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how to tell if a parrot is underweight

Why Is My Parrot Losing Weight?

Parrots have sleek, streamlined bodies optimized for flight.

The problem is that their naturally lithe appearance and feathers mean that you won’t always realize that your parrot’s losing weight.

Parrots lose weight due to macaw wasting syndrome, kidney disorders, and avian tuberculosis.

Weight loss can occur due to malnourishment, which happens when a parrot’s diet doesn’t meet its nutritional requirements. Sometimes parrots lack exercise and can’t regulate their metabolism.

Your parrot won’t be harmed if it loses a little weight. However, the real danger is failing to notice that your parrot has lost a significant amount of weight.

How Much Should A Parrot Weigh?

The optimal weight for a parrot will depend on its species, gender, and age. However, there is a benchmark that you can use to check that your parrot’s weight is normal and healthy.

Here is a list of the common parrot species with healthy weights:

Parrot SpeciesAverage Weight in Grams
Green-Winged Macaw1200
Hyacinth Macaw1200-1700
Blue-Headed Pionus250-290
Orange-Winged Amazon360-490
Yellow-Naped Amazon460-680
Moluccan Cockatoo640-1025
Citrus-crested Cockatoo360

How To Tell If A Parrot Is Underweight

Parrots are slender creatures. Depending on the species, the parrot’s thick feathers may conceal its weight loss. However, there are ways to determine if your parrot is becoming too thin. These include:

Check The Keel Bone

You can assess your parrot’s weight by checking its keel bone, which is located just under the breastbone.

The following traits can identify it:

  • Downward sloping
  • The top portion of it juts outward just underneath the clavicle
  • It extends to the parrot’s stomach with muscles attached to either side

To find the keel bone, do the following:

  1. Place the bird on its back.
  2. With a few fingers, place your hand in the middle of the chest.
  3. Feel around just underneath where the collarbone would be.
  4. Stop when you find the top edge of the bone. It will be level with the rest of the muscle.
  5. Move your fingers to either side of the bone. This will be on the left and right areas of the chest.

If you have trouble feeling the edges of the keel, this is a positive sign. The keel should be even with the muscles on the chest. If your parrot is underweight, the top of the keel bone will be prominent and feel sharp.

However, this test is not 100% accurate. Certain parrots have more muscle tone than others. If the keel bone isn’t easily found, this could be due to its unique body structure.

weight loss in parrots

Weigh The Parrot On Scales

For smaller species, you can weigh your parrot on a kitchen scale:

  • Place the parrot’s perch on the scale and let it stand on it.
  • Wrap your parrot in a piece of cloth to hold it still.
  • Subtract the weight of these items from the final reading.

For larger species of parrots, you can use a digital bathroom scale:

  1. Step on the scale by yourself and note your weight.
  2. Put the parrot on your shoulder. You can hold the parrot, but keep it close to your chest.
  3. Step on the scale again and note this final number.
  4. Subtract the combined weight of you and the parrot from your own weight.

When To Be Concerned If A Parrot Is Losing Weight

No matter your parrot’s species, you should check for:

  • A noticeably slimmer body
  • Low energy levels
  • Feathers becoming frail or thin
  • Labored breathing
  • Thinning feathers around the eyes

Sudden weight changes can indicate that your parrot has:

  • Contracted an illness
  • A problem digesting nutrients
  • Stopped eating entirely

A gradual change could be the result of poor quality food or stress.

Why Your Parrot Is Losing Weight

If your parrot is losing weight, you’ll need to explore the causes:


Malnourishment can happen when a parrot isn’t:

  • Fed enough food each day. This could cause your parrot’s metabolism to function inefficiently
  • Getting a balanced diet. Seed alone won’t give your parrot all of the nutrients it needs
  • Given nutritious food. Overly-processed foods lack vitamins and minerals.

There are other reasons why parrots become malnourished, including:

Excessive Nutrients

If a parrot consumes too many nutrients, its body may not be unable to process them. According to Avian Pathology, parrots can become ill due to too much:

  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin A

This overload of vitamins will throw off the digestive tract’s ability to extract the optimal amount of nutrients, leading to malnutrition and weight loss.

