Cockatiel titled head

by Vivian
(Reston, Virginia)

Hi! I noticed last night (10/14/10) that my female Sweety, 8 years old, was walking around with her head hopelessly titled to the right. As I tried to reach for her, she tried to get away & only ended up in walking in circles, occassionally falling over. I did manage to hold her, & although she seemed comfortable snuggling her head in my palm, she seems to have lost weight.

Anyone know what this can be from, & what is the prognosis? Is she in pain? Infectious? Some other neural issues?

I'm not sure she is eating too well either. She is able to climb up the side of her cage, sit on the perch & preen, but seems to lose footing.

She used to lay eggs non stop for several years, now for past 5-6 months, not many. She always used to shiver slightly & looked puffed up, so its hard to tell if there was a lot of fat on her.

She lives in the same cage as my male cockatiel Sunny, who is 12 years old. He is desolate at her non-responsiveness. I'm worried he might get her infection. Right now I separated them inside the same cage temporarily. She has been with him since we got her more than 7 years ago as a baby from a breeder.

Any one please give some insight!

Thank you very much.

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Mar 09, 2017
Cocktiel tilted head
by: Vivian

Hi Robynn,

I'm so sorry about your baby. Her condition sounds very much like my Sweetie years ago. Apparently it is a neurological disorder which might often be found in female birds of egg-laying ages. I am not a professional, but I did talk a lot to a lot of vets. I really don't know what will help your bird, but I know nothing helped mine. Although we spent $1200+, injected her with antibiotics, gave her oral drops and in general tormented her every possible way because the vets were too interested in making money than treating her. Sweetie could neither eat nor drink water since she could not see the food, and water dribbled right out of her beak since she could not dip and raise her head to swallow. If you think your baby is hurting, starving, and scared, please get a vet's opinion asap. Also try to keep her in a low cage. She might fall due to lost footing from a high perch and injure herself further. I hope she feels better, and you do too.

Mar 06, 2017
Her head is tilted to the side, what to do?
by: Robinn

Two days ago I noticed my cockatiel's head was severely tilted to the left at first it wasn't so bad, I took her out of the cage and wrapped a light towel around her and clicked her wings and toenails, everything was going great until I noticed when I put her back in her cage that she was walking in circles and that really concerns me. I've been reading a lot on the issue of cockatiels and tilted heads, I've read everything from old age to having strokes and liver failure, I know for fact that she's not eating because she can't see her bowl or drinking, she gets up on her perch and not being able to keep her balance and falls I've taken the purchase out made it more convenient for her to eat and I have noticed that she's not eating or drinking water. I take her out over cage and feeder and I'm trying to make her drink water but for some reason she only takes a little water in and that's it. I also read that if there liver is failing that there will be a strong odor to their droppings I noticed that today. I'm so scared that my little sugar pie will pass away. My husband bought her for me from the Humane Society she was my sobriety bird, she was a lot like me messed up and needed help, when we got her I noticed she was missing one eye and one toe due to an owner that tried to breed her with a very dominant male when she wouldn't mate with him he started plucking her eye out, as she was trying to get away from little cold got caught in the cage and that's how she lost her toe. I've had her for years I was just very excited when I got her and now I'm very depressed because I'm scared of the thought I might loser sugar pie. I'm going to try and find a Vat that knows about cockatiels. But I live in Vancouver Washington and trying to find a vet that works with birds is few and far between. So anybody could help me out here and let me know what it means for a cockatiel that has a extremely bad tilted neck. Any advice will help me. Thank you so very much for reading this. I'm very grateful. Robinn

May 01, 2016
Tilted head
by: Dawny

Hi my cocatiel has had fast growing beak since xmas . Had it trimmed for the 4th time 3 wks ago. Vet cut it too short n it bled. He rubbed it with a pen like thing to stop bleeding. He was quiet when i went to bed but noticed his head tilted to the right. Following morning i woke up to him covered in blood all down his chest , on cage bottom n on his perch and it was splashed on my wall with him shaking his head. Hes eating drinking singing n is happy . Beak has started growing again but his head is still to the right. Any helo on understanding this will be greatly appreciated . Thanks

Apr 03, 2011
tilted head, no balance = cockatiel
by: Alan

I have a 4 year old hen cockatiel with the same problem except she eats well and has not lost weight. She had the same problem two years ago but got over it. However she has regressed and cannot fly. She a younger male with her but they no longer mate. I am wondering if she has had more than one stroke.

