Overweight in Birds – What you didn’t Know and How to Act

Translated by Nick R

Surely when looking after your birds, the risk of any of them becoming overweight or obese has not crossed your mind. Yet, this may be more common than you think and because taking them for routine checkups at the vet is not a habit, unless they are sick, there may be a couple of things you are neglecting in the care of your bird. Keep reading to learn more about it.

What causes obesity in birds? 

Captive-bred birds are the most likely to suffer from obesity due to the sedentary life they lead in which they are not stimulated to move, play or fly. These conditions are perfect for the accumulation of fat in the body. Some other causes are:

  • The bird’s diet consists only of seeds, some of them with excess fat such as sunflower seeds or breadfruit, which is often used as a snack.
  • The bird is in a small space in which it cannot fly, move or play.
  • Some people are used to clipping the birds’ wings a bit so that they cannot fly properly, which has a direct influence on their daily activities.
  • There are no toys inside the cage or they are not changed frequently.
  • There are also no perches placed in different ways for the bird to climb.

Keep in mind that obesity is not only about a species gaining more weight than it really should, but it is also a nutritional problem that evidences the excess of calories and fat in the body and probably the lack of other nutrients and vitamins necessary for good health.

Some species are more prone to suffering from obesity… 

You read that right, although your birds’ health depends largely on how you care for them, some species are genetically predisposed to suffer from obesity, some of them include:

Other aspects that can lead a bird to suffer from obesity are age, being older birds prone to suffer from obesity and its consequences.

Health problems in birds caused by obesity 

Obesity itself is only the beginning of other health complications that a bird can suffer from, which are some health problems such as:

  • Heart problems (risk of heart attacks).
  • Liver problems (fatty liver or lipidosis).
  • Lipomas (fatty tumors that can be cancerous).
  • Thyroid gland disorders (hypothyroidism due to lack of iodine).
  • Lack of vitamins such as vitamin A, amino acids, calcium and other minerals.

Heart problems 

Heart problems are not an evident problem, however, it is a risk associated with obesity: fats tend to accumulate in arteries and veins, preventing the proper blood flow in the body and affecting the functioning of some organs and the daily activities of your bird.

A repeated case is mortality caused by exposing your bird to stress since due to cardiac problems it could suffer a heart attack.


Lipomas are usually accumulations of adipose cells (fat) in a specific area of the bird’s body, although it is common for them to occur in the abdomen, which, if not completely taken care of through proper diet and veterinary indications, can grow excessively and require surgery, helping also to determine if it is malignant (cancerous) and thus to know if there is a risk of metastasis in the body.

You’ll know about the presence of such lipomas because the areas where they grow, begin to lose feathers. Although if you frequently handle your bird, you will be able to notice it by touch.


Lipidosis occurs when the liver receives more fat, such as triglycerides, than it can process to later convert them into lipoproteins, leading to a deterioration in its functioning and even its color changing to yellow.

Unfortunately, it’s a fatal disease if not detected in time and that shows symptoms only when there is a significant advance of 80%, some other causes of this disease in addition to obesity are:

  • Expose your bird to high temperatures, remember that it should not be exposed to direct sunlight and should be in a cool place without strong drafts.
  • A diet poor in biotin, choline, and amino acids present in foods such as broccoli, cabbage, and boiled eggs.

Symptoms of lipidosis are loss of appetite, poor feather condition, lethargy, weakness, abdominal swelling (in the lower crop area), and nail and beak overgrowth.

How do you know if your bird has obesity? 

Obesity in birds is still debated because there is no exact measure to identify it, for example in humans in which there is the Muscle Mass Index (BMI). However, you can physically see certain factors that indicate the weight gain of your winged friend, such as:

  • Some areas of your bird’s body have no feathers, in such a scenario it will be good to also examine if there are any lumps that may indicate that there is a fatty tumor, which are commonly located on the chest.
  • Your bird finds it difficult to