A budgie lives for an average of 4-8 years. Even though pet budgies who are given adequate care live up to 15 years in some cases, budgies have a relatively short lifespan.
Dealing with your feathered friend’s death can be a harrowing experience, but it is something all pet owners have to go through at some point.
Pet budgies dying can be quite a distressing experience for the owners. But, if you are aware of the symptoms that show that the budgie is dying, you can help it by easing its suffering.
When budgies fall sick, they disguise the signs of their illness just like other aviary birds.
This is their survival tactic, a defense mechanism against the predators in the wild, in order to appear healthy so that they are not identified as weak and easy prey.
Budgies in captivity are also good at concealing their illness as long as they can, even though they are not in any apparent danger of a predator attack.
Hence, by the time you notice signs that your budgie is not well, in most cases, the budgie is very, very ill and probably close to dying. If you happen to notice any of the following symptoms in your pet budgie, it is strongly advised that you consult an avian vet.
If prompt care is received, the bird could be returned back to good health in some cases.
Symptoms That Your Budgie Might Be Dying
1. Your budgie has breathing problems
Budgies are very small and lose body heat very fast. Hence, they feel cold.
Breathing problems in budgies shouldn’t be taken lightly. Rapid breathing can sometimes be due to overheating, but, if your budgie has persistent breathing problems, it is an indication of a severe underlying problem.
Breathing problems are characterized by:
- The tail bobbing up and down while breathing
- Striving to get more oxygen by stretching its neck
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing heavily through an open beak
- Wheezing and clicking sounds (If you are not sure about the noises your budgie makes, read our article on budgie noises here)
A viral infection in the upper respiratory tract can cause symptoms of a cold in the bird and could make it sneeze, cough, and have a runny nose.
You can confirm this by looking at the cere which will show wetness or crusted and dried discharge.
Such an infection is often accompanied by sluggish behavior and the bird not wanting to sit on its perch. Instead, the bird might sit on the floor of the cage or hang from the sides of the cage by its beak.
Infestation of Air Sac Mites
Sometimes, the budgie’s air sac gets infested by Air Sac Mites and they breed in the bird’s trachea. It can make the bird’s voice hoarse, or it might even stop chirping. The bird wheezes and makes a clicking sound while breathing.
If the bird does not receive timely care, it can die of suffocation. An infestation of Air Sac Mites is contagious and it spreads quickly.
So, if one bird is diagnosed, the rest of the flock also needs to be treated whether or not they show any symptoms.
2. Your budgie’s feathers don’t look healthy
Feathers are vital for a budgie’s survival. Budgies go through molting (a process through which their old feathers fall out and are replaced with new ones), and ruffled feathers during molting are normal.
However, if you notice that something is not right with the feathers and the bird is not molting, it could be a sign of a disease.
If the budgie has stopped preening and caring for its feathers, it is probably too weak or too ill or both.
If the budgie is damaging its feathers and picking it out, it could be suffering from French Molt, which even though not fatal, can be very severe in some cases.
Loss of feathers can also be attributed to parasite infestation. If these parasites also find their way into the budgie’s gut, the illness can manifest through other symptoms too.
For example, the Giardia parasite found in water if attaches itself to the budgie, the budgie develops a very dry and severely itchy skin which can cause it to pick out its feathers.
This is accompanied by other symptoms such as inactivity, weight loss, etc. You can look for signs of damaged feathers, budgie screaming due to itchiness, etc.
If the bird is not given medical attention, this condition can severely escalate and prove fatal.
Feather cysts are caused by ingrown feathers, i.e. feathers that start developing beneath the surface of the skin. These cysts can be identified as an accumulation of keratinized mass or lumps on the skin.
If these lumps are situated such that they push against the budgie’s vital organs and create pressure, it could cause death. Cysts have to be surgically removed, so a trip to the vet is a must.
3. Your budgie is vomiting
Budgies regurgitate food as a mating ritual or to show affection. So while regurgitation could be harmless, vomiting is not. One sign to distinguish between regurgitation and vomiting is to see how the bird throws up.
If it moves its head voluntarily to bring up food, it is regurgitating. But, if its head shakes or bobs violently before the food comes out, the bird is vomiting.
Also, the vomited food sticks to the bird’s front giving it away that it was an involuntary action and that the bird is really sick.
Vomiting could be a sign of a yeast infection. The budgie might have other symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing food, diarrhea, a swollen crop, and weight loss. The vomit usually has a sour or nasty smell to it.
An appropriate dose of prescribed antibiotics can save the bird’s life.
A budgie vomiting could also be a red flag for liver disease, if it is accompanied by symptoms such as loose droppings with green coloring, labored breathing, swelling on the abdomen, etc.
Correct medication can cure the budgie if the diagnosis is done in the early stages.
However, if the condition has already worsened, veterinary intervention can help ease the bird’s discomfort to a certain level. Too much delay in receiving care can take the budgie’s life.
4. Your budgie’s excreta is different
A budgie’s droppings can tell a lot about its health. Clear urine, well-formed white urates, and dark colored feces indicate good bird health. Changes in diet can cause the color of the feces to change.
However, if there are any unexplained changes, you should look for the root cause.
- If you cannot tell the feces apart from the urates, i.e. the droppings are white or grey with no dark colored feces, it could be a sign of pancreatic infection. This needs immediate intervention by a vet or the bird could die due to the infection.
- If the feces are dark red in color, and it cannot be attributed to the food that it ate (for example cherries, beets, etc.), it could indicate blood in the droppings. Blood can also be seen in a clotted form in the feces. This could be a sign of internal bleeding or an intestinal tumor. This condition can be fatal if not treated immediately.
- Yellow urates and urine can mean bile in the droppings. This could mean that the budgie is suffering from some liver malfunction. Mild liver problems are curable, but if left untreated, the bird might die of liver failure.
One telltale sign of illness is finding undigested food in the budgie’s poop. It could be due to a range of diseases which affect the digestive system, some of which are fatal if left untreated.
Bulky, oily, and foul-smelling feces could be due to the inflammation of the bile ducts. This could be due to a condition called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis which may block the bile ducts when it worsens.
Eventually, this leads to jaundice and liver failure if the bird does not receive prompt treatment.
Wet stools or diarrhea could be due to stress if the budgie has to go through major changes such a new living space or change in the flock. If the budgie eats fresh, soft fruit, that could also cause watery feces temporarily.
However, if this is not the case and the budgie’s droppings are consistently loose and wet, it could be sick. Diarrhea accompanied by blood in stools (unexplained dark red or black pigmentation) and other signs such as weakness could be especially detrimental to the budgie’s health.
5. The budgie’s activity level is decreased or seems off balance
A healthy budgie would be very active and playful. If you see signs of weakness such as listlessness, diminished movement, etc., it could be a sign of severe sickness.
Not feeding well
Look for changes in the budgie’s food habits. A sick bird might pretend to eat and drink, just to conceal its illness, so if it is not eating well, it might not be apparent immediately.
If you notice weight loss and suspect that it is not eating or drinking enough, it needs to be immediately taken to a vet or its condition might worsen due to lack of nourishment.
- If you fear that your budgie might not eat enough, you should read this article. It shows you how much and what budgies should eat. Also, it shows you what to feed a budgie that is recovering from an illness.
Sleepy during the day
A budgie that appears sleepy most of the time during the day with eyes shut or half closed is likely in trouble.
A budgie that seems to be unsteady and off balance needs immediate medical attention. Other signs include not being able to sit on the perch or falling off the perch.
The budgie might be found sitting on the floor of the cage most of the time. If a budgie that usually perches with one leg when it sleeps suddenly starts using both the legs while sleeping, it needs to be observed closely to look for other signs of trouble.
A budgie that seems to be trembling, shivering, or having shaking fits is probably severely ill. If it’s having violent shaking fits and keeps falling off its feet or walks around in circles, it is likely an emergency situation and taking it to the vet should not be delayed.
Inability to move
Even though diminished movement could be a sign of weakness, complete inability to move could be a sign of avian paralysis.
In such situations, the budgie is not able to move its body or hold up its neck. The breathing is labored and only the tail bobs up and down. This is a fatal situation if treatment is delayed. A budgie that is unable to fly is definitely in trouble.
Budgies are known for chirping all day long. If a budgie is quiet all the time, something is wrong. It doesn´t always have to be bad though. Learn about 3 reasons why your budgie is quiet here!
What to do when your budgie shows these symptoms?
Of course, it is best to take your budgie to an avian vet for a physical examination if it is showing signs of severe illness. But meanwhile, it would be best to quarantine a sick budgie and keep a close eye on it.
If it is not tamed, avoid too much handling since it can cause stress which might deteriorate its condition.
If the budgie seems overheated, put its cage where it can get some fresh air. Alternatively, if the budgie is cold, have an external heat source near the budgie to regulate the temperature.
Provide fresh drinking water and food and make sure that the bowls are within the bird’s reach.
When your beloved pet is in a lot of pain and beyond the stage where it can be helped by medication, your vet might suggest putting it down in a humane manner.
What to do when your Budgie dies?
Even when you take very good care of your pet budgies and give them prompt veterinary care, sick budgies die.
When the budgie dies before you can take it to the vet for a diagnosis and you don’t know the exact cause of death, you can store the dead body wrapped in a plastic bag in your freezer and take it to the vet as soon as you can for a necropsy which can reveal the reason behind the death.
It always helps to care for your budgies better in the future if you know why one of your pets died.
Your winged companion’s death could be upsetting, but if there are more birds in the flock that remains behind, you need to be cautious.
The cage, the toys, and other equipment that the budgie shared with the rest of the flock need to be carefully disinfected.
Also, the birds that are left behind need to be observed closely to look for any signs of sickness and an avian vet should be consulted if they do.
Further, budgies grieve and your remaining budgie needs some extra care now. This article will show you what you have to do.
Knowing the signs of a sick budgie and giving it the care it needs can save its life. If not, you will at least know that you did your best.