How To Tell If Your Cockatiel Is Dying

Sometimes a very sick cockatiel can be saved with veterinary intervention, but sometimes there is nothing that even an experienced avian vet can do to save a cockatiel’s life. But how to tell if your cockatiel is dying?

The signs or symptoms that your cockatiel is dying are:

  • Breathing problems
  •  Respiratory infection
  •  Frequent vomiting
  •  Feather problems
  •  Puffed feathers
  •  Low energy levels
  •  Reduced appetite
  •  Changes in drinking habits
  •  Changes in behavior
  •  Loss of balance
  •  Changes in feces and urine
How To Tell If Your Cockatiel Is Dying

It’s very important to know the signs when a cockatiel’s life is in peril. It lets a vet treat a disease or illness or make a cockatiel feel better in the short time they have left.

Much depends on a cockatiel’s age, any pre-existing conditions, how long the illness lasts, and the severity of the problem. A mold-related respiratory issue or general physical weakness doesn’t mean the end is near.

But if a medical problem is combined with other symptoms or left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to death.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Dying Cockatiel?

If your cockatiel is very sick or dying, it will likely display these symptoms:

1. Breathing problems

The presence of respiratory problems indicates that your cockatiel is seriously ill or dying.

Symptoms of breathing problems include:

  • Making clicking or gasping sounds
  • Sustained, open-mouthed breathing
  • Bobbing the tail with each breath
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Coughing

When a cockatiel has trouble breathing, it means that its air sacs are infected or infested, which can be fatal. They could be a sign of a blockage that could cause suffocation or a disease like:


Aspergillus is a fatal fungal illness caused by microscopic, airborne organisms. It can show up as a severe upper respiratory infection.

Vets may treat this condition with antifungal medications. In older cockatiels or those with advanced conditions, it’s usually deadly.

Teflon Toxicosis

When Teflon (PTFE) cookware is heated or burned and the temperature goes above 280°C (536°F), particles and gases are released that are very dangerous for birds to breathe in.

Polytetrafluoroethylene poisoning can lead to sudden death. Unfortunately, this may be the only symptom, and it is too late to treat the condition.

Cockatiels are most at risk due to their diminutive size. So, avoid using non-stick cookware, and keep your cockatiels away from the kitchen, especially when preparing cooked food.

2. Respiratory infection

While cockatiels don’t get colds, they can develop cold-like symptoms. The symptoms of a respiratory infection depend on whether the infection is in the upper or lower respiratory tract.

If the upper airway is infected, you may notice a change in your cockatiel’s voice. But if an infection is in the lower tract, a cockatiel will have more serious symptoms, such as trouble breathing.

The symptoms of a respiratory infection include:

  • Coughing
  • Bobbing up and down to breathe
  • SneezingOpens in a new tab.
  • A runny nose
  • PantingOpens in a new tab.
  • Noisy breathing
  • Shortness of breath

However, the treatment of respiratory conditions depends on the cause:

  • Bacteria infections: Antibiotics are usually used to treat these.
  • Fungal infections: Conditions like aspergillosis require antifungal drugs.
  • Parasite infections: Drugs that kill parasites like air sac mites will be used to treat parasitic infections.

Sometimes respiratory problems are connected to a lack of vitamin A, which is common when cockatiels are fed all-seed diets. If so, vitamin A supplementation will be recommended.

Cockatiels can be infected with Mycoplasma or Chlamydophila without showing any symptoms and pass the infection on to other birds.

To figure out if your cockatiel has a respiratory infection, they need a full physical exam and blood tests.

3. Frequent vomiting

Cockatiels often regurgitate their foodOpens in a new tab. for several reasons, such as to feed their young or when they are trying to mate. Vomiting is not a benevolent behavior, however, and is a sign the cockatiel is very sick or dying. You can tell the difference by the behavior of the cockatiel before the food comes out.

A regurgitating cockatiel will not appear distressed and will move its head forward and “drop” the food out of its beak, whereas a vomiting cockatiel will shake and trembleOpens in a new tab. and make jerky head and upper body movements as the food comes out.

