Do Pet Birds Get Depressed?

How to Tell If Your Bird Is Unhappy

Parrot in cage, close-up
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Bird owners often wonder if their bird can get depressed, how they can tell and what to do to help. The answer is yes, it's possible, and depression in pet birds is actually more common than you might think. Before you visit the avian veterinarian, check out the signs that mean your bird is not in its usual cheerful mood and see if some small changes can bring back those happy chirps. If nothing improves the situation, call the vet for a diagnosis and professional help.

Causes and Signs

Depression in pet birds has a number of causes -- a change in cage position, boredom, death of a partner or the loss of a favorite toy. Symptoms of a depressed bird can include:

  • Fluffed-up feathers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in droppings
  • Irritability
  • Feather-plucking
  • Aggression
  • Change in vocalizations


What to Do

  • If you notice your bird showing any of these symptoms, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your avian vet for a full check-up. If the vet finds no medical reason for your bird's symptoms, depression could be the cause. 
  • Check the cage position to be sure that it is not in an area that could stress your bird, such as in a chilly area. If possible, move your bird's cage to an area of the house where it can see the family since pet birds are social and like stimulation.
  • Keep the cage clean, with a new cage liner daily and clean food and water cups.
  • Inadequate mental stimulation is a major cause of depression in pet birds. Make sure that your bird has plenty of safe and fun bird toys. And give your bird some new ones frequently to keep it stimulated. 
  • Make sure that your bird also gets plenty of "one-on-one" time with you and other family members and that it gets adequate time to play outside of the cage each day. That ride on your shoulder might make a lot of difference in your bird's mood. 
  • If your bird has suffered the loss of a partner, be a little patient. Birds grieve and it takes a bit of time to get over a death. If things don't improve in a few weeks, see the avian vet.