How to Identify a Stressed-Out Bird and How to Brighten its Mood

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

When a bird is depressed, even a toy can not do much to alleviate the stress. So while a toy is a step in the right direction, it is good to be aware of the tell-tale signs of a bird needing help. Here are some ways you can know a bird is low.

Stressed Out Birds Symptoms

1) Zero Appetite

This is a sure way of telling if birdie is okay. But, of course, there could be other reasons why the bird would have reduced appetite, including ill health.

Diet can also affect your feathered friend’s appetite. Putting your pet on a diet that it is not used to could lead to stress. For example, if you have a parrot, you must know what parrots eat.

2) Aggression

Most animals and birds can be a bit aggressive if they are stressed out. Aggression happens, especially when the main trigger is happening. For instance, you could be touching a painful part of you are unaware of.

Aggression is not to be confused with an attack. It can be loud noises, hissing, lunging, and other aggressive actions. When the bird suddenly starts biting, you know it is time to look beyond the action and find the cause.

3) Fear


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A lot of things can trigger fear in birds. One of the more obvious ones includes a new person handling them. Apart from a new face, a brightly colored cloth can make the bird a bit more fearful than it would normally be.

You can tell the bird is afraid by seeing how it avoids being handled and tries to escape the handler.

4) Silence

If a loud one is suddenly silent for a couple of days, then there could be something going on that needs examination.

5) Severe Weight Loss

Severe Weight Loss

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Depressed birds often lose much weight due to reduced activity, including eating. More often than not, the birds are not interested in the food you bring them. Weight loss can be a sign of other things like bad health. However, depression can be one of the reasons why a bird would lose weight.

6) Self Mutilation

Self-mutilation is an extreme reaction by a bird that is depressed, and when you see this, you need to act immediately. Some of the ways stressed birds self-mutilate is by feather picking. Feather plucking can be a sign of boredom. However, the bird is stressed out when it is a bit extreme.

Behaviors like feather plucking are common in birds like the African gray parrots or the Eclectus parrots.

What Can Cause Depression in Birds?

What Can Cause Depression in Birds?

Bird owners must be aware of some signals of a bird falling into depression. However, knowing that a bird is depressed is not enough if you do not know what is potentially causing the depression. Lots of things can cause depression, including;

a) Illness

When a bird suddenly stops being active and is all droopy, that can indicate an underlying medical problem. However, a bird does not have severe mood swings that can be attributed to being sad one day when it was bubbly the previous day.

A medical disease is better diagnosed by a veterinarian immediately once you have identified a change in behavior in the pet bird. Birds commonly hide signs of many illnesses, and when it starts becoming visible, it is time to take action.

b) Recovery from illness

While illness can make a bird feel depressed, the recovery process can be a bit stressful for the bird too. In addition, the medicine can make the bird feel a bit different than it normally does in its normal state.

Recovery from illness

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The recovery process is a bit tiresome for the bird, and it might lose its appetite. This reaction is normal, and as a bird owner, you know that it is expected that the bird will take time to brighten up.

c) Untidy Cage

A dirty environment will make it hard for any pet, not just birds, to be happy. Some birds, like parrots, are highly intelligent and will make a difference when the cage is not as clean as it normally is.

When the cage is clean, the birds will be happy and will use the whole cage. However, when the cage is dirty, it takes a toll on the birds as there are many things the bird will not be able to do. In addition, once a dirty cage induces inactivity, depression kicks in quickly.

d) Uninteresting Environment and Boredom

A plain cage will most certainly bore a bird out of their minds. However, once the bird is bored, you will start seeing toe-tapping, pacing, or head swinging in some species, especially cockatoos.

Birds are very active and need a lot of toys for physical and mental stimulation (can be interlinked with the bird toys article).

Some ways to take care of this include buying more toys, getting a playmate, buying a bird gym, and more.

There are many reasons why a bird might be bored. Boredom can eventually lead to depression. However, there are ways to keep a bird from getting bored and eventually avoiding depression.

e) Diet

Before you give your bird antipsychotic medication for depression, check if the food you feed does not cause depression. It is pointless to try and cure depression when the cause of depression, like an underlying illness, is not sorted out.

Giving the bird food without making it “hunt” for it can be a bit boring, as most bird species are foragers. If you are giving the birds food it is not used to eating in the wild; then you should consider switching the diet.

One way you can tell the bird does not like what you give it is when it exhibits decreased appetite.

f) Loneliness

Birds can feel lonely. Once I started noticing the stress bars on my bird, I knew I had to get a playmate. Loneliness is a sure way of getting a stressed bird, and getting a playmate is one way to get rid of the loneliness.


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There is a lot of care to be taken when picking a playmate. Remember, birds can fight even if they are of a similar species. I got my bird a playmate and now have two pet parrots. Each parrot has its cage, and the birds are still exclusive while having company in each other.

Once I got the other bird, I noticed reduced signs of stress on my first pet.

g) Extreme weather

Not all birds are accustomed to extreme weather changes. Birds know what to do when the weather changes when they are out in the wild. However, when birds are in cages and winter is coming, they might be stressed out because they need to do something they can not do. Feeling powerless can increase a bird’s anxiety, leading to stress.

One thing I do with the changing seasons is to change the cage set up so that the birds feel the change with the changing seasons. Unhappy birds are mostly taken out of the wild into the house after they are accustomed to a way of life. The best approach is to have them live the life they were used to.

h) Injury

An injury can make a bird immobile, making it impossible to do normal activities. Birds are some of the most active creatures, and the moment they cannot do anything physical, they might become depressed and dull.

Injuries are painful, and this affects the bird. The longer an injury takes to heal, the more prolonged stress the bird will experience. To avoid this, it is wise to take the bird to a vet for treatment. Antibiotics administered to the bird will help the injury heal faster.

If you suspect a bird is injured, you do not have to try and find out where the injury is by yourself to avoid hurting the bird further. The injury might be internal and threatening to the bird’s health. The best thing is to take the bird to a vet for a thorough medical examination.

i) Cage Position/ change

Cage Position/ change

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Changing a cage position may be stressful to a bird because of the new environment it has to become accustomed to. We all love the comfort and a sense of security, as do birds. However, when the cage is moved, the bird no longer feels safe and might be stressed out. This is especially the case when the cage is moved to a more active place with many people.

I avoid changing the position of the cage at all costs.

j) Losing a Mate

As I mentioned before, birds like parrots can be emotional at times. This means that an occurrence like losing a mate is traumatic. When a bird loses a mate it is used to playing with, there can be a lot of adjustments that the bird might have to make, and this process is depressive.

k) Shared Cage

Some birds are dominant and territorial and tend to exhibit destructive behavior. Such birds need to have cages of their own, as sharing a cage might lead to the other bird being threatened and withdrawn.

Birds love their space, and a sense of insecurity can lead to depression.

l) Unfamiliar Wild Animals

A bird can be depressed by other animals outside of the cage. For instance, if owls live outside the window, the bird inside the house will feel trapped and insecure. In addition, the noises from wild animals that trigger the instinct for the bird to run for cover might end up causing severe trauma when the bird can not do anything in the situation.

m) Relocation

Moving a bird from the wild into the house or from one room to the other can cause some underlying stress that you should watch out for. Once you have relocated a bird to a new place, watch how it behaves and how it will manifest stress, if there is any,

n) Small Cage

A small cage might lead to long-term stress in birds. A small cage eventually leads to other health problems in birds. The health issues arise due to inactivity and depression. Before giving the bird an Elizabethan collar, it is better to get a larger cage instead.

Small Cage

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Smaller birds can survive in a small cage because of the small wingspan. However, larger birds with large wing spans will start feeling claustrophobic sooner or later.

o) Loud Noise

Does loud music affect birds? Yes.

If there is too much noise in the house, this might make the bird feel stressed out. For example, music played too loud and family members always screaming can scare the bird into depression.

I make the noise manageable for everyone in the house, including birds.

p) Light Cycle

If a bird is always in the house, it is used to the light cycle to keep a sense of time. If such a bird is suddenly kept in the darkroom without a healthy amount of sun, it will most certainly get depressed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Birds

Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Birds

i) Do birds cry?

Yes, they do! However, for different reasons than you sometimes do. A few physiological similarities between our eyes and birds’ eyes may make them tear up. For example, the eye needs lubrication. This makes the eye emit some tears for comfort. Imagine having dry eyelids and how uncomfortable that would be.

The other reason why tears may come out of a bird’s eye is when the eye is injured or has an infection. For example, an allergy can cause the eye to tear up.

Tears help guide the object to a safer place when something gets in the eye. So buy your bird one of the toys above to get happy tears from your feathered friend.

ii) Are birds color-blind?

Some fowls see much better than humans. Birds can see colors better than we can.

Final Thoughts

If your bird is experiencing stress and is suddenly giving you frequent bites, the bird is trying to communicate something. Keeping bird depression at bay is possible; all you have to do is pay attention to how the bird is doing. Soon, you will have a happy and healthy bird.

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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