Last Updated on: 10th June 2023, 10:41 am
Healthy parrots breathe quietly and efficiently through small, nostril-like holes at the top of the beak called nares. A parrot should rarely pant and breathe heavily through the mouth.
If a parrot is panting, physical exertion may have exhausted it. Ensure it isn’t overweight and doesn’t struggle to exercise. If the ambient temperature exceeds 80OF, it may be overheating.
Hormonal changes cause a parrot to pant, so if it’s female, check she’s not preparing to lay eggs. Keep toxins away from parrots because they can cause breathing problems.
Stress can cause panting, so keep the bird calm. Keep the cage clean, avoid irritants that cause respiratory distress, and feed it a balanced diet with enough vitamin A to keep the respiratory tract healthy.
Is It Normal for Parrots To Pant?
Parrots have a highly efficient respiratory system that promotes quiet, steady breathing.
When parrots inhale, air enters the nares and passes the larynx, trachea (an airway connected to a parrot’s larynx and syrinx), and bronchi until it reaches the lungs.
Once the air reaches the lungs, oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged, and new air is passed to air sacs attached to the trachea. The air travels up the trachea, past the larynx, and through the nares.
What Does it Mean When A Parrot Pants?
Here are the explanations for panting and labored breathing:
The parrot may be breathing heavily after exercise because it has exhausted itself. If the panting subsides within a few minutes, this isn’t necessarily a concern.
Flying, in particular, requires a lot of energy. If a parrot is getting older or only needs to travel a short distance, it may prefer to walk or hop.
The likeliest explanation for a parrot breathing heavily is excess weight. Find the ideal weight for the parrot species and weigh it weekly, ensuring it’s not growing too heavy to sustain its lifestyle.
Even a healthy parrot can start panting if it overexerts itself.
Parrots flourish with an ambient temperature between 65 and 80OF, with a humidity level of around 40–60%. Any hotter and drier, and it may struggle for breath.
Birds don’t sweat, but a parrot may be prone to overheating during the summer or if you turn up artificial heating sources in winter. Other than heavy breathing through the beak, other signs include:
- Puffing the feathers as though attempting to cool the skin.
- Spreading the wings while standing still.
- Refusing exercise or handling.
- Changes to behavior, like uncharacteristic aggression.
If a parrot seems over-hot, consider the following solutions:
- Move the cage to a shaded part of the home.
- Mist the parrot using a spray bottle.
- Switch on a tower fan to recirculate air, but avoid pointing this straight at the parrot.
If a parrot is visibly struggling, fill a bowl, bucket, or bathtub with room-temperature water and allow the bird to bathe. This is how wild parrots cool off in intense heat.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety will get a parrot’s heart racing and can result in panting and heavy breathing. Common reasons for a parrot to grow stressed include:
- Too much time alone – parrots are social birds and need regular companionship.
- Excessive handling, especially from humans that haven’t earned the parrot’s trust.
- Cramped or dirty living conditions.
- Lack of exercise or stimulation. Never leave a parrot locked in a cage all day.
- Loud, unexpected noises.
- Presence of other pets around a cage, especially predatory animals like cats and dogs.
- Nightmares. Parrots undergo REM sleep while sleeping, which implies night terrors.
New objects in a bird’s environment can also cause stress. As per Applied Animal Behavior Science, parrots are prone to neophobia (a fear of the unfamiliar).
Nature warns that birds are likeliest to be startled by red, so avoid painting walls this shade.
A parrot may be breathing heavily as something has irritated the respiratory tract.
Parrots can experience allergies, and something a bird has eaten or inhaled may have caused its throat to swell, making it significantly harder to breathe.
If a parrot is wheezing, gasping, panting, and experiencing discharge from the eyes and nares, it likely has a respiratory infection. Most parrots will recover fully after vet-prescribed treatment.
You must answer questions about the parrot’s lifestyle, recent behavior, and diet. For example, hypovitaminosis A could be responsible, especially if fed an all-seed diet.
Vitamin A encourages the growth of skin cells around the respiratory tract, called the epithelium. If the parrot doesn’t have an effective epithelium, bacteria, and fungi can impact its breathing.
If the parrot’s diet isn’t responsible, it may have got the illness from a conspecific or its living conditions.
Sometimes panting and labored breathing is due to toxins. This could have been due to toxic food, dermal exposure to toxins like heavy metals in paint, or inhaling dangerous chemicals.
If these behaviors or symptoms accompany heavy breathing, seek medical assistance:
- Lethargy and muscular weakness, including an inability to perch.
- Drooping head.
- Changes to the droppings like diarrhea, excessive urine, or blood in the stool.
- Disorientation and confusion.
- Body tremors and seizures.
- Loss of consciousness.
Never wait for toxins to pass through the parrot’s system. A vet will need to flush out toxins.
If a female parrot prepares to lay eggs, she’ll undergo hormonal changes. This can result in behavioral changes, with panting a common side effect of eggs in the oviduct.
Just because a parrot hasn’t been mated doesn’t mean she won’t lay eggs. Parrots enter the breeding season at the onset of spring and may lay unfertilized eggs if stimulated.
If you’re concerned about a parrot laying eggs, follow these steps:
- Keep the parrot away from other birds. Even if they don’t breed, the presence of a bonded companion can stimulate egg-laying hormones.
- Discourage sexual behavior from a parrot, like vent rubbing. A parrot may display attention toward you or inanimate objects (like favorite toys).
- Put the parrot to bed early, covering the cage and keeping the room quiet. The arrival of longer, warmer days encourages parrots to lay eggs.
- Rearrange the cage setup, as birds are less likely to lay eggs in an unfamiliar environment.
If a parrot lays unfertilized eggs, the experience will be nutrient-intensive and exhausting, leaving her tired and short of breath. Take measures to prevent this unnecessary outcome.