Notice Carmen’s Tail

This week, I was given a Golden Conure named Carmen by a gentleman who had loved her dearly. After 20 years together, he could no longer provide the life she deserved. Carmen was lonely after having lost her mate some time ago: she was in need of a bird companion and I have a Golden Conure, Boatrix.

Carmen’s affectionate nature was evident right from the start. She chatted with us on the car ride home, let us pet her, and behaved as if we had always been a flock.

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Undigested Seeds

The next morning, I noticed undigested seeds in her poop, and alarm bells went off in my head. Thankfully, I had already scheduled a wellness appointment with my avian veterinarian. What I initially thought would be a routine checkup turned into a quest to uncover a serious health issue!

A few steadfast rules about parrot health are that their poop should not smell, their diet and clean environment are crucial, and their food should always be digested.

Undigested food often points to a few potentially life-threatening issues: liver problems (such as Pacheco’s Disease), kidney issues, PDD (Proventricular Dilation Disease), or AGY (Avian Gastric Yeast).

Of course, undigested food always indicates a problem in the digestive system.

My veterinarian examined Carmen’s weight and keel bone and ruled out PDD. The gram stain test results quickly revealed AGY: a significant overgrowth of yeast, so much so that it was budding, or replicating, in her system.

I was shocked!

If you’ve watched my videos, you know that health and cleanliness are top priorities for my birds. I’m very conscious of what they eat, so I’ve never encountered AGY.

My vet emphasized the severity of Carmen’s yeast infection and suggested that it might be causing other infections. The culture results will confirm this soon, but in the meantime, we began treatment for the yeast.

The Moral of the Story

We love our pets, our companions, and we want to show our love, just like Carmen’s previous owner did.

It turns out that Carmen had been sharing a little toast with jam most mornings. Even though inappropriate foods don’t seem to harm our birds immediately, they can cause issues over time. On the outside, Carmen looked like a healthy, beautiful bird and was affectionate with me initially. However, by the second day, I noticed she was ‘cranky’ and nipped harder than usual—a subtle sign that she wasn’t feeling well.

Her owner mentioned that she had never plucked her feathers before, but recently she had started pulling out her tail feathers. This was another sign that something was wrong. Carmen likely pulled out her tail feathers because she was in pain and was trying to make it go away.

It’s easy to want to spoil our birds, but the greatest love comes from caring for them properly. This includes providing the right diet and showing physical affection by spending time with them and petting them only on the head or neck.

Avoid Feeding Harmful Foods

Feeding Your Parrot: Fresh Foods, Dry Foods, and Pellets

In the wild, parrots eat a wide variety of foods that you may not have access to, but you can still provide a diverse and healthy diet for your feathered friend.

Fresh Foods

Parrots accustomed to variety will enjoy and benefit from various healthy foods. Most of these should be green, similar to what they would eat in the wild. Offer leafy greens and vegetables like broccoli regularly. For their keen eyesight, foods rich in beta carotene, like carrots and sweet potatoes, are excellent choices.

While fruits are high in fructose and parrots haven’t evolved to eat these (they usually eat unripe fruit which lacks the sweetness in the wild), exceptions can be made for fruits like mangos and papayas for the beta carotene.

Sprouted foods are also fantastic for parrots.

Dry Foods

I like to leave some dry food in my parrot’s cages (depending on their species) to complement their core pelleted diet. It offers an alternative that won’t grow bacteria or mold right away, the way fresh foods can.

Millet mixes (sold as a parakeet mix), oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds are great options when given in moderation. These can also make excellent treats.

Research is key when it comes to parrot health and diet- be sure to research what you offer so that you do what’s best for your bird.

Pellets

While I’m not the biggest fan of pellets, they offer significant benefits. Several vets and experts have told me that the introduction of commercial pellets for parrots resulted in fewer vet visits. My rescue Yellow-naped Amazon, Lorenza, was on the brink of death due to a seed-based diet that damaged her liver. My vet didn’t think she would survive, but a diet consisting of 99% pellets and fresh foods, including scrambled eggs, has dramatically improved her health. She’s not perfectly “normal,” but it’s been years, and you’d probably never guess she had been so sick if you met her.

Human Junk Food

Prossesed and sweet foods that are considered “junk” food for us are very likley ‘super-junk’ for our parrots. I always wondered why pizza is ill-advised for parrots: then I learned that bread puts candida yeast in a parrot’s system, and that they cheese can too! My vet says that parrot’s love cheese! She’s right!

Caring for Carmen and my other parrots has taught me that a parrot’s happiness starts with their health, and providing a proper diet and environment is the greatest way to care. The best way to show our love for our wonderful companions can be expressed in pets, time and attention given.