It may seem harmless to find a parrot drooling, but this isn’t the case. A parrot’s beak and tongue are almost always dry, especially the tip of the tongue.
Parrots have salivary glands, but the distribution of saliva is different than in mammals.
If a parrot is drooling, it may be due to canker or a digestive issue. A canker is an ulcerous condition that affects the mouth, throat, sinuses, esophagus, and other internal organs.
You won’t find a parrot drooling, as surplus saliva shouldn’t be in the mouth.
Do Parrots Drool?
It’s unnatural for a parrot to drool because saliva isn’t needed in the beak. The inside of a healthy parrot’s beak is almost always dry. Even the tongue will be dry, especially the tip.
Saliva doesn’t appear until further down the esophagus, where it lubricates the throat and breaks down food. Saliva should never come up the throat of its own volition.
You should take action even if it doesn’t seem like the parrot is drooling saliva. Parrots should never:
- Leak fluid from their beaks.
- Allow any liquid to drain from the inner throat.
Digestive issues that cause a parrot to leak fluid from its beak are severe. If it’s due to canker, you may have little time to resolve the issue before it becomes life-threatening.
Do Parrots Have Salivary Glands?
While not all birds have salivary glands (as with pelicans), parrots do.
A series of ducts carry salvia where it needs to go.
Humans have 800-1000 salivary glands spread across the tongue, palate, and mouth. While parrots also have salivary glands, they’re fewer in number.
Even parrots’ taste buds are significantly less, at 300 compared to 10,000 in humans.
The placement of the major salivary glands is also different, so the tip of the tongue is dry due to how saliva is used in birds’ digestive systems.
Do Parrots Have Saliva?
Parrots use saliva to lubricate their throats and assist in consuming solid food. However, the saliva doesn’t rise to the beak; it coats the esophagus, crop, and pharynx.
Avian physiology is different from mammals. Even though parrots have salivary glands and create saliva, they use it differently.
Saliva coats the inside of the pharynx and the esophagus and leads into the crop (itself, an extension of the esophagus). Here, food can be mixed with saliva for later use.
Of course, some saliva emerges when parrots regurgitate food. However, this will be a small amount. You’ll see mushy, partially digested food, but it won’t look like drooling.
For this reason, there’s no danger of you diagnosing a parrot with canker after seeing it regurgitate.
This will be an obvious process if the parrot is coughing or gagging up undigested food, as it’ll involve bobbing its head, extending its neck, and even flapping its wings.
In contrast, drooling is passive, and the parrot may not display other symptoms.
What Is Canker in Parrots?
Canker is a disease caused by trichomonas gallinae, a protozoan (single-celled) parasite.
According to the University of Florida, it’s the most common disease among pigeons. However, all birds are at risk, including parrots. It spreads in the following ways:
- When a bird ingests food or water contaminated by saliva or feces.
- By regurgitation from a parent to offspring.
- Through direct beak-to-beak contact, like preening.
It’s most common in warmer climates. However, once the canker parasite finds a host bird, it can withstand any climate or season.
The parasite can’t survive long in the open, requiring moisture to thrive. Nonetheless, it can spread quickly between flock members.
Canker Symptoms in Parrots
Parrots are good at hiding sickness, which can be a problem. When the parrot exhibits canker symptoms, its health is in jeopardy.
For years, some birds remain subclinical carriers (not severe enough to show symptoms). They’ll asymptomatically spread the parasite in shared water bowls and cages.
Budgerigars and cockatiels are most at risk, developing necrotic lesions in the following areas:
An infected parrot may be unable to close its beak due to painful lesions.
Whitish gray or yellow caseous plaques on the tongue or throat may lead to dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). This leads to eventual malnutrition because the parrot can’t eat.
If the parrot starts to look thin or emaciated, it may signify it has canker.
The drooling caused by the inflammation and ulcers will appear around the beak. The feathers may become dull in color, ashy, or fall out, and the plumage will have a moist, unhealthy look.
If the infection reaches the sinuses, the parrot will have watery, puffed-up eyes with a crusty appearance.
Respiratory complications may arise from the sheer number and size of lesions in the trachea. It’s not uncommon for other symptoms to emerge, such as:
- Increased water intake.
- Excessive swallowing.
- Ruffled-up feathers.
- Drooping wings.
- Unable to fly.
Diagnosing Canker in Parrots
A vet can verify if a parrot has canker. Once confirmed, treatment will usually involve:
- Ronidazole in water for a week.
- Carnidazole as a single dose.
If there are no symptoms other than drooling and the beak is suddenly dry and clean, you may have mistaken the drooling for something else. It could be that the parrot:
- Drank some water, leaving its beak wet.
- Regurgitated, so it was just leftover food or liquid.
If the parrot has vomited, it may have been a harmless one-time event.
Is Canker Contagious?
Canker is contagious among parrots, with wild budgie and cockatiel flocks most commonly affected. Since the parasite Trichomonas gallinae needs moisture to survive, it can pass through the following:
- Any shared body of water.
- Feces that are touched in a shared area.
- Birds that preen or regurgitate for each other.
- Mating rituals that require physical contact.
- Beak-to-beak contact.
- Other involuntary bodily fluids, such as vomit, diarrhea, and drool.
Even if a flock is clean, wild birds can endanger the parrot.
Pigeons are disproportionately affected by this condition. Ones that roam near your home defecating on rooftops or through the wire on top of the aviary can contaminate pet parrots.
Bird shows and anywhere parrots interact are most at risk. Parrots may be contaminated by drinking from water sources where other birds have drunk.
How To Prevent Canker In Parrots
You can take steps to stop the parrot from getting canker:
- Any new birds should be quarantined before being introduced to the parrot.
- Limit contact with humans who have been in recent contact with other birds.
- Change water and food daily, cleaning any dishes and bowls.
- Use feeders with drainage holes to reduce the moisture that builds up.
- Droppings should be cleaned daily as they tend to drop on or near food.
- Several different water and food bowls to eliminate crowding and territorial fights.
- Keep the parrot away from windows that have pigeon droppings on them.
- Avoid letting the parrot interact with wild birds, even through a screen.
Once a vet treats the parrot for canker, it’ll usually fully recover.