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Regurgitation On Bell

A parakeet regurgitates on his bell in place of feeding his mate.

By Diane Grindol

A parakeet eyeing his reflection as a potential mate
A parakeet will sometimes regurgitate to feed their mirrors.
Courtesy of Kristen Kristek

Q: I have a 10-year-old Indian ring-necked parakeet that I adopted 6 months ago. He is in good health, but during the past two months he has been regurgitating on the bell of his cage-top gym. He doesn’t appear sick, his feathers are glossy and intact, and he gets a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables with parrot food. Is this normal; and if so, is it something he will quit doing at some point?

A: The good news is that your Indian ring-necked parakeet is exhibiting normal behavior. He seems to like his bell. Your parakeet, at 10 months old, is an adolescent. His hormones are kicking in, and he’s trying out some bonding/breeding behaviors.

Parakeets impress their mates by feeding them, and your male does apparently like his bell and is trying to feed it in the absence of a mate. Some parakeets feed their mirrors, which is messy and makes them appear narcissistic!

Unlike our dogs and cats, birds don’t often “throw up” when they’re sick (though this is a symptom of a yeast infection, with a sticky residue being discharged). There are many times that a healthy member of the parrot family regurgitates. Parrots often regurgitate for their mates. Males especially often regurgitate for females, which, in turn, feed chicks in the nest.

A courting parrot/parakeet may show off his ability to provide for a mate by regurgitating for a female. The display gets more impressive as the bird gets bigger. Be thankful you don’t have a macaw!

The food offered in this way is what the bird has recently eaten, slightly digested. They don’t use nutrients from their body. When a parrot is actually feeding chicks, it’s important that they receive high-quality food to eat and regurgitate for their young.

Odd that we choose pets that throw up on us if they like us!

What Could Cause Infertile Eggs In Cockatiels?
There are a variety of things that can affect cockatiel fertility.

Q: We have a pair of normal grey cockatiels and their daughter. We have been experiencing infertile eggs from the parents. We bought a new cage and nest box, the old one was too dirty. The new nest box is inside the new cage. What might be wrong?

A: I can only guess what might be wrong, because there are several possibilities with infertility. You know that the parents have had at least one chick in the past. But some other things have changed in the environment. Possible causes of infertility include:

Change. Birds like to nest in the same conditions in which they’ve nested before. You have a new cage and a new nest box, as well as a new arrangement for the two. Is the cage in a new place as well? Making changes when a pair isn’t nesting can sometimes start nesting — but the opposite is true of disturbing conditions for a breeding pair.

You really do want to hang the nest box outside of the cage, as opposed to keeping it inside the cage. Will it fit across the cage door, or can you use wire cutters to cut away part of your cage to make the nest box accessible? (Thank you to the cage manufacturers who provide small doors for this purpose so cages don’t have to be mutilated in order to be used to breed cockatiels, parakeets or lovebirds!)

Perches. In order to breed successfully, cockatiels need a good, sturdy perch or shelf. Make sure that the perches in your new cage are fastened well.

Health. A pair of birds must be healthy in order to breed successfully. You have mentioned that
cleanliness was a problem in your birds’ old cage. Birds need to live in a clean environment in order to stay healthy. When birds are exposed to bacteria and mold from accumulated food or droppings in their housing environment, they can develop infections.

Cockatiels are naturally dusty birds, and they can develop infections if their area isn’t kept clean of their dust (not to mention scattered feed, household dust and molted feathers).

Be sure to keep this new cage clean and clean out the nest box during the next successful breeding season. Keeping a cage clean involves daily changing the paper or litter, daily.

Wipe down the cage grate daily and bars if they’re soiled.  Vacuum the bird’s area daily. Wash out bowls daily and every few weeks soak the bowls for 15 minutes in a mild bleach solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. (Bleach dissipates with exposure to light and air, so you will only be able to use this solution once, it will lose it’s effectiveness.).

Every few weeks, it’s a good idea to clean a cage thoroughly with soap and water. You’re right — even when cleaning out a nest box, you will want to discard it after a breeding season and get a new one for the next season.

Weight. Another aspect of health that affects egg fertility is weight. What diet do your cockatiels eat, and how much exercise do they get? Does the male have “cleavage” in his breast area, a sign that he’s overweight?


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Regurgitation On Bell

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Reader Comments
interesting article
Jennifer, madras, OR
Posted: 12/3/2008 9:35:23 PM
Good article!
Lynne, Cincinnati, OH
Posted: 12/3/2008 5:35:34 PM
My Jenday Conure will regurgitate on one of his bells sometimes and also on the side of his water dish. I read about it when I first noticed this happening regularly and based on the consistency and his demeanor it turned out to be a "good thing". Sometimes, when I hear him making the "clinking" noise (I know what he's doing) I say stop...and he usually will.
Sheila, Greensboro, NC
Posted: 12/2/2008 11:20:31 AM
thanks for the article and answering these common questions
Shandi, Kitchener, ON
Posted: 12/1/2008 7:46:40 PM
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