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normal cockatiel nostrils

A Complete Guide To Cockatiel Nostril Care

It’s common for cockatiels to develop nostril issues.

While rarely life-threatening, they can be uncomfortable. Cockatiels are more prone to sneezing than other birds, indicating an infection, inflammation, or foreign object.

A healthy cockatiel’s nostrils should be dry with clean feathers above them. The ceres should be smooth and soft with no noticeable protrusions or sores.

If your cockatiel’s nostrils are swollen, blocked, congested, stained, or wet, there’s likely a foreign object, mites, or bacterial or fungal infection causing a problem.

Most cockatiels keep their nostrils clean by sneezing and using their claws to remove dirt and debris.

However, placing your parrot in the shower when you use it and spraying it with a water bottle provides the moisture and humidity that the bird needs to keep its nostrils in peak condition.

What Do Normal Cockatiel Nostrils Look Like?

As described by Avian Respiratory Medicine (Proceedings), the avian nasal cavity consists of the following:

  • Nostrils (external nares)
  • Opercula
  • Nasal conchae (rostral, middle, and caudal)
  • Choana

Cockatiels also have a cere, a wax-like skin covering the area above the beak.

In healthy birds, this should be soft and smooth. Similarly, the nostrils are within the cere and should show smooth edges. You should also see through them when they’re in good condition.

As mentioned, healthy cockatiels will have dry, clean feathers above the nostrils. There are no scabby secretions or foreign bodies within the nostrils, and you should be able to see the tiny nasal cavities.

cockatiel nose discharge

What Causes Cockatiel Nostril Problems?

Environmental factors are largely to blame, so providing a healthy, nourishing living space for your cockatiel will prevent the most serious nostril problems. The following are the most common causes:

Bacterial or Fungal Infections

Bacterial or fungal infections are two of the most common reasons for a cockatiel nose infection. There are several causes, such as:

  • Bacteria in the environment
  • Vitamin A deficiencies
  • Fungus

A lack of fresh air is also responsible, particularly when the A/C or heater’s on. When the filters get dirty, fungal spores and bacteria grow and get blown around, getting into a cockatiel’s nose, and these organisms cause secondary infections.

Nasal infections are easy to treat with antibiotics or fungicides. If a vitamin A deficiency is to blame, you’ll need to improve your cockatiel’s diet to incorporate foods containing the vitamin.


All sorts of small debris and particles get stuck in a cockatiel’s nose, such as crumbs, feathers, and dirt.

Cockatiels can sneeze and eject anything that gets inside, but if they can’t for any reason or the object is too crammed inside the nostrils, the objects get stuck, causing an infection. Avian vets can remove debris with saline nose drops.


While it’s relatively rare for cockatiels to catch mites, scaly-face mites congregate around the head and burrow into the face, causing crusty, painful sores around the corners of the beak.

At first, the plaque starts as a bright white deposit that gets thicker as the mites burrow deeper. This makes the nose look sore. There are ways to remove scaly face mites, including:

  • Sevin dust
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Mites sprays
  • Oral medication
  • Olive oil

You must act quickly if you notice your parrot has a mite infestation.

Not Enough Humidity

Cockatiels are native to Australia, so they thrive in humid environments. It’s not natural for them to sit in a heated or air-conditioned room, and they become prone to respiratory infections when the air’s too dry.

Providing a humidifier can add moisture to the air, but be careful of electronic humidifiers. They build up dust and mineral deposits over time, which your cockatiel could inhale.

Whichever humidifier you use, keep it clean to prevent bacteria and fungi from growing.

Harsh Chemicals

Household cleaning materials are likely to affect your cockatiel’s respiratory system and irritate your parrot’s delicate nostrils, causing inflammation.

Some parrots are sensitive or allergic to the chemicals found in cleaning products and will sneeze in response. When you clean your cockatiel cage, use parrot-safe cleaning agents to prevent nostril issues.

