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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7608
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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my quaker parrot , is lethargic, fluffed up and shaking

Resolved Question:

my quaker parrot , since I got her up today, is lethargic and has her featers fluffed up. she will not even eat her favorite ripe banana. should I take her to the emergency vet? I have no experience with birds that are sick. thanks, Susan


she is also shaking now.  there is no emergency vet available.  I have her cage partially covered

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 5 years ago.
-- First, take a deep breath and stay calm. Being tense, which I totally understand, doesn't help anything and may make your bird more stressed.

Birds are among the most masterful at hiding illness, weakness or injury because just one mistake in the wild and their life could be over.


You aren’t the only they can confuse: A bird may show their weakness, illness and lack of energy one moment, even for a few hours or days - and then “suddenly” seem to be fine. This is their getting a second wind. Finding the strength to ‘mask’ the illness or problem. And since this masking can continue for a while, the underlying issue is only getting worse. The next time you see the bird acting ‘off’, it might be really, really bad.


If your bird is acting ‘off’, no matter what – no matter when, they need to be seen by their vet. Infections and disease are far more successfully and inexpensively treated when tackled early. Unlike mammals, avians don’t fare well with a “watch and wait” protocol.



These should help you find an avian vet near you



These days, with birds growing fast in popularity as in home companions, many DVM’s are quite experienced and able to see and treat many birds. If you have a pet store that sells birds or know of any bird breeders – ask them who they use for their bird care.


While Board Certified Avian Vets are the ideal choice in most cases, it’s not necessary. I’ve met BCAV’s that I personally feel shouldn’t be allowed in the same room as a bird, and I know ‘regular’ vets that specialize in avian care to the point of being published with the American Veterinary Medical Association repeatedly and highly sought after for information, input and personal research.


If you have a Pet Smart in town you may have a vet for your bird. Most Pet Smart’s now have a veterinary clinic inside and many of them will see birds (open 7 days a week too).



Finding an emergency clinic may mean making calls to every single vet in your area. There is always at least one that maintains urgent care hours and often cover for each other. Sometimes they switch offices; for example, one vet will do it for certain time period, then another will do it, etc..


Make the phone calls - listen to the answering services - they should give options for “in case this is an emergency”.


What you can do while securing a vet to see your companion is supportive care.


Just in case you’re wondering, never use any antibiotics from a pet store – they not only do not work, but they are increasingly blamed for serious complications, including death. These manufacturers do not have the same controls or ‘truth in advertising’ as human products do.


Most birds will need a heat source to maintain body heat while you’re getting their medical treatment lined up or while you’re on your way to see the vet with them. Ideally, a brooder is suggested in order to keep the bird comfortable, calm and warm.


For a makeshift brooder: Use an appropriately sized box lined with soft clothes like tee shirts. It should be like a ‘nest’ for your bird, not too big. Tuck in more materials to make an oversized box ‘smaller’ on the inside if necessary.


Use a thick, clean sock and fill it ¾ with plain, raw white rice. Knot the end and microwave it for about 1 ½ minutes. Shake it afterwards to distribute the heat and be sure it's not too hot. Tuck this in just under the cloths. The heat should last a couple of hours and even though it’s dry, raw rice - it’s a moist heat. You can use two socks if you feel it’s appropriate.


A heating pad under the box is also helpful, set on low. This is one of the few times I’d ever use both heat sources if necessary to maintain incubation temp (approx. 90 degrees F, 32.2 C). If you use the heating pad - I’d only use one rice sock, if any at all. Be sure you only put the heating pad underneath ½ of the cage bottom so the bird has the option of moving to a ‘cooler’ side.


If ever using an electric source for heating anything in anyway, please be vigilant and constantly double checking carefully.


Gently drape a light cover over this box to further help hold heat in and keep light low.


You might also want to put a vaporizer in the area - no meds in it. The warm, steamy air is helpful for just about anything that might be wrong. Not a cure, but helpful.


Good luck and remember, you need to stay calm and keep your little one calm in turn.

