing with.

Thanks for your reply.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 7 years ago.
Does your lovey eat mostly seeds as part of his diet?

How about his overall balance at this point, how is that?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Yes he does eat mostly seeds. I have tried many times to feed him fruit but he shies away from it, as if he were afraid of it. So what I've resorted to doing is placing a small dab of mashed fruit on my forefinger(bananas, pears, apple, etc) and present that to him. He bites me really hard at first but in the porcess gets a good chunk of that mashed fruit in his beak and he happily gobbels it down. Another thing I do to supplement his lack of fruit eating is give him lots of fruit juice (Orange, cranberry, apple, pear, etc). He only drinks juice from my finger since if I put it in a drinking bowl he does not go near it.

His balance is still a little iffy. He can perch at his favorite spot (ceramic heating lamp a couple of feet away), but when he tries to spin on his axis to face the other way he loses balance. It broke my heart seeing him fall like that, so I've just been holding him tucked inside my shirt (He loves being there as well). He is also able to climb to his drinking bowl and feeding dish but the head wobbling is still there.
I am about to head to the vet right now, so It'll be a couple of hours before I get back.
Thanks for any further replies.
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 7 years ago.
Well since you're on your way to the vet - and I commend you for this, it's absolutely the right and most necessary thing to do - I'll try to help with the nutritional improvement you really need to start addressing despite his refusal to cooperate.

You have to look at it this way, would you allow your child to eat nothing but candy and ice cream for their entire childhood just because they have a tantrum every time?

Eventually, the child (in this case the bird) is going to show the health problems as the result of their diet.

--- Of course what you may be dealing with right now could be an infection ranging from bacterial to fungal or viral, but believe me, you're going to want to change the diet.

Even tumor activity and liver disease is higher in seed eaters.


A diet consisting mostly of pelleted food supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and a good seed mix that does not include sunflower seeds, is your parrot’s best choice.

It’s not easy for some birds to make the conversion, but quite often that’s because their owner is too easily swayed by their demands and fear that the bird isn’t going to eat at all if they don’t get their junk food.

When I take in rescues, one of the most common problems is nutrition. The birds are either terribly underweight or obese. Changing their diet is often a matter of life or death and I haven’t lost anyone to date.

I’ll try every type of pellet out there, whether fruity or plain, spicy or a combination – just be sure to get the size & type appropriate for your individual bird.

Offer a pellet from your fingers as a treat (if your bird is used to taking treats from your fingers that is) and go ahead and try one yourself so the bird can see. I’m serious – try it yourself. Your bird shouldn’t be expected to eat anything that you wouldn’t eat yourself.

I’ve mixed pellets in with cereal too, especially a good, healthy, low sugar type. Try crushing them into an all natural yogurt or baby food of mixed vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash or the like. One of our macaws started to love them when she found them in with her blueberries and other cut up fruit.

I’ve found it’s not a good idea to mix the pellets in with the seeds, but be creative otherwise.

One warning is that if you mix the pellets in with anything wet or even make a ‘mush’ out of the pellets using plain water, a natural, low sugar fruit juice – you must remove the dish (must!) after an hour or two, tops. There’s too much chance for bacterial growth in wet foods and this only makes a problem worse.

Sprouting fresh seed for vitamin and enzyme loaded greens for your bird is easy. The rumors about it being dangerous, often referring to fungal contamination or bacteria, are greatly exaggerated and not a concern when sprouting is done right.

Soaking seeds in an even cleaner environment can be effected by adding 1 tablespoon of GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) to a gallon of plain water and then using that water to soak the seeds.

When rinsing the sprouts, use a fresh batch of treated water.

One of the very best and most comprehensive guides I’ve seen on sprouting, including detailed instructions and explanations of the different kinds of seeds and nuts is here

For overall feeding and nutrition for your bird, this is a pretty extensive resource that includes homemade recipes that are for both birds and their owners to share

Good luck and please let me know how you make out.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Ok. Just got back from the vet.

The basic run down is this:

There are 3 possible causes of the head wobbling. A middle ear infection, complications of a stroke leading to neurological damage or an insufficient/unbalanced diet.
I chose to keep him at the vet's for a 48 hour observation period where he will be given fluids, calcium supplement, and started on antibiotics to see if there is any improvement in his conditon. I am a little worried about the possibility of it being irreversible neurological damage. I've heard of lovebirds living to over 20 years and I'm not about to give up on him at this point.

