Parakeets, or budgies, are a group of parrots known for their small size and are the most popular pet bird worldwide.
These small birds are full of personality and make a great addition to a family.
Since they are not as large as other parrots, parakeets tend to be cleaner and are better suited for life in an apartment or house.
Do parakeets die easily? Parakeets, like many birds, have fragile organ systems and can get sick with suboptimal conditions. There are many acute and chronic conditions that can cause sudden death in your pet parakeet. However, most birds that are given proper care will live long, healthy lives.
In the wild, parakeets are flock animals. They are accustomed to masking symptoms of illness as a survival mechanism to remain a member of the group.
This can make it harder for owners to diagnose issues in their pet parakeet.
While some causes of death have no warning, there are some triggers and symptoms that you can look out for to prevent death in your parakeet.
Common Causes of Parakeet Death
As part of my research process, I often reach out to avian professionals so that I can ensure that the information and advice given is as accurate and trustworthy as possible.
In this case, I contacted the Texas Avian and Exotic Hospital. The team there provided the following advice:
Weighing your bird regularly will give you a way to monitor your bird’s overall health.
In addition to monitoring for weight LOSS, routine weighing of your bird will allow you to monitor for weight GAIN; this is helpful since pet birds are prone to obesity.
Weight loss may be the first indicator that your bird is getting sick. The scale should be a digital scale, as spring scales are not as accurate. The scale should read in grams, not ounces.
Please call your veterinarian if:
- Your bird loses 10% or more of its body weight unexpectedly.
- Your bird is sick and its body weight is on a steady downward trend, even if it has lost less than 10% of its body weight.
- Your bird has a poor appetite, reduced droppings, or any other signs of illness.
The team also shared that if you do not have an avian scale, a digital cooking scale or even a postage scale is fine to use.
Just like humans, there are a multiple of things that can cause illness and death in parakeets. It can be helpful to be aware of the common causes.
Illness, Disease & Parasites
Psittacosis “Parrot Fever”
Parrot fever can affect all birds (and even humans), and it is estimated that 30% of domestic birds are carriers.
Symptoms include listlessness, breathing problems, green droppings, and ruffled feathers.
Due to the contagious nature of parrot fever, a sick bird should immediately be isolated from other birds and treated by a vet.
Oftentimes, humane euthanasia is recommended if the infection is too severe.
Avian Gastric Yeast (AGY) Infection
Also known as macrorhabdiosis, AGY infection is highly contagious and does not show symptoms early.
While AGY is a yeast infection, the weakened immune system of the parakeet tends to invite secondary bacterial infections to occur, leading to wasting disease.
Look for undigested food in droppings, vomiting, and lethargy.
Veterinarians will typically prescribe medication and a low-sugar diet (to inhibit yeast growth), but AGY is prone to recurrent infections.
Sour crop and candidiasis are other common yeast infections in the digestive tracts of parakeets. Severe infections can cause shaking fits and loss of balance.
Just like for AGY infections, veterinarians recommend a low-sugar diet along with medications to minimize yeast growth.
Unlike a human cold that tends to resolve on its own with rest and at-home care, an avian cold requires medical treatment.
It is caused by a bacterial infection that typically affects the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms usually include sneezing, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, inability to perch, and panting.
Papovirus specifically targets juvenile parakeets before fledgling. It is fatal in young birds.
Adult birds are thought to be potential carriers, but they do not get sick. Milder cases cause a French molt, where wing and tail feathers fall out.
Proventricular Dilation Disease (PDD)
PDD is linked to the avian bornavirus (ABV). It affects the nerves connected to the digestive tract, specifically the proventriculus of the stomach.
Parakeets can show digestive issues, weight loss, and neurological symptoms.
Since it is contagious, infected birds should be isolated from other birds. Proventricular dilation disease is ultimately fatal in parakeets.
Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by aspergillus. Aspergillus exists commonly in the environment, but it does not always cause infection.
An aspergillosis infection slowly damages body tissues over a period of months.
A weakened immune system or other health conditions can make a parakeet more susceptible to falling ill.
Also, an all-seed diet that lacks natural vitamin A, which is vital for immune and respiratory health, can increase a parakeet’s risk of aspergillosis.
It can be hard to diagnose, but typically respiratory issues, weight loss, and lethargy are seen in sick birds.
