Parrots regurgitate undigested food as a sign of courtship, while vomiting is the body rejecting food before it has been fully digested. This leads to an involuntary expulsion of food through the beak.
A parrot may have overeaten, exercised too soon after a meal, or grown excitable within an hour of eating. Sudden dietary changes can also lead to vomiting in pet birds.
Sometimes, a bird has internal parasites (like worms) that adversely affect digestion. If a bird consumes toxins or experiences an allergic reaction, its body will attempt to expel the food.
Inflammation of the crop or intestines can lead to vomiting, especially if a bird ate spoiled food that caused a bacterial or yeast infection. This can happen if a bird’s cage isn’t cleaned frequently.
The BSAVA Manual of Avian Practice explains that vomiting (not regular vomiting or vomiting blood) sometimes happens, but it typically has a favorable prognosis.
Is It Normal for A Parrot To Throw Up?
Vomiting (emesis) isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary but must never be ignored. If a bird is throwing up, something minor or serious has gone awry with the digestive process.
Here are the basics of how parrots digest food:
- After swallowing food, it’s moved into the crop (a pouch at the base of the esophagus). The crop moistens and softens food, storing it until it can be moved further down the digestive tract.
- Via a process of peristalsis (regular contraction and relaxation of the crop muscles), food is passed to the proventriculus, the first of a parrot’s two stomachs.
- The proventriculus releases enzymes and acids that break down the food and commence with digestion, then moves it to the ventriculus.
- The ventriculus is a parrot’s second stomach. Here, the food treated with acids and enzymes within the proventriculus is ground and macerated by a series of muscles.
- Upon leaving the ventriculus, the food is passed to the small intestine. The first part of this intestine is the duodenal loop, where food is digested, with nutrients passed to the second part of the organ, the lower small intestine.
If a parrot vomits, food has been forcefully expelled from the body before the third or fourth stages have been completed. The bird will have no control over this process, vomiting through the beak.
Did My Parrot Vomit or Regurgitate?
Vomiting is where a parrot’s proventriculus forcibly expels digested food, while regurgitation involves releasing food from the esophagus before the digestive process truly begins.
The difference between vomiting and regurgitation is that a bird will have no control over vomiting. A parrot that vomits may show obvious signs of distress.
Regurgitation will be calmer and quieter, and the bird will decide where to release its food.
Regurgitating food is far more common than vomiting. While regurgitation may be a consequence of stress or excitement, it’s associated with avian courtship rituals, especially in males.
What Does Parrot Vomit Look Like?
The color of a parrot’s vomit varies based on its meal. You can identify macerated food within the vomit, usually accompanied by stomach acids from the proventriculus that create a green or yellow tint.
What Does It Mean When A Parrot Throws Up?
If a parrot vomits, it’ll likely be for one of these reasons:
Excess Food Intake
If a bird eats to excess, and its stomach can’t process all the food, it may be expelled.
Parrots don’t always know when to stop eating, especially if they don’t have a reliable and consistent feeding schedule. If a parrot is fed inconsistently, it may overeat in a single sitting.
Always feed a parrot twice a day – once upon waking and again around an hour before sleep.
Over-Active After Eating
It takes a parrot 60-90 minutes to digest food. If a bird is active shortly after eating, especially in the morning, it may experience gastrointestinal distress and bring up the meal it has just consumed.
A sudden change of diet can unsettle a parrot’s digestive system. If you’re making wholesale changes to a bird’s diet on medical or lifestyle grounds, gradually transition it to a new diet.
Start by offering the bird a meal of 90% familiar foods and 10% new forms. Over several weeks, steadily reverse these ratios so the parrot eats more and more of the new food.
Ensure the parrot is comfortable in its living environment during and after eating. Examples of environmental stressors that can lead to vomiting include the following:
- Consistent exposure to temperatures above 95OF, which can cause heatstroke.
- Excessive humidity (above 80%) slows digestion.
- Loud noises or other sounds that startle the parrot.
- The presence of other pets unsettles the parrot’s nerves.
The more relaxed a parrot feels, the likelier it is to eat and digest its food.
If a bird has a blockage caused by a foreign object, it’ll be unable to digest food, leading to malnutrition and eventual starvation. A bird may have swallowed a toy or household item it can’t digest.
Even if the bird has no object trapped in the crop or digestive tract, swallowing string fibers or wooden splinters can lead to irritation and inflammation.
Parrots can develop salivary stones in the crop. These initially cause no harm or irritation but will attract mucus. Over time this mucus hardens and forms a hard stone that blocks digestion.
Obstructions in a parrot’s crop or digestive tract must be removed.
A vet will attempt to dissolve obstacles so they can be passed as waste, remove them via the throat following an endoscopy, or in extreme cases, perform surgery.
If a parrot consumes rotten food or drinks tainted water that contains bacteria, it may involuntarily vomit.
Once bacteria enter the digestive tract, they’ll spread. A parrot may also start vomiting mucus due to inflammation of the mucus membranes in the crop.
A parrot will need vet-prescribed antibiotics to clear up a bacterial infection.
A captive parrot is unlikely to encounter Trichomonas gallinae, heximata, Giardia, or coccida unless it plays outside in the soil or shares a food source with wild birds or backyard poultry.
Parrots can still get tapeworms and roundworms, leading to gastric distress, including vomiting.
Veterinarni Medicina details a case of two blue-fronted Amazon parrots that were vomiting. They were diagnosed with candidiasis of the crop, a yeast infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans.
Candida frequently grows within the digestive tract of parrots, leading to sour crop. Oral antifungal medications will be prescribed if a parrot has a yeast infection caused by excess Candida.
Toxicity or Allergies
Vomiting may involve a parrot expelling toxins from the body as a defensive measure. A parrot may be allergic to a new food or have eaten something toxic. Examples of toxic foods include the following:
- Chocolate (especially dark chocolate.)
- Onion and garlic.
- Artificial sweeteners like Xylitol.
The toxicity could be related to something a parrot inhaled. Birds have efficient respiratory systems but are vulnerable to airborne toxins like non-stick coatings on cookware heated to 536℉.
Parrots are also extremely vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Invisible illnesses” like diabetes, gastrointestinal cancer, and renal or liver failure can cause vomiting but may not manifest outward symptoms.
A parrot may also be experiencing the side effects of a prescription medication or supplement.
My Parrot is Vomiting – What Should I Do?
A parrot should vomit once and stop. If the vomiting continues, seek urgent veterinary guidance.
A parrot vomiting clear liquid, especially if it continues attempting to purge its stomach, is more concerning. The parrot has no food left in its digestive tract but remains distressed.
Vomiting blood is a medical emergency, warning of significant toxicity or internal bleeding.
Vomiting in parrots shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence. If a parrot is vomiting (not just regurgitating food), determine why it’s involuntarily expelling its stomach contents.