Thank you for the ideas about changing his diet. I will definitely put them in practice. I will work on weaning him off his sunflower seed junk food habit once he getts better and is back home.
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 7 years ago.
I continue to agree with your choices, but make a call tomorrow - you might find he's incredibly improved.

An indoor only bird, not exposed to other (unknown) birds, rarely has Pasteurella bacterial infection, aka: Torticollis or 'wry neck'. That's the good news right?

The other news is that a bird may be a chronic carrier, living with one or multiple symptoms; however, many birds that are infected with this bacteria progress rapidly with a high mortality rate.

Symptoms include (but not all need to be present): Lethargy, going off food/water, discharge from the mouth (often described as salivating or drooling), rapid breathing, fever (feet will be extremely warm), conjunctivitis (red, swollen, itchy eyes) and localized infections.

When the middle ear, cranial bones or meninges are infected, ‘wry neck’ (Torticollis) is seen.

Treatments include antibiotics such as Sulfonamides or in some cases, Penicillin. Be sure you have an experienced vet since Sulfas have toxic levels.

Other bacterial infections that may cause similar symptoms are:

Chlamydia, mycobacteria, salmonella, yersinia and others. Tests should include sampling (and culture) of the nares (nostrils), oral cavity, cloaca, etc., but if the vet isn’t knowledgeable about the normal flora in the bird species they are examining, the results may not mean much. Inexperienced vets will find that the culture grows something and often base their diagnosis on what they know of mammals.


When a bird seems to be falling off perches, showing symptoms of spasms, difficulty or inability to grasp or control their feet, it is frequently the result of hypocalcemia. Of course there are other conditions this could also be, but one of the more frequently seen is hypocalcemia.





If your companion has convinced you to feed him a predominantly seed diet over the years and most especially if he's getting sunflower seeds out of you, the chances are even greater that this is the problem.





Your vet (if not an avian vet) may not be aware that blood calcium levels are deceptive. They will often fall within the normal range (8.0 - 13.0 mg/dl), so an ionized calcium level needs to be done.






Treatment will vary, but usually include calcium supplementation of some form and full spectrum lighting exposure (Vitamin D is necessary to properly use the calcium intake in both our birds and in us).





You can offer your bird a regular spoon of cottage cheese, yogurt or even a Tums (I'd limit it to 1/2 tab every other day) and try to use nothing but all natural products/foods.

Calcium supplementation is helpful, but only if this is the problem to begin with. That's why a hands on vet exam is necessary in each and every case.






Other causations might be liver/kidney problems or tumors - and caught early they are far more successfully treated, as is the hypocalcemia.





--- It's very important to get him off the junk food. I'll be glad to stick with you on this after he gets home, although I'm willing to wager that this event makes you more determined than ever before and he'll be eating healthy (and liking it) no matter what.

Especially since it's not a matter of just eating some fruit. He can have a piece of string cheese, yogurt, many cereals, calcium enriched juices, tons of vegetables and even (cooked) chicken legs with a bit of meat left on them.

----- Video of macaw eating chicken leg -------

Let's go for a lot more than 20 years

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Oh wow. It never even crosed my mind they'd have a taste for meat. Though that video is of a much larger bird than my lovey. Do you think he might eat some cooked shredded chicken? If so, I'm all for it. With chicken meat he'd be getting both protein and fat at once.

Thank you for all your advice. I will update this post once the 48 hour period is over and the treatment has had a chance to have an effect on my lovey.

P.S: Off topic question. If I accept your answer instead of reply will this conversation be terminated or can we still continue updating it afterwards? I feel like you have already earned what I was willing to pay and I wanted to make sure you recieved it. Thanks again for your reply
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 7 years ago.
You have no idea what a pleasure it is to work with people who really care for their birds and are already doing the right things. I understand how easy it is to indulge them and how hard it is to say 'no' when they like something, even if it's bad for them.

If you use the 'accept' button you can still follow up as often as you like. You are only charged per 'accept'. So if you press it just once, that's it - and I'm absolutely fine with following up for free on this.

If the question closes you can open it any time (even months or years later) and it still doesn't cost any more

I'll be thrilled to stay in touch
August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Great, answer accepted. I will update this post after his observation period at the Vet's. Looking forward to your insights. Thanks again.