Treatment can take a long time, and some birds do not survive.
Mites are tiny creatures that are less than 1 millimeter in size. They either burrow into the skin of the bird or bite and drink the parakeet’s blood.
Due to their small size, mites are hard to see and can be hard to diagnose.
Birds tend to show discomfort and begin scratching regularly. Their skin can become dry and flaky and their feathers may fall out.
If mites are suspected, it is important to immediately contact a veterinarian to begin treatment.
Roundworm is an internal parasite that lives in the digestive tract of the parakeet and lives off its food. This can lead to malnutrition and ultimately death for the bird.
Veterinarians will commonly prescribe medication, and the dead worms will then be seen in the bird’s droppings.
Parakeets require a balanced diet to stay healthy. Outdated recommendations for an all-seed or mostly seed diet lead to obesity and nutrient deficiencies in parakeets.
The best diet includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds in appropriate amounts. A commercially created pellet diet can also provide proper nutrition.
A specific nutritional imbalance that can lead to death is too much fat in the diet.
Like with all-seed diets, too much fat in the diet can cause fatty liver and heart conditions. Low calcium intake can also cause sudden death occurrences.
Blood sugar imbalances, from too much fruit or not feeding frequently enough, can also lead to sudden death.
Due to their fragile systems, birds can fall prey to many toxins found in our homes. Most of the items are harmless to humans but can be fatal to parakeets
PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) is a substance used to coat nonstick cookware, like Teflon. When overheated, PTFE lets off fumes that can be instantly fatal to a bird.
PTFE can also be found on some clothing irons and self-cleaning ovens. It is best to avoid these items all together for the safety of your parakeet.
Other Aromatic Toxins
PTFE isn’t the only substance that causes toxic fumes for your bird. Insecticides, paint, and polyurethane should be avoided around birds.
It is best to remove your bird from the area for at least a day after using one of these items.
Also, air fresheners, incense, and non-soy candles can put off fumes that can be toxic to parakeets.
Food and Plant Toxins
Around the house, birds can get into toxic foods that we leave out.
Products that include caffeine, like coffee and chocolate, are toxic to birds and should be kept put away.
There are also toxic components in foods many think are safe for birds.
- Some fruit pits and seeds contain cyanide
- Avocados contain persin
- Peanuts can contain aflatoxins
Additionally, some of your favorite houseplants can be toxic to your parakeet:
Accidents and Injuries
Accidents can happen at almost any time, but there are steps that can be taken to maximize your parakeet’s safety.
Windows should be closed at all times to prevent escape.
Other pets in the house should never have access to a bird, and children should be taught how to properly interact with a bird.
Additionally, the bird’s cage and surrounding area should be free of sharp edges or pointed objects that could cause injury.
Chains or shredded rope should not be used to hang toys because they can get stuck around small legs or heads.
If blood is found in the cage, confirm whether it is from a blood feather or an injury.
Any injuries to your bird should immediately be seen by a veterinarian because birds are susceptible to septicemia (blood poisoning).
Night fright commonly occurs in smaller parrot species. When placed in a dark, silent environment overnight, birds can become startled and stressed by a number of stimuli.
In the wild, silence at night could mean a predator is near so the natural instinct is to fly upward when startled.
The parakeet can then become injured when it hits the top of its cage or become frenzied inside, crashing into perches and toys.
Unfortunately, severe injuries or cardiac arrest can lead to death.
Steps should be taken to prevent night fright. Leaving a dim night light can prevent your bird from being startled.
Also, white noise can also muffle some sounds. Common causes of night fright include:
- Rodents or insects moving in the room
- Other pets moving around or making noise
- Shadows and lights from passing cars
- A/C or heaters turning on and off
Your parakeet can experience stress due to a number of factors.
Some common causes are other pets in the house, a new location, a new toy, health problems, and loneliness.
Symptoms to look out for are stress bars (horizontal lines seen on shed feathers), loss of appetite, destructive or repetitive behaviors, and aggressive or defensive behaviors.
Parakeets do not always show symptoms of chronic stress until their health slowly diminishes.
Acute stressors, like a cat pestering a caged bird, can cause heart failure and quick death.
Some might argue that this is the best cause of death for a parakeet because the bird has had the opportunity to live a long, full life.
