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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 2632
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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We just got a sun conure from the pet store. He's 1 year old

Customer Question

Hi, we just got a sun conure from the pet store. He's 1 year old and he is standing low to the ground with a lot of weight on his ankles. Our vet said this may be a sign of something not being right and we wanted to get a second opinion. Thanks!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 1 year ago.

Greetings, I am Dr. Pat. I have worked with birds exclusively for many years.​

Your vet is correct. This could be a number of very serious issues, and I do not want to frighten you but he should have series of tests done right away. Some of the possibilities include metal toxicity, infection, trauma, any number of virus/bacterial or other infections, calcium deficiency, and so on.

It is very important that you get to a good, bird-experienced vet IMMEDIATELY. This kind of posture indicates weakness, incoordination and life-threatening illness. His life may be in danger. You may be reimbursed vet bills and care expenses, but the exam needs to be done quickly (depending on you state's laws) and also to ensure that what ever is going on originated at the pet store.

IMPORTANT Check the website for the feed you give, there have been many recalls; or check this link:



Can you tell me more about the bird?​

How long has this been going on? At the store or after he came home?

How long have you had him? Just a few days?

how long was he at the pet store?

How certain are you of his age?

Any accidents or trauma?

Interactions with other birds/pets/children/guests?

What is the usual diet? has he eaten since he came home with you?

What do the poops look like?

Has the bird gotten into anything?

What is your geographic location and local weather?

These signs are of a very sick bird, and not specific to any one disease. And that means it is not fair to you or the bird to guess, there are so many possibilities.You are going to need local help on this, and a scientific and solid diagnosis to find safe and effective treatment.

The challenge is to find out exactly what is going on, since treatment will depend on careful and accurate diagnosis.

Without a diagnosis, I cannot recommend any particular course of treatment, except good nursing care at home.

If you feel comfortable with it, examine the bird thoroughly, using gentle restraint via washcloth or hand towel: do not restrict the chest or hold around the body. Check the eyes, nostrils, mouth and beak if possible, having a good look in there for mucus, redness, masses or anything else unusual. Palpate the tummy for pain, fluid, lumps or anything else (eggs, if female or unknown). Check all the joints for swelling, pain, and mobility. The feathers should be parted to view the skin, muscles and skeleton below; this can be done using a q-tip with isopropyl alcohol or KY gel. Look for bruising, lacerations, injured feathers.

Your job is to keep the bird warm, safe, quiet, and confined; and to provide adequate hydration and calories.

Move the bird to a box or carrier with soft towels in the bottom, no perch, and food and water in low bowls that can be reached easily. Put the whole thing on a heating pad on low or medium. Check it frequently, no overheating allowed! Keep the unit partially covered, warm and quiet. White paper towels or white cloth towels will show the true color of the droppings. Small animal/reptile boxes are great for this purpose.
The bird, bowls and unit must be kept very clean.

Here are some helpful links:

Do not try to force food or water. Pedialyte or electrolyte replacer can help but many birds do not like them; when in doubt, plain warm water is best. They can hydrate from oral fluids almost as quickly as IV if the GI is functioning properly. You can offer warm cooked rice, pancakes, cornbread, grapes, melon, greens in addition to normal food.

Pet/feed store medications and home remedies are harmful, ineffective, immuno-suppressive, and make them much worse and may interfere with the veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment. Do not use them. Homeopathy and natureopathic techniques do not work in avians and can actually be very dangerous.

I know it is expensive, but you may not have many home options, because the first thing you need a vet for is to find out what is going on. Treatment is only as good as the diagnosis. If you call around, you may find a vet to work within your means.

I really must stress that you need a bird-experienced person, and not just a vet who advertises that they care for birds.

You need to take your bird to see an avian-experienced veterinarian ASAP for complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Check click on "find a vet"

for members of AAV in your area or call your regular vet and see who they recommend; ask if they really have worked with birds a lot.

If this were my patient, and money no object, I would start with complete fecal analysis and direct smear, stained with Sedi-stain and unstained for multiple parasites, fungi, spirals; direct smear stained with Sedi-stain and unstained of the oral cavity; bacterial culture and sensitivity of the feces and choana. Depending on the case I might do a fungal culture. Routine blood work is necessary to rule out other issues--it will show anemia, calcium levels, infection, and the vet can also request a metal toxicity test. There are MANY DNA/RNA tests for bird diseases--and BORNA VIRUS CAN LOOK LIKE THIS.. Ultrasound is often more informative than radiographs and does not require anesthesia (ask your vet about this option). Generally I start them out on medications as indicated by the tests.

AAV recommended lab work

Your bird may need injectable fluids, calcium, antibiotics and many other medications. Act quickly and good luck.

Here are a few suggestions that I give everyone: important!

The following guidelines help with basic issues such as nutrition, obesity, good immune status. Surprising how the following can make a bird healthy, and how infrequently birds are ill if they are on the following regimen. No amount of medicine is going to work if the birds' basic needs are not met.

​great resource link:​

AAV Guidelines

Birds should be on a high-quality, preferably prescription, pelleted diet: I prefer High-potency Harrison's


In addition, they should be offered dark leafy greens, cooked sweet potatoes, yams, squash, pumpkin; entire (tops and bottoms) fresh carrots and so forth. No seeds (and that means a mix, or millet, or sprays, etc. etc.) and only healthy, low-fat high fiber people food. A dietary change should be closely monitored and supervised by your avian vet.

Daily Maintenance

Birds should get 12-14 hours dark, quiet, uninterrupted sleep at night. Any less and they can suffer from sleep deprivation and associated illnesses. They should be covered or their cage placed in a dark room that is not used after they go to bed.

The cage material should be cleaned everyday, and twice a day if the bird is really messy. Paper towels, newspaper, bath towels are ok. Never use corn cob, sawdust, wood chips, or walnut shell.
Food and water dishes should be cleaned and changed daily. Keep one set cleaned while the other is in use.

Fresh, perishable food should be placed in separate food bowls. Remove fresh food from the cage after a couple of hours to avoid spoilage.

Change cage papers daily, and clean the grate and tray weekly.

Clean food debris or droppings from toys and perches as needed (which can be as often as once a day).

Grit is not necessary for birds, and will cause digestive problems and death. The best sources of minerals (and vitamins) are leafy greens. Never give grit, gravel sandpaper or cement perches. A bird will eat those to excess when it is not feeling well or if there is a nutritional deficiency. They do not need it at all (an old myth from the poultry days, even poultry do not need it). It can cause an impaction and lead to serious or fatal consequences.

Useful links:

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for all of the information!We got him from our local Petco, he had been there for a little over 6 months and at a different location prior to that, and they are the ones who told us he is a year old. We have had him for 6 days now, and he has been resting on his ankles on and off during this period. I'm uncertain if he was doing it at the store. His diet at the pet store was a mix of pellets and seed, we have switched him to the same food that we give our other conures (don't worry they're not in the same room!) which is the Zupreem pellets. His eating habits have been a bit irregular but that has been improving as he's gotten used to his new environment. We live in the Bay Area so it is pretty temperate, and we try to make sure all of our birds are warm enough during all times of the day (including blankets, heated perches, and heat lamps). As far as we know he has not experienced any trauma since we brought him home, but we believe that he may not have been socialized very well at the store, he had been showing signs of severe stress while there, including feather picking, but he has stopped doing that since we brought him home. He seems to be eating regularly, and we have begun monitoring his weight at the suggestion of our vet, who is certified in avian care.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Oh and his droppings have been a brownish green, the consistency appears normal (at least when compared to our other birds) and not too watery, the urates also seem to be normal (white and not too watery mixed in with the feces).