Food Selectivity

Parrots can become malnourished when their diet allows them to pick and choose what to eat.

Consider how muesli is a combination of several different types of grain. While this seems healthy, your parrot may pick out its favorite pieces of grain. Its selective behavior is harming it, even while you’re keeping it well-fed.

Here are some of the signs of malnourishment:

  • Compromised immune system
  • Overweight or underweight
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Dull or discolored feathers
  • Brittle feathers
  • Cracks on the beak or feet

Malnutrition can’t always be diagnosed at home. A vet may need to perform:

  • Bloodwork. An avian vet will be able to identify mineral deficiencies through blood tests.
  • A dietary evaluation. A vet will examine the parrot’s diet and correlate any gaps with its health problems.

Kidney Disorders

The kidneys are used to filter out waste from the body in readiness for excretion. If they no longer function efficiently, your parrot’s weight will start to fall. Kidney disease is common among species of parrots, especially budgies.

If the kidneys cease to function properly, your parrot will display the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Low energy levels
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Lameness

A vet will need to perform a Complete Blood Count (CBC) to assess the functionality of the kidneys. X-rays may also be necessary to check the size and density of the kidneys.

While kidney disease can’t always be resolved, the symptoms can be lessened. This can be achieved through dietary modifications, such as decreasing the parrot’s protein intake, supplements, symptomatic therapy, and force-feeding.

Avian Tuberculosis

Avian tuberculosis (avian TB) is a bacterial infection that’s spread by bird droppings. Parrots kept in tight flocks, or caged together, may pass it between birds, leading to emaciation.

This happens when your parrot:

  • Is bought from an infected pet store
  • Comes into contact with an object infected from outdoors
  • Interacts with an infected bird in the home

Parrots infected with avian TB usually manifest symptoms after three weeks of infection. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Jaundice
  • Lameness or dropping of wings
  • Continued weight loss

There is no treatment for avian tuberculosis. Instead, care will focus on improving the quality of life for the infected birds. Beyond that, infected parrots will be separated from the flock to avoid further spreading the disease.

Macaw Wasting Syndrome

Macaw wasting syndrome (proventricular dilatation syndrome) was first discovered in the early 1970s. As the name implies, it originally caused Macaws to waste away gradually. Unfortunately, this disease has since been proven to affect more than 50 other bird species.

The term ‘proventricular’ refers to the second part of a bird’s stomach. This section is responsible for receiving food from the esophagus. The deadly syndrome attacks the nerves that supply the proventricular.

While that’s the main target of this disease, it also affects other areas. These include the digestive system and nervous systems. In severe cases, an inflammation of the brain may occur.

If your parrot has this condition, you’ll notice:

  • A lack of appetite
  • Undigested food in feces
  • Excessive regurgitation
  • Continued weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Loss of muscle controls
  • Head tremors
  • Depression
  • Seizures

To diagnose proventricular dilatation syndrome, your vet will test your parrot for the presence of bornavirus through a blood sample. A vet may also ask for a:

  • Tissue biopsy
  • Histology of the proventricular

Macaw wasting disease cannot be cured, but some things can improve a parrot’s quality of life.

how to fatten up a parrot

How To Make My Parrot Gain Weight

If your parrot is very ill or has a disease, it will need a diet and treatment plan from a veterinarian. However, more calories and exercise will be broadly beneficial for an otherwise healthy parrot.

Here’s how to fatten up a parrot:

Dietary Modifications

Some dietary additions will enable a parrot to regain lost weight. Provide foods that are high in calories and protein while also being highly nutritious. These are crucial for:

  • Improving muscle growth
  • Adding body fat
  • Boosting energy levels

High-calorie options include peanuts and sunflower seeds. Also, bird supplements are recommended.

Additional Exercise

Physical activity can be key to your parrot gaining weight. Your parrot benefit from:

  • Added muscle mass
  • Metabolic optimization
  • Better digestion
  • Improved appetite
  • Mental stimulation

To increase your parrot’s activity level, encourage it to:

  • Fly
  • Walk
  • Play with toys
  • Dance

If your parrot suddenly loses weight but isn’t sick or diseased, it may lack optimized nutrition and exercise. This can be resolved by pairing a balanced diet with 2-3 hours of daily exercise.