Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 4, 2013, 3:15 p.m. PST
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Catherine M. Cross
A bird's dropping might change in consistency depending on what he eats.
A normal bird dropping contains feces, urine and urates. Feces are usually tube shaped and comes from the digested food. It can ranges in color from green to brown, depending on the bird’s diet. Normal droppings will not usually have any noticeable odor. Knowing what your bird’s normal droppings look like is helpful when trying to recognize whether or not your bird has a change in droppings that needs to be evaluated.
The number of droppings your bird has each day should also be monitored. A change in the number of droppings can indicate a number of things including a decrease in appetite or water consumption. Monitoring the droppings can identify decreased food consumption, and in this case the droppings may consist of all urine and urates with little to no fecal matter. A lack of droppings could indicate an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract.
The lack of form in the fecal portion of the dropping may indicate diarrhea. Excess urine in your bird’s droppings (called polyuria) could mean that the bird is eating more fruits and vegetables (which have higher water content) or is drinking more water, which can sometimes mean endocrine disease, liver disease or kidney disease.
The opposite of excess urine in the droppings is a decrease of urine in the droppings, where you may notice little to no urine accompanying the droppings. Bleeding in the intestinal tract can come out in the droppings different ways. Melena, which is digested blood found in the feces, is black in color. If melena is found in fresh droppings it indicates bleeding high in the digestive tract. Bright red blood in droppings indicates bleeding in the lower intestinal tract and vent or from the reproductive or urinary tracts. The most common cause of blood in the urine portion of the droppings is from lead toxicosis.
A change in the color of urates, the end metabolite of protein digestion, can be significant. Urates are normally white to cream in color. If the urates become bright green, it can indicate certain liver problems, including psittacosis.
If a bird has not eaten for 24 hours or more, the droppings passed might look small, blackish-green and sticky. This can be confused with melena, which is digested blood in the droppings, and appears as blackish fecal portion. The two problems can be distinguished by taking one of the abnormal droppings and placing it on a white piece of paper, then adding a drop of water and smearing it across the paper. The droppings from not eating for 24 hours or more will smear out as green, caused by the biliverdin in them (a product from the liver). If droppings are from not eating (technically caused anorexia), it is imperative to have your bird evaluated by an avian veterinarian to determine why it has stopped eating.
Changes in the bird’s food will cause a change to the droppings, but this is not a problem. Medical causes may include intestinal infections, pancreatic disease, renal disease, diabetes or the ingestion of foreign objects or toxic chemicals. The bird with diarrhea may show other signs of illness, such as being fluffed up, not vocalizing, being less active and not eating its normal diet. A female bird that is going through an egg-laying cycle will usually have large, smelly, unusual droppings that are passed less frequently. This is a normal part of egg-laying, and is not usually a sign of illness; however, if you are concerned, have an avian veterinarian check her out.
If your bird has little to no droppings, it needs to be seen by an avian vet for a full medical check-up. For polyuria, some vets recommend reducing the amount of fruits and vegetables for 24 to 48 hours because if they bird receive an abundance of them, the increase of urine may be a result of that. If signs of diarrhea occur, monitor your bird’s droppings for 24 hours and if they continue, take the bird and sample droppings to an avian vet.
Blood in the droppings is serious and warrants immediate veterinary care as soon as possible.
Always be aware of your bird’s droppings. Become familiar with the normal size, form and frequency of your bird’s droppings so you can easily identify when there has been a change. If a change in the droppings occurs, seek advice and take the proper action to discover the cause of the change.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’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.