Editor's note: As Dr B said, you need to get your bird to an avian vet. Find an Avian Vet

Jan 31, 2011
Paralysed cockatiel
by: Anonymous

Your cockatiel is suffering a neurological
disease. Vitamin supplementation helps this condi-
ion, particularly vitamin D, use a soluble type.Bioflavanoids are also helpful.

Oct 31, 2010
Cockatiel Tilted head
by: Vivian

We had to put Sweetie to sleep. Its heart-breaking to think of, & I am still in shock over the rapidity of events.

I took her to the vet again on Oct 23rd. She had lost weight, & the vet told me that if she could not keep up her weight, there are three options: hospitalize her to they could feed her directly into the crop, get her to eat more at home somehow, or put her to sleep. The first was not affordable & was only short term, the third was unthinkable. We took her home & sat with her while she ate, & she seemed to be doing better for 2-3 days. Then by the time her 10 day Antibiotics injections were over, she seemed to have lost more muscle, her chest bone was sticking out, & the deciding factor was that due to her severely twisted neck, she could not swallow water.

Her second blood tests came back with slightly better WBC count, & slightly better liver function readings, but nothing seemed to be actually making her better. The Vet suggested more tests, but had still not been able to answer my question "Do you know what you are treating?". According to her, it could be a parasite, but no sure diagnosis. It was then that I decided to stop trying.

Had she shown any definite improvement, I would have tried more. But she could not swallow water without sputtering, could not find her food because she could not locate it with her twisted head, & there was nothing else the vet could suggest.

My only complaint for the vet is that I relied upon her for her experience & expertise, but all she kept suggesting is more tests. She could have told me right at the beginning that it was a hopeless case, & I would not have tortured the poor little being with injections & oral doses for 12 days. If she were to go, I'd rather she went without me adding to her agony. At some stage the vet could have told me to stop the injections because the Antibiotics were not helping.

Forgive me my baby for hurting you, may you rest in peace. Sweetie lived with us for 8 years & was the sweetest little pet. I shall always preserve her memories fondly, remember her soft touch & little crooning, her funny ways of chewing on my gold chain, & her habit of pushing her head under my fingers to have her head rubbed. Love you Sweetie! REST IN PEACE ALWAYS.

Oct 22, 2010
Cockatiel Tilted head
by: Vivian

Tonight Sweetie has been home for 4 nights,& seems to be stronger. The Aspirin therapy will be complete tomorrow morning, 8 days of injections & oral Antibiotics remain. Her head tilt is slightly less, but there is no way to really know if she is on the mend medically. All I know is that she is fighting far more & tries to get away quicker than before. The moment I hold her in the towel, she manages to slide out of it & when held, cleverly pushes the syringe with her tongue, & just twists her head away to avoid the oral meds.

With the injection, her heart rate goes up - she knows it is time for the sting when I cover her head too.

One issue I do see is that her vent is caked with stool, & each night my daughter holds her over a washbasin & I use a warm water spray to loosen & remove it. The vet I talked to said she was getting a stool softner, & it might be diarrhea, but it seems more like thicker stool to me. One reason could be that she is sitting on the floor of the box, & so has little clearance like she would have on a raised perch.

I will talk to the vet tomorrow & find out when she needs to be seen again. As far now, all I know is she is alive & perhaps improving.

Oct 19, 2010
Cockatiel Tilted head
by: Vivian

Thank you for your encouraging remarks.

I have been at it twice a day since Sunday afternoon, syringing her 4 oral meds & 1 injection twice daily.

I wish I could say she is definitely better. He head seems too heavy for her little neck & she lets it droop almost to the floor, which is pathetic to watch.

She is happy to come to us inspite of what we do to her! Her balance is worse than before, but she is bit heavier, seems to like nibbling at her food, & even tried to take flight which ended very abruptly as she crashed into the carpet. Luckily I was holding her only 10" or so off the ground. Her call is bit louder, due to which my male cockatiel can hear her & they get started calling each other.

I have been advised to keep her "warm, dark & quiet". She is housed in a ventilated plastic box with food, water & veggies on the floor or in cups on the floor. I covered it on one side with a towel. She seems interested in her surroundings, & would almost be normal but for the head. My 16 year old daughter & I spend time just sitting near her & talking when we can, my daughter brings her home work to her.

I'll keep posting, so others can read about this & hopefully it will help someone.


Oct 18, 2010
tilted head
by: Anonymous

You are absolutely and unequivicably doing the right thing by her. I know it's tough but you are making her more comfortable by easing her pain. Hopefully she can recover and live a happy life. I know of many others who weren't so lucky and didn't have humans that cared enough. I applaud your efforts and will pray for her in hopes that she recovers.

Oct 17, 2010
Cockatiel Tilted head
by: Vivian

Thank you for your responses.

Yes, I did call veterninary clinics the same night & got a Vet to see her the first available appointment the next morning. They hospitalized her, did blood tests & started Antibiotics treatment.

They found signs of liver disease, an elevated WBC count in blood, & some indication of embolism in the brain. I had her in the hospital for 2 nights, & she is back home this afternoon with 5 medicines.

They have given me 5 days in which she will either recover somewhat, or we will know which way she is going. I have to give her 5 days of oral Aspirin therapy, oral liver medication, an oral dose for helping her stomach from ulceration due to Aspirin, an oral antibiotic as well as an injectable antibiotic for 14 days each!

Her head tilt is decidedly worse, she is losing balance, but is preening, eating, making loving sounds & seems happy to be cuddled & loved.

I'm overwhelmed, but I want to do what is right for her. My dilemma right now is whether all of this is going to help her have a good quality of life, or is just torment in her possible last days? Giving her 4 oral meds & one injection twice a day is draining me, & must be exhausting her.

Someone tell me I am doing the right thing by her!

Oct 16, 2010
Cockatiel needs avain vet
by: The Avian Vet

What kind of bird is this?

You need to get to an avian veterinarian immediately! This is a serious condition and it needs immediate attention. It could be caused from infection, trauma, cardiovascular disease or other issues. The longer you wait the less likely it is to be cured.

Keep your birds separate until a diagnosis is made. In fact, if this is not a cockatiel too (unless it is a budgie), they should not live in the same cage anyway.

Dr B

Oct 15, 2010
Cockatiel titled head
by: Linda

It sounds like your bird has had a stroke or a series of them. You need to take her into an Avian Vet in your driving area immediately because she is most likely in pain and needs some medical services to try and figure out what this really is. Toxicity will also look like they are having strokes or TIA's, so make sure she has not gotten hold of something poison or breathed anything in the air which includes most household cleaners, perfumes, dryer sheets, scented candles and plug in room deoderizers. There are, of course, other toxic things found in homes, but the list is very long, so we won't get into all that right now. Sometimes birds who are allowed to fly all over the house eat something poison quite by accident, and this could be anything from crockery to carpet fibers or other dyed fabrics.

I strongly suggest you take her to an Avian Vet as soon as you can get an appointment because there may be something they can do to help her.I don't want to scare you, so know that I'm just trying to help you here. If, perchance, she dies before you can get to the Avian Vet, go ahead and take her in for a necropsy. It is the ONLY WAY to know what killed her, and the information will be very valuable before you decide to get another bird. The bird has to be taken in as soon after death as is possible so toxin or problem can be found by the Avian Vet. If there is any delay, put her into a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator. Do not freeze her because freezing destroys valuable tissue that can be used in a Necropsy. Make sure there is either no delay or no more than a 24 hour one if it cannot be helped because vet may not be able to do it exactly when you bring her in. I hope this will not be the case here, and I want you to be prepared and know what you need to do just in case.

Let us know how it goes, and so sorry your little bird is suffering, and make no mistake, she is suffering at this point.


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