Rare and significant, vomiting indicates one of the following conditions:

  • Liver, kidney, or heart problems
  • Viral or parasitic infection
  • Nutritional problems, like overfeeding, an unbalanced diet, or a lack of vitamins.
  • Poisoning
  • Food allergies

If a cockatiel is vomiting and not regurgitating, it needs to be seen by a vet without delay.

4. Feather problems

If a bird has unhealthy feathers, it could mean that it has a health problem that shows up in its feathers. Also, a cockatiel may be so ill that it can’t preen and maintain its feathers.

Severe illnesses and diseases can change the colorOpens in a new tab. of a cockatiel’s feathers. If their immune system is weak or failing, bars or stripes may show up on their skin.

Also, a cockatiel’s feathers may look rough and messy when moltingOpens in a new tab.. However, if your cockatiel isn’t molting or if its molting processOpens in a new tab. has suddenly stopped, this is a concerning issue.

However, you may observe your cockatiel deliberately damaging or plucking its feathers.

5. Puffed feathers

Dying or sick cockatiels will puff up their feathersOpens in a new tab.. While this is normal behavior in healthy cockatiels, most will only get puffy if they feel a cool breeze or when they wind down for the night.

Ruffled feathers can trap warm air, so you may notice your cockatiel looking puffier than usual if the room is drafty as it tries to stay warm. Your cockatiel may also fluff up its feathers if it’s cleaning them.

However, this is not a behavior that should be exhibited continuously. If you notice your cockatiel puffing up and staying puffy for longer than usual, it may be fighting off a fever or infection.

6. Low energy levels

Cockatiels have lower energy levels as they get older. As cockatiels get older, their joints and muscles become less resilient, strong, and flexible, which makes them move less.

On the other hand, a cockatiel that is dying or is sick will show minimal movement and may also be very still with its eyes closed and in a hunched-over position. Cockatiels that may not normally be welcoming to handling may allow you to pick them up, as they are too weak to fly off or move away from you.

They might also sit on the bottom of the cageOpens in a new tab. instead of a perch.

Lower energy isn’t always a sign that someone is going to die soon. But if the tiredness comes on quickly or is very bad, it could be because of:

  • Yeast infection
  • ParasitesOpens in a new tab.
  • Hormonal diseases
  • Liver, heart, or kidney failure

7. Reduced appetite

Cockatiels have a high metabolism, so you must ensure your pet gets the nutrition it needs daily. If you notice your cockatiel isn’t eating as usual or showing signs of weight lossOpens in a new tab., it could be a sign that it has an impaction or intestinal blockage. Refusing to eat or losing weight can mean death is near for your cockatiel.

You can tell if your cockatiel is losing weight by feeling its breast area. If you can feel the bones, your cockatiel is underweight. You might also consider regularly weighing your cockatiel to keep tabs on its weight.

However, it can be challenging to tell if your cockatiel is eating as it should, as they often pretend to eat when they’re not. You may notice that their food bowls are emptied, so you think they’re eating.

But in reality, they are picking pellets or seeds from their bowls and dropping them to the bottom of their cage. Make it a habit to check the bottom of the cage often for food that has been dropped.

8. Changes in drinking habits

If your cockatiel starts to drink much more than usualOpens in a new tab., it may be developing a condition like diabetes or dealing with liver problems.

On the other hand, if one doesn’t drink enough, it could be a sign of a serious illness. This is especially true if their appetite changes a lot and, at the same time, they drink less fluid.

9. Changes in behavior

Your cockatiel might be dying or sick if it starts exhibiting behaviors far outside the norm.

For example, if your cockatiel is usually pretty friendly but all of a sudden gets angry easily and bites, it could be because it is sick. Similarly, if your typically high-strung pet is suddenly unusually tame, problems could be afoot.

Also, if your normally talkative cockatiel stops singing or imitating sounds it hears around it, it could be because of a serious health problem. You might also recognize a change in the tone of your cockatiel’s vocalizations. If this is the case, keep an eye on it over the next few days for any new signs.