August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
can you give me any ideas as to what it might be?
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 5 years ago.
-- That's a hard question. Fluffing up and acting 'off' are secondary reactions to just about all health issues a bird may have. So no one, not even the most versed, experienced avian expert, specialist vet will be able to guess an underlying problem given just these symptoms.

Tell me what sort of diet your bird's been on for the most part. And how have the droppings been looking.

Any odor from them or from the bird's mouth, and if so, what does it smell like?

Is she acting off balance? Has she ever laid eggs? Is there anything going on at her vent area?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
droppings look ok to me. the bird eats parrot mixed seeds and other nuts, etc. I feed her fresh fruit daily--like banana, orange, tomato and I have made a variety of bird breads all of this offered daily. I am having trouble keeping her in the box you recommended and am waiting for a vet to call me back. there is no odor from her mouth or droppings. she has never laid eggs that i of and I don't want to check her vent right now, as she has settled in the box
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 5 years ago.
-- OK, let's try to keep her calm. If she is really stressing with the box, turn the bottom of her cage into this same sort of environment. Remove her perches so she doesn't climb up and possibly fall off, plus, it's easier to control the heat source if she's at the bottom.

--- You can put a perch just a few inches off the bottom if she seems to insist on perching. We really want her calm, unstressed and safe.


You can layer a thick towel on one side of the cage, secure with clothespins out of the reach of the bird’s beak – then clip a heating pad over the towel and set on low. Check often to be sure it’s not overheating and that the bird isn’t gnawing through. A side attachment like this will allow the bird to move closer or away as needed.


One increased concern about a seed based diet is the incredibly higher instances of liver disease called hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver). Despite the wonderful claims of 'healthy' on the packaging and from pet store people, seeds really should be eliminated from an in-house bird's diet. Like fast food (junk food) should be eliminated from the human diet. Actually it's easier to make a bird's diet healthy because they're very flexible. You can click here to learn more about how to get her switched over

By the way, do not press 'accept' again on this. I am happy to follow up and you don't need to pay more for that.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
i just home from the store and she had climbed out of the box. I gave her a little honey water. the vet in town told me check her stool--white versus green. I saw what i thought was smushed up stool and it was yellow. do you know what might mean?
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 5 years ago.
The dropping you've described is often associated with liver disease; however, before you panic, it may be "just something she ate" or an infection in the gut.

--- Obviously, because it can be something as serious as liver disease, there's no denying that a hands on evaluation is essential. Even if it's "just" an infection, they can be progressive and become life threatening left untreated.

Go ahead and use her cage as an option to keep her calm with the guideline above

If your bird will drink and eat on their own, excellent. If not, have an eyedropper ready to administer a few drops of plain water, or better yet, children’s Pedialyte every 20-30 minutes. Put the dropper gently inside the beak and let the drops fall into the bottom beak under the tongue rather than trying to get into the back of the throat. We don’t want to chance the bird inhaling the fluid and developing pneumonia.


You can also make some sugar water with 1-2 tablespoons of natural white sugar (none of those sugar substitutes no matter how natural they claim to be) in ½ cup of water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and offer the bird a couple drops of this along with the Pedialyte.


In a pinch, Gatorade or other sports drink without added zinc or at least with zinc listed low on the list of ingredients, can be used while you are getting Pedialyte.


Another feeding option is to offer ½ spoon of all natural, organic baby food (squash, yams, sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables) which many birds take readily; also try some pabulum or baby rice cereal and a few licks of natural (no artificial anything) yogurt.


Feel free to mix these or offer them one at a time.


Let me reassure you, even if this is liver disease, when discovered early - which it sounds like this is - there is a very good chance of her having a long, healthy life ahead of her with whatever treatment your vet decides is required right now and on your part, getting her on a pretty strict, but good diet.
Your vet may prescribe a pellet base and review the fresh foods to include more natural beta carotene, ie: sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, dark squash and dark greens like kale, carrot tops, mustard greens, beets and beet greens, dark colored lettuces, spinach and so on.


You are doing the right things, your keen observations caught this early and until you're told to 'worry', please don't.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
thank you, I may get back to you after I try your new recommendations.