Signs of Unhealthy Cockatiel Nostrils

There’ll be several signs if your cockatiel has an issue with its nostrils. Each indicates a health issue, which will vary depending on the cause.

Check your cockatiel’s nostrils and look out for the following signs of health problems:

Nose Discharge

Cockatiel nose discharge signifies a bacterial or sinus infection, such as Psittacosis. According to Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, this condition is more commonly known as parrot fever.

It’s caused by the chlamydia psittaci bacterium and targets the nose, nares, and sinuses. Once a bacterial infection targets the nose, it can spread to your cockatiel’s sinuses, causing:

  • Inflammation
  • Irritation
  • Sinus infections

Nose discharge caused by bacterial infections usually begins due to unhygienic conditions. The infections also worsen if you don’t get them seen by an avian vet, leading to further issues with the beak and nostrils.

Runny Nose

A runny nose is a sign of allergies or bird hay fever. It’s often accompanied by:

  • Sneezing
  • Red eyes
  • Itchy skin conditions
  • Swollen or inflamed ceres

Similarly, wet nostrils are commonly caused by excessive sneezing because of allergies, meaning the two things are intrinsically linked. Parrots can be sensitive to several things within the environment, such as:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Food
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Aerosolized deodorants

Don’t let your parrot’s food go moldy; remove your bird from the environment whenever you clean the room it’s in. Always use parrot-safe cleaning products when you clean its cage to prevent allergies and a runny nose.

Blocked Nostrils

If your cockatiel’s nostrils appear blocked, it’s likely due to a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract. Unfortunately for cockatiels, infections don’t disappear on their own, and they get worse over time as the bacteria multiply and settle further into the nose, the sinuses, and the mouth.

You may notice that your cockatiel struggles to breathe and suffers from choking fits due to the lack of airflow. Parrots can’t cough because they don’t have a diaphragm, so pay attention to these sounds as they indicate your bird’s unwell and needs veterinary treatment.  

Foreign bodies also cause blocked nostrils. Feathers, dirt, and husk seeds are the most common culprits, but any small object can become stuck. Dust can also get lodged in a cockatiel’s nostrils, creating sticky, dried mucus. Similarly, constant exposure to the following result in crusty nares:

Clogged Nostril Holes

Clogged nostril holes are another sign of a bacterial infection. However, the infection likely advanced when the nose became clogged. This means your cockatiel will need emergency treatment to prevent it from worsening.

If your cockatiel’s nose is heavily congested, you can gently remove the mucus to help your parrot breathe better with a rolled-up piece of tissue paper.


Swollen or inflamed nostril holes are a sign of a viral infection. Three viruses affect nostrils and cause swelling, which includes the following:

  • Infectious bronchitis
  • Avian influenza
  • Newcastle disease

These diseases are highly contagious and spread between birds quickly. Unfortunately, when you notice swollen nostrils, the viruses are likely to have taken hold, requiring veterinary treatment. Other symptoms include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Tail bobbing
  • Difficult or noisy breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Feather loss or ruffled feathers

Don’t ignore swollen nostrils.


According to Bird Health, staining above a cockatiel’s nostrils is a sign of a long-standing health problem from conditions that suppress the immune system, such as:

  • Vitamin A deficiencies
  • Female sex hormone imbalances
  • Yeast and fungal infections

Secondary infections are also often involved, including:

  • Staphylococcus
  • Streptococcus
  • Enterobacter

Staining isn’t normal and is usually caused by dried, discolored mucus from the nostril. You’ll need to take your cockatiel to an avian vet to determine the exact cause to get the most appropriate treatment.


Healthy cockatiel nasal discharge is thin and transparent, so when you see boogers in the nose, there’s likely something else going on. Thick or discolored nasal discharge indicates a health concern ­– most likely an infection. Listen to your cockatiel’s breathing. If it sounds unusually loud or similar to coughing, take it to the vet for treatment.