10. Loss of balance

A dying or sick cockatiel can have difficulty staying on its perchOpens in a new tab.. It may begin to shiver or shake, and it may even fall off the perchOpens in a new tab. and land at the bottom of the cage.

Some may seem wobbly or swoon before falling, while others will start having seizuresOpens in a new tab.. If your room is at a normal temperature and your cockatiel is still shaking or shivering, that is a clear sign that it is feeling unwell.

Other neurological signs include heat tilting, unconsciousness, weakness, and even paralysis.

11. Changes in feces and urine

Your cockatiel’s feces are an excellent indicator of its overall health, so we recommend familiarizing yourself with what your cockatiel’s droppings usually look like. Changes in its urine or feces can show that it is sick.

If its poop is dark red or black, it could mean that there is blood in it. This could be an indication of a disease such as cancer.

If food is visible in the feces, your cockatiel is not digesting its food as it should be. This could indicate a gastrointestinal disease or egg binding if your cockatiel is female.

If its poop is watery, it may have a bacterial or fungal infection.

A cockatiel’s urine is not yellow like that of other domestic animals. Instead, it presents as a white and chalky substance known as urates. If you don’t see any urates in your cockatiel’s droppings or if they are yellow or lime in color, there could be a problem afoot.

What To Do When The Cockatiel Shows These Symptoms?

What To Do When The Cockatiel Shows These Symptoms?

It is best to take your cockatiel to an avian vet for a physical examination if it is showing signs of severe illness. But meanwhile, it would be best to quarantine a sick cockatiel and keep a close eye on it.

If it hasn’t been tamed, don’t handle it too much because it could cause stress, which could hurt its health.

If the cockatiel seems overheated, put its cage where it can get some fresh air. However, if the cockatiel is cold, you can also put an outside heat source near it to control the temperature.

Provide fresh drinking water and food, and make sure that the bowls are within the cockatiel’s reach.

When your pet is in a lot of pain and can’t be helped by medicine anymore, your vet may suggest putting it to sleep kindly.

Should I Quarantine A Dying Cockatiel?

If one cockatiel is sick and dying, you may be concerned about the health and well-being of its cage mates.

Cockatiels are social creatures, so it may be more comfortable for a dying cockatiel to stay near its companions. Unfortunately, many illnesses are highly contagious.

However, if your vet is certain a cockatiel is dying for natural, non-contagious reasons, let it stay with its friends. If the other birds in its cage aren’t too active, this will help to calm it down.

If your cockatiel is dying, separate it from other birds and get them checked by a vet.

What To Do When Your Cockatiel Dies?

Even when you take very good care of your pet cockatiel and give them prompt veterinary care, sick cockatiels die.

If the cockatiel dies before you can take it to the vet for a diagnosis and you don’t know what killed it, you can put its body in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer. As soon as you can, take it to the vet for a necropsy, which can tell you what killed the bird.

It always helps to care for your cockatiels better in the future if you know why one of your cockatiels died.

Your winged companion’s death could be upsetting, but if there are more cockatiels or other birds in the flock that remains behind, you need to be cautious.

The cage, the toys, and other equipment that the cockatiel shared with the rest of the flock need to be carefully disinfected.

Also, the cockatiels that are left behind need to be observed closely to look for any signs of sickness and an avian vet should be consulted if they do.

However, knowing the signs of a dying cockatiel and giving it the care it needs can save its life. If not, at least you’ll know you tried your hardest.


You can’t notice signs of illness or impending death if you don’t make a habit out of regularly monitoring your cockatiel. Once you have a baseline for how your cockatiel typically acts, recognizing sickness symptoms will be much easier.

Make sure you watch how much your cockatiel eats and drinks, look at its poop and urine, and watch how it acts every day. Remember, your cockatiel relies on you to provide the things it needs to thrive, so do your due diligence by keeping tabs on your feathered friend.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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