Well-cared-for parakeets can live up to 30 years. As aging progresses, birds will start to move slower, seem weaker, and may lose weight or their appetite.
It is best to make life as easy as possible for your geriatric parakeet. Perching should be easy to get on and off of, and you might need to help your bird move from place to place.
Work with your veterinarian to come up with an end-of-life plan for your bird.
Some veterinarians recommend humane euthanasia before your bird’s quality of life declines.
How To Keep Your Parakeet as Healthy as Possible
Here are some tips to ensure longevity in your bird:
- Appropriate, balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
- Adequate exercise and plenty of time outside of the cage
- Social interaction with other birds or humans
- Avoid potential dangers by keeping windows closed and keeping other pets away
- Remove toxins from the home
Average Parakeet Lifespan
There are approximately 100 types of parakeets, and each has a different age range.
The average parakeet lifespan in captivity is 6-12 years, but some breeds live up to 30 years.
In the wild, budgies, the most common pet parakeet, live 15-20 years.
Proper care, and especially a balanced, nutritious diet, are the most important factors for your bird living a long life.
Signs of a Dying Parakeet
The usual signs of a sick bird include vomiting or regurgitation, fluffed up feathers, sitting at the bottom of the cage, and loss of appetite.
There are some lesser-known symptoms that you can be on the lookout for:
- Increase in appetite
- Change in amount of urine
- Increased thirst
- Discharge from eyes and nostrils
- Wheezing or sneezing
- Sudden behavioral changes
- Decrease in flying ability
- Inability to perch
- Change in droppings or straining to defecate
- Drooping wings
- Weight loss
- Blood on bird or found in cage
Any combination of these symptoms or additional concerns should be brought to the attention of an avian veterinarian.
They are educated in bird health and will be able to determine the best course of action.
How To Dispose of a Dead Parakeet
If you are planning to have a necropsy to determine the cause of death, store your dead parakeet in the refrigerator, wrapped in a towel or bag, and bring it to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Do not store in the freezer or for longer than 48 hours because it will degrade the tissue and make diagnosis harder.
If you are not planning to do a necropsy on your parakeet, it can be kept in the freezer until you determine your next steps.
Some options for disposing of a dead parakeet include:
- Burial in the backyard, garden, or special location
- Communal cremation at an animal hospital
- Private cremation (remains will be returned to you in an urn)
- Burial in a pet cemetery
What To Do With Bird Accessories
If you are planning to get another bird, it is best practice to dispose of all toys and accessories and disinfect the cage, especially if the cause of death is unknown.
If your parakeet died of an infectious disease, your veterinarian can recommend what and how to disinfect the cage and other items.
If you are not planning to adopt another bird, there are many great options for donating your bird cage and accessories.
Animal shelters, rescues, and wildlife rehabs are always grateful for useful donations.
Coping With the Death of a Parakeet
For some people, a necropsy can bring closure after the death of a bird if the cause if death is not obvious.
However, sometimes even a necropsy cannot determine why a parakeet passed away.
Take time to grieve the loss of your feathered friend. A burial ceremony with your family or framed photos can help you to remember the life of your parakeet.
If you are interested in welcoming another bird into your family, it is recommended to wait a couple months to grieve for your lost parakeet first.
Can a Parakeet Be Scared To Death?
A parakeet can be scared to death. The increased heart rate and rush of hormones that occurs when a bird is startled can cause heart failure.
Do your best to maintain a calm, quiet environment and prevent scary situations, like exploring cats and barking dogs, to reduce the odds of this occurring.
Can a Parakeet Die From Loneliness?
A parakeet can die from loneliness. Parakeets are social birds that live in large flocks in the wild.
The chronic stress caused by a lack of socialization will slowly diminish a parakeet’s health.
Humans can be a social companion for a parakeet. For example, head scratches mimic social grooming.
Can a Parakeet Die of a Broken Heart?
A “broken heart” is a human emotion, but parakeets can die following the loss of a partner. Parakeets are highly social birds that bond strongly.
If a mate dies, especially if two parakeets have been housed together for most of their lives, it can leave the remaining bird stressed and lonely.
Proper care and a balanced diet can help your parakeet to live a long, healthy life. However, there are many things that can cause your bird to die.
By knowing what to look for and seeking veterinary care when appropriate, you can try to prevent sudden death in your parakeet.