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Candida albicans, an opportunistic yeast, causes candidiasis, which creates problems in a bird’s digestive tract.

Margaret A. Wissman
Posted: January 2, 2013, 4:00 p.m. PST


Caused by Candida albicans, an opportunistic yeast, candidiasis causes various problems in a bird’s digestive tract. The crop is the primary site of infection with this disease, and may be the only portion of the digestive tract to become infected. Sour crop can result from candidiasis, as can other crop infections. Candidiasis may be the primary cause of crop infections or it may be a secondary infection to an already damaged crop.


A small amount of yeast may be found normally in many healthy birds. The number of Candida organisms present may increase as a result of the use (or overuse) of antibiotics, which may reduce the number of normal bacteria, or disrupt the normal balance of bacteria found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Unweaned baby birds may develop an infection with Candida sp. due to an immature immune system. All baby birds receiving antibiotic therapy should concurrently receive an antifungal agent to prevent an overgrowth of yeast in the crop or elsewhere in the GI tract. Candidiasis may occur as the result of injury to the tissue of the oropharynx or it may occur secondarily to hypovitaminosis A (vitamin-A deficiency).


A bird suspected of having candidiasis should be evaluated by an avian vet for proper diagnosis. This is usually accomplished by performing a Gram’s stain of the suspected area (choana, crop or cloaca). Once properly diagnosed, an avian vet may treat your bird with an oral suspension of nystatin, the most commonly used medication for initially treating candidiasis in a bird. Other medications may be used to treat more severe or chronic infections. It is suspected that some isolates of Candida sp. are becoming resistant to nystatin, so sometimes, a combination of antifungals may be used.


blue-and-gold macaw
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Catherine M. Cross
Candidiasis can be diagnosed by a Gram's stain.
Any nutritional deficiencies should be addressed and corrected. Supplementing a bird with beta carotene, either by offering foods high in beta carotene (dark green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits) or by providing a bird with a commercial supplement, is the safest way to deal with hypovitaminosis A. Beta carotene is converted to active vitamin A in the body, and the rest is excreted unchanged. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and it is possible to overdose this nutrient, so providing beta carotene is the safest way to treat vitamin-A deficiency.

Never feed a bird from your mouth, nor should you allow it to eat off of your spoon or fork, as the human mouth carries a plethora of bacteria, and in some cases, yeast, that can cause infections in birds.

Promptly remove uneaten food from your bird’s cage that can spoil, as it can harbor the growth of bacteria and yeast.

Disclaimer:’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

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