Wet Nostrils

Water in the nose or wet nostrils is a sign of a fungal infection, which causes abnormal discharge. The two most common are:

  • Candida
  • Aspergillosis

Aspergillosis is the more serious condition of the two – though Candida can spread to the beak, lungs, and digestive tract. According to The Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, Aspergillosis is life-threatening and must be treated promptly.

Why Is My Cockatiel’s Nose Red?

Red nostrils indicate that your cockatiel has a nasty infection or irritated nasal passage. As described, this could be due to several things, so you’ll need to get your bird seen by a vet to figure out the cause.

On the other hand, cockatiel nose bleeding indicates that your bird’s injured itself or been in a fight with another bird. Beaks and nails can inflict a lot of damage, and as the cere is so delicate, it could easily bleed from a cut or scratch.

Stress is another cause, albeit slightly less common. Make sure your cockatiel’s happy in its environment and that nothing makes it distressed. If there is, you’ll need to change your bird’s living space to help it feel more comfortable.

How To Keep Cockatiel’s Nostrils Healthy?

While cockatiels mostly keep their noses clean and healthy by themselves, there are additional steps you can take to help your bird, such as:

Clean Bird Cage

Because cockatiels clean their noses out with their nails, the chance of a nasal infection increases if there’s dirt and debris in their cage. You don’t necessarily need to deep clean your cage every time it needs tidying, but spot-cleaning any food, feathers, and waste keeps it sanitary, preventing nasal infections.

Healthy Diet

As described by Niles Animal Hospital, parrots with vitamin A deficiencies get taken into animal hospitals with sneezing caused by respiratory difficulties. In reality, vitamin A deficiencies cause excessive mucus and mouth lesions that give the impression of nasal issues.

That being said, all birds need vitamin A in their diets for healthy nostrils. The following foods are excellent sources of vitamins:

You should only feed these foods to your parrot occasionally as a treat, but they’re a good way to keep your cockatiel healthy.


As mentioned, dry air causes havoc with your cockatiel’s nose. Using a humidifier in your parrot’s environment helps provide the moisture it’s used to in its native habitat, preventing some of the most common respiratory problems.

cockatiels nostrils blocked

How To Clean Cockatiel Nostrils

Most cockatiels keep their nostrils healthy using their nails to clean them out. They also sneeze a clear liquid, which removes any trapped debris and particles. This is normal, but there are times when you may need to give your parrot a helping hand with keeping its nostrils clean.

Whatever you do, don’t place any objects too far into your cockatiel’s nose. Learn how to clean your cockatiel’s nose safely through the following steps:

Nasal Flush

If you’re an experienced owner, giving your cockatiel a nasal flush with a syringe helps remove any dirt or debris causing discomfort. If you’re new to ownership or are uncomfortable doing this, take it to an avian vet who will do it for you.


To prevent nasal issues, take your cockatiel into the shower with you every time you use it. The warm steam from the shower helps keep the nostrils clear, allowing your parrot to breathe more easily. Similarly, if your cockatiel has a blocked nose, doing this could help clear the congestion and make your bird feel more comfortable.

Spray Bottle

To help remove dirt and debris from your parrot’s nose, frequently mist your bird with a spray bottle to emulate natural conditions and provide enough moisture to enable your cockatiel to clean its nose naturally.

Tissue Paper

To gently clean your cockatiel’s nostrils, cut a piece of tissue paper into small pieces and twist the corners to make a pointy end. Place them into your bird’s nose, but be careful not to go in too deep, and allow the tissue to soak up the mucus.

Only use each piece of tissue once and discard it as soon as you’ve finished preventing further infections. If you need to wipe your bird’s eyes, use clean tissue.

It’s common for cockatiels to develop nostril issues. Don’t be alarmed about your cockatiel sneezing – this is how it removes irritants. However, if it develops sores, swelling, or discolored discharge, take it to your vet for a check-up.