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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 29788
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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He's a 17 year old cockatiel. He's been regurgitating a lot

Customer Question

He's a 17 year old cockatiel. He's been regurgitating a lot for the ,Astro2 weeks. He's not losin
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully it didn't make a mess. Did the bird eat anything unusual?
Customer: He did. He was eating r Th The underside of a chair Once we realized we stopped him from doing that but he hasn't stopped regurgitating He eats then goes to the bottom of his cage on the corner to regurgitate. We would lock the cage so he couldn't go in and do it and he stopped regurgitating. But now he is doing it on the paper outside of the cage. Never near his food or toys on the jungle gym Sometimes he eats it. He's not losing weight. His stool looks normal
JA: OK. The Veterinarian will know what to do. What is the bird's name?
Customer: Sunshine
JA: Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about Sunshine?
Customer: He has a mirror that he loves. I was reading it might be behaviorall. I'm just worried bcs he does it like 20x a day
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 8 months ago.

You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply. Please be patient. This may take a few minutes.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 8 months ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. We don't have many avian vets on this site.

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 which threatens malnourishment due to loss of ingesta.

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 looking for ulceration or abnormal growths and is likely to examine a swab of the oral cavity for abnormal numbers of either bacteria, yeast, or parasites.

Vomiting is a more serious symptom and seeing a vet as soon as possible is recommended. Important considerations include ingluvitis (crop inflammation) due to bacterial, yeast, and parasitic (Trichomoniasis, e.g.) infections. Gram negative bacterial infections are commonly responsible for systemic infections in our pet birds. There are far too many possible diseases associated with vomiting to list here, but as in any case of illness, getting it evaluated, diagnosed and treated right away generally gives the best prognosis for recovery. I would be more comfortable knowing that Sunshine was examined by an avian vet - particularly because he's long past life-expectancy for a cockatiel and so degenerative disorders and age-related cancers become important considerations at this time.

If Sunshine won't drink and eat on its own please consider eyedroppering a few drops of the fluids and electrolyte replacer Pedialyte (or generics) 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 inhaling the fluid and developing aspiration pneumonia. Please heat up hisenvironment to 85F so he need not expend excess energy keeping his body temperature up.

Another feeding option is to offer 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 live-culture yogurt.

Nutritional imbalances are a common cause of illness in our pet birds. What has Sunshine's diet consisted of, please? 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.

Please respond with the additional information and further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Sunshine is not vomiting. He bobs his head up and down in a tapping motion and forces the food out. There has been no blood in it. He is constantly eating/replenishing his food and drinking water. He does eat seeds, greens,,grains, cheese, fruit, soft cooked veggies etc. His level of activity seems high..he seems very anxious and nervous when he cannot get into the cage to regurgitate which makes me think it is behavioral.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 8 months ago.

That's good to hear. There's no specific "therapy" for such a bird who's otherwise well. Mirrors can be removed and caretakers instructed not to act like sexual partners for him - avoid cuddling and kissing, e.g. The following is from Alyson Kalhagen: "Regurgitation as seen in wild birds demonstrates a high level of affection for a flock-mate. If your bird regurgitates for you, he or she is attempting to let you know that you are loved and respected, as strange as it may seem. While it can be a hassle to clean up the "present" your bird has given you, it's important not to discipline your bird for regurgitation.

Secondly, regurgitation can be triggered by certain actions on your behalf. Pay attention to your bird and you will begin to recognize things that seem to trigger regurgitation in your pet. It could be a certain word or phrase you say to your bird, a certain toy that the two of you play with or a game that you enjoy, or even something as simple as a scratch on the back of the head. For example, Oliver, my ringneck parakeet, regurgitates almost without fail every time I pet and rub him underneath his wings. Different birds will have different things that trigger regurgitation, so owners must gauge their interactions with their pets in order to determine what types of stimulation compels their own pet birds to regurgitate.

Once you begin to recognize the things that stimulate your bird to regurgitate, you can do your best to avoid regurgitation if you so wish by attempting to eliminate the triggers. This is not to say that you should refrain from interaction with your bird -- this is never the case! Rather, you can find different ways to play and show affection to your pet that tend to not trigger the regurgitation behavior. Be creative, and there is almost sure to be a way that you can cut down on your bird's regurgitation without sacrificing valuable bonding time."

Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
He's actually not a very affectionate bird. He's not very friendly with humans. He however is always 'chatting' with his favorite mirror and I have seen him rubbing his tail, or masterbating, more often near the mirror. I'll keep an eye on the trigger.
Thank you.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 8 months ago.

You're quite welcome. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 8 months ago.

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