Home » Why Is My Parrot Drooling? [Understanding Canker in Parrots]
do parrots drool?

Why Is My Parrot Drooling? [Understanding Canker in Parrots]

(Last Updated On: January 23, 2023)

It may seem harmless to find your 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 your 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 your parrot drooling surplus saliva, as there shouldn’t be extra saliva 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 at 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 your parrot is drooling saliva. Parrots should never:

  • Spit
  • 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 only have a small amount of 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.

According to the University of Erciyes, the salivary glands in birds are present from the moment of hatching. They’re found along the roof and floor of the mouth and on the tongue.

A series of ducts are used to carry this 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. This is due to how saliva is used in birds’ digestive systems.

drooling parrot

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 stored and mixed with saliva for later use or regurgitated.

Of course, some saliva does emerge 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 your parrot with canker after seeing it regurgitate.

This will be an obvious process if your 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 your parrot may not show any 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:

  • 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, such as 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 itself can’t survive long in the open, requiring moisture to thrive. Nonetheless, it can spread quickly among a flock.

Canker Symptoms In Parrots

Parrots are good at hiding sickness, which can be a problem. When your parrot begins showing symptoms of canker, its health is in jeopardy.

For years, some birds may remain subclinical carriers (not severe enough to show symptoms). They’ll silently spread the parasite in shared water bowls and cages.

Budgerigars and cockatiels are most at risk. The most notable symptom is necrotic lesions in the following areas:

  • Esophagus
  • Crop
  • Tongue
  • Pharynx

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 when the parrot can’t eat.

If your parrot starts to look thin or emaciated, it may be a sign that 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
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Ruffled-up feathers
  • Drooping wings
  • An inability to fly

Diagnosing Canker In Parrots

A vet can verify if your parrot has canker. Once confirmed, they’ll offer advice on how best to proceed. This will usually involve treatment, such as:

  • Ronidazole mixed in water for about 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 your parrot:

  • Drank some water, leaving its beak wet.
  • Regurgitated before you noticed the drooling, which was just leftover food or liquid.
  • Vomited

If your parrot has vomited, it may have been a harmless one-time event.

do parrots have salivary glands?

Is Canker Contagious?

Canker is contagious among parrots. Wild budgie and cockatiel flocks are most commonly afflicted. 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 another.
  • Mating rituals that require physical contact.
  • Any beak-to-beak contact.
  • Other involuntary bodily fluids, such as vomit, diarrhea, and drool.

Even if a flock is clean, wild birds can endanger your parrot.

Pigeons are disproportionately affected by this condition. Ones that roam close to your home, defecating on rooftops or through the wire on top of your aviary, can contaminate your parrots.

Bird shows or other social situations where your parrots might contact other flocks are 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 measures to stop your parrot from getting canker:

  • Any new parrots or birds should be quarantined before being introduced to your parrot.
  • Limit contact with humans who have been in recent contact with other birds.
  • Change water and food daily, being sure to clean 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 your parrot away from windows that have pigeon droppings on them.
  • Avoid letting your parrot interact with wild birds, even through a screen.

It’s unnatural for a parrot to drool. Ensure that it’s leaking salvia rather than water from its dish. If you notice this symptom, it needs to be investigated immediately.

Once a vet treats your parrot for canker, it should fully recover.