Cockatiel Died

by Tracey
(Norfolk, VA)

My husband and I got a baby cockatiel that we had to hand feed until he could eat the seed diet we got Snowy in Nov 2007. Everything was fine we took him back to pet store as they instructed for weighing and such as long as they required us to, he was fine until March 17th of this year. He was sitting on his water bowl and didn't anticipate me as I opened his cage he just sat there I knew something was wrong so I put him in a shoebox and headed for the nearest Avarian vet without calling. The Dr. wasn't in that day. I called my husband only to be directed to the other side of town. When we finally got there he died right in front of me. He was only 4 months old but, we loved that little bird to death and don't understand what may have happened to him. He did sphew up water the night before and I just didn't think anything of it also the day before he was on the bottom of his cage and I didn't take heed I thought he was just looking around down there because he made the prettiest noises that day he was just realizing he had vocals. My husband and I were both really sick for about a week and a half with flulike symptoms. We didn't hold Snowy for like 4 days and finally I took him out because he loved to be with either of us and I didn't think birds could catch human viruses. Part of me wants another bird even though there won't be another like him and I don't kno what we did wrong I can't go through that again. Can you give me any explanations or theories of what may have happened to Snowy? I miss him so :(

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Apr 24, 2008
Cockatiel cause of death - part three of three
by: The Vet

On the subject of hand feeding, this is a difficult process and requires experience. You should have a scale at home and weigh birds every day during the process. The pet store gave you very poor guidance. Having you travel back and forth to the store for weights is very inefficient and stress for the bird. Daily weights are vital to know if your bird is eating enough. The most common problem encountered when weaning a baby bird is that they do not eat. It is hard enough to get them to eat when they are in a clutch. But when they are alone it is even more difficult. They need clutch mates to vie against to learn to eat, and preen, and be a bird. Separating him before he was weaned was the beginning of the end. My speculation is that he did not eat enough, lost weight, fell into negative energy balance, and developed a secondary bacterial infection. This is what I see most often. Without a weight chart, it is not possible to know this for sure, though. Then there is the discussion we could have about what formula he was ed, how much he was fed at each feeding, what the temperature of the food was when it was feed, what were the deciding factors for stopping the hand feeding, what hand feeding techniques were used, how old he was when you started, what method of feeding was used (plunge vs. dribble feeding) - these and several other factors played an important role in Snowy’s health, and questions that need to be answered before anyone can say definitively what happened to him. Was an autopsy (necropsy) performed? A necropsy is really, the ONLY way to know for sure now what happed to him.

Dr. B

Apr 24, 2008
Cockatiel cause of death - part two of three
by: The Vet

*****Part two of three*****

Please do not misinterpret the things I am about to say. Remember I have not seen your bird and no nothing more than you have told me. I am not trying to place blame, but merely suggesting all of the things that COULD HAVE contributed to his death. Since you do not have a scale, you would not have been able to monitor the weight as closely as it should have been. It does not take much weight loss over a short period to cause a bird to go into a negative energy balance and develop gut stasis. When they get into this spiral, they can rarely be turned around. When birds are sick they will pretend they feel well and even pretend they are eating, but if you look at their droppings they are normally very dark and small, indicating that they are not eating. Birds should not be sold to people who are not experienced in hand feeding. The weaning time is the hardest time in a bird’s life. Without the experience of raising a bird, owners are not prepared to recognize when a bird is in trouble. Based on your brief description, this bird was not well. (sitting on the bottom of the cage, regurgitating water, non-responsive when opening the cage door). Again, I was not there and I am only speculating, but these are the problems that I see commonly in situations such as yours. Birds should not be sold unweaned. Hand feeding a bird does not make them bond better with the owner. In fact, the opposite occurs as the bird becomes an adult. Don’t buy an unweaned bird. Visit as a baby while it is being raised, and take it home only after it is weaned and maintaining its weight. Side note- it should be weaned to pellets not seeds. Seeds are a horrible diet for birds.


Apr 24, 2008
Cockatiel cause of death - part one of three
by: The Vet

Please accept my sincerest sympathies for your loss of Snowy.

This is a very complicated situation. There are so many possible reasons that could have been the cause for Snowy’s passing. Without knowing exactly what his care was like, and without being able to see his condition, I can only provide you with differentials but noting definitive. First I must say that I am very concerned that you had a sick bird, especially a cockatiel at the same time that family members were sick with flu-like symptoms. This concerns me because of the chance of psittacosis (aka parrot fever) caused by the organism Chlamydophilla. This is a very common disease in cockatiels and causes flu-like symptoms in people that normally last 1-2 weeks. So my first differential is Psittacosis. This a a bacteria that you would have caught from the bird, not vice versa.

*******Because this forum will not accept long posts, please read part two and three that follows*******

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