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Thursday, May 13, 2010
Sudden Death

By Linda Costello
Explore the diaries of daily life with large birds.

My beautiful African grey Mitch is gone! He died on April 7, 2010, but I held back talking about it because I find it so hard to believe.
I got up the morning of April 7th and, as usual, began to pull the water dishes to change them. When I got to Mitch’s cage I noticed he was at the bottom where he usually played with his toys. But then I noticed he wasn't playing at all. He was lying there on his back, motionless. I thought, “No, this can't be!”

My brain couldn't comprehend that what my eyes were seeing, but it was true! Not my Mitch! He was the picture of health.
Below is the diagnosis for Professor Irene Pepperberg's famous parrot ambassador, Alex. It’s possible this is also what happened to Mitch.
“He had a sudden, unexpected catastrophic event associated with arterosclerosis (‘hardening of the arteries’). It was either a fatal arrhythmia, heart attack or stroke, which caused him to die suddenly with apparently no suffering.  His death could not be connected to his current diet or his age; the vet has seen similar events in young birds on healthy diets. Most likely, genetics or the same kind of low-level (impossible to detect in birds as yet) inflammatory disease that is related to heart disease in humans was responsible.”
I still can't believe it. But even Alex was only 31. Mitch was 22 (that I know of), but being wild caught and imported you could possibly add 10 or even 20 years to that. There is just no way of knowing his exact age.

It's just so hard to accept. He was such a sweet bird — gently giving his kisses and letting me handle him with complete trust.  But I have to accept it. I have no choice. So much for the long lifespan parrots are said to have!
When you have multiple birds, the death of one is something you are more than likely to experience but that sure doesn't make it any easier. It helps to share the pain with someone who has been there, though — someone who understands.

For that reason, I would advise that people join bird-related mailing lists and/or message boards, like the one on, where you can share with other bird people the happy times you have with your birds. Also, just knowing there is a place where you can get support if and when the unthinkable happens can be of some comfort when you need it most.

Click on each picture to see a larger photo.


It is very important to have a necropsy done when your pet bird dies. I realize many people new to birds are reading this and they are not always knowledgeable about these things. Everyone who owns parrots should have a good working relationship with a qualified avian veterinarian.

I have written about it in my earlier blogs but in my grief I failed to remind people of this very important procedure.

I have a very good veterinarian who cares for my birds He has the facility and experience to do the necropsy himself. Any parrot of mine that has passed has had a necropsy done.
Even if you think you know the cause of death, when a seemingly healthy bird drops dead you should always have your qualified avian veterinarian explain the importance of a necropsy and follow his advice on having these tests done.

Depending on the cause of death, your other birds’ health could be at risk. And even when no contagious diseases are found, it eases your mind to know that your other pet birds' health are not threatened as you grieve the loss of your bird.

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Sudden Death

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Reader Comments
I hd the very same thing happpen last Friday evening, except that my 13 yesar old grey, Emma, did in my arms only seconds after falling to the bottom of her cage. Heartbroken doesn't even desceibe my feelings...
Linda, Elko, NV
Posted: 8/22/2012 11:40:10 AM
I am very sorry for your loss and you have my complete empathy. It never gets easier. I try remember to take my time to say goodnight. It could be the last moment a loved one and I share....ALL loved ones. Please accept my cyber hug. :*(
Maria, San Juan, PR
Posted: 9/5/2010 12:04:29 AM
I understand your pain. I lost my Blue & Gold, Icarus, about two years ago. Ordering her necropsy was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
Charles, Orlando, FL
Posted: 5/31/2010 12:31:32 PM
So sorry for your loss. :*(
Marie, Port Jefferson, NY
Posted: 5/26/2010 7:24:44 PM
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