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parrot birds such as budgies can be affected by a disease which
causes vomiting or regurgitating their food. Sometimes the vomit
consists of dry seeds and grains, but in most cases the birds throw up
a mixture of half-digested food and an acidic liquid. This liquid can
show different colours from brownish to yellow or whitish; the smell
can also vary from rotten to fishy or sour.
There are several possible
reasons why a bird can show the above mentioned symptoms. So if someone
is talking about a "sour crop", this is much too simple. In fact, it's
a generalisation which could cost your bird's life in the worst case.
As you will see in this chapter, it is necessary to find out the
individual cause for the symptoms in each case. Some of the reasons
mentioned below are no typical infectious diseases. But since they
cause vomiting which often is associated with an infection, they are
also described on this page.
Possible reasons for
vomiting in birds
These are some of the most frequent causes for throwing up food in
budgies. Please note that in other bird species, some of the mentioned
causes of disease do not appear quite often.
A video you should have a
look at: On Youtube you can find a video which shows
a budgie who suffered from a bacterial infection. Therefore the bird
was vomiting. Of course the owner took the bird to an avian vet and the
sick budgie got help. Please click here for the video .
Feeding a partner or chick
parrot species show a typical behaviour: Male birds regurgitate
food from their crop and give it to their partners. Also some male
birds feed their male friends; female birds in general do not feed
their partners or even other flock members except from their chicks.
For a bird, feeding a partner is very important. This behaviour shows
the ability of raising a family and is a sign for a perfect health
status. Also pairs get familiar with sharing the food that way which is
important for the breeding season. While the female stays in the nest
to warm the clutch or the hatched chicks, she needs to get food from
her partner, and so do the chicks. So feeding a partner or a chick has
nothing to do with any crop disease and is no sign for an illness at
Regrettably, many budgies are still kept solitary, even though they are
social birds who need other budgies around them. In many cages of these
lonely birds one can find toys like plastic birds or tiny mirrors. Here
in Germany, an association of vets has declared them as dangerous and
contrarious to animal welfare. Especially male budgies who are kept as
single birds tend to feed mirrors. They think that they see a potential
partner and they offer him food which is part of the natural courtship
(see above). But the mirror image won't take the food, so the bird
swallows it again, then regurgitates it, offers it to the "partner",
swallows it again, and so on.
As you can imagine, the mucosa of the crop becomes sore
after a while, vets talk about a crop irritation. Birds then suffer
from sickness and pain; some of them throw up food. In our surrounding,
you can find bacteria and other germs that normally won't harm us or
our pets. But once the mucosa of a bird's crop is sore, these germs
have a walk-over. The result is an infection of the crop that can be
caused either by bacteria or fungus.
Most parrot birds love to gnaw on anything that's within
their reach. If a bird swallows for example a piece of plastic or wood,
it can become stuck in the crop and hurt the mucosa. This mechanical
irritation of the tissue can lead to severe infections and vomiting.
Poisoning, food intolerance
Budgies and other birds are fairly curious. While they explore our
homes, sometimes they find things that are poisonous such as exotic
plants. Since parrot birds gnaw on these things, a poisoning can be the
result. Some plants or essential oils cause mucous membrane
irritations. Birds who suffer from a poisoning often throw up food, but
not in each case you have to deal with an infection of the crop.
Also food intolerances can lead to vomiting. Rotten food
or human snacks are not suitable for birds. For example, a budgie can
show severe vomiting after eating French fries or other fatty food.
Please do never offer your budgies human food except from fresh fruit
or vegetable, boiled rice (unsalted) or boiled potatoes (unsalted). For
further information about budgie nutrition, please visit the chapter
about this topic.
Bacterial crop infection
certain circumstances, bacteria that are typical for our natural
surrounding can harm birds, even though in general they won't do so. If
the immune system of a bird is weak or if the crop is irritated, these
infections can occur. The infected tissue swells and produces mucus.
Also the tissue hurts and the affected bird loses appetite. In many
cases, birds try to get rid of the liquid inside their crop by throwing
it up. Right after vomiting, the bird shakes its head and the liquid
sticks to the feathers on the head and in the face (see photo on the
right). You can also find the liquid close to where the bird is
perching, it's sticking for example to the cage bars or to the perches
Crop mycosis (Candida, Megabacteria or Avian
bacteria, other germs can harm our pet birds. Yeast infections
can occur, and it happens quite often due to a mucous membrane
irritation. In many cases yeasts are responsible for the health
problems, vets talk about a thrush or Candidiasis. Also pathogens
from the genus Mucor can be responsible. Such crop
infections can lead to vomiting and general illness. The affected birds
suffer from pain and lose their appetite. You can find liquid sticking
to their feathers after they threw up their food.
There is another pathogen that can cause crop
infections. When it was discovered, it was called Megabacteria, but
today we know that it's a fungus-like organism and the name is a bit
confusing. Many people therefore talk about Avian Gastric Yeast. The
problem is: Vets aren't always able to find Megabacteria when they
examine a crop swab. It often takes two or more examinations to detect
the germs. They cause a disease that is called going light or wasting
Another possible cause for vomiting is a parasite infestation of the
crop. In budgies, the so-called avian trichomoniasis occurs quite
often. Trichomonas is a protozoon and can kill a bird. The liquids
birds throw up often smell fishy. This disease is highly contagious and
all birds of a flock have to be treated. When parent birds feed their
chicks or when adult budgies feed their partners, Trichomonas is
transmitted. It also survives in the drinking water. Once an infected
bird drank from the water, other flock members can be affected, too.
Concussion or diseases of the central nervous
A bird's brain and central nervous system (cns) are located inside the
head; the cns is also located in the spinal cord. Like in humans, in
birds the cns is responsible for the regulation of several processes
inside the body. A head injury can therefore damage the cns what often
leads to vomiting. Those who ever have been concussed know how terrible
the vertigo and sickness feel. This is exactly what a bird goes
Furthermore, some toxic substances can affect the cns
and lead to vomiting or disorientation. Kidney diseases also can cause
poisonings and therefore make birds throw up their food.
Tumours of the inner organs (liver, kidney, etc.)
It's sad to say, but it's the truth: Many budgies tend to develop
tumours, and scientists don't know the reason for this so far. Often,
the inner organs such as the liver or the kidney are affected. In both
cases the organs do not detoxicate the body like they should -
therefore birds often show signs of a poisoning like vomiting. When a
tumour grows, it displaces the digestive tract of a bird what
could lead to digestive tract problems.
What can we do to help our
notice that your budgie or other pet bird throws up liquid and food, you should take the bird to an avian vet as
soon as possible. The vet should try to find out whether you
have to deal with a fungal or a bacterial infection or any other cause
for vomiting. It's often advisable to take a crop swab and culture. If
the vet won't find any hints for an infection, it might be a good idea
to x-ray the feathered patient. Also a blood examination can sometimes
be useful to find out for example if the bird suffers from a heavy
metal poisoning, a kidney problem or a liver disease.
Do sick birds need a
Birds who feel sick lose their appetite. Therefore it makes sense to
offer them food that is easy to digest. Half-ripe millet sprays are
fine, also soaked seeds and boiled rice (unsalted). In case a bird
suffers from a fungal crop infection, the food should not contain sugar
because the germs feed on it. So during the treatment, birds are not
allowed to eat fresh fruit or titbits such as crackers. Please ask your
vet about the special needs of your sick birds and make the doctor tell
you more about the diet that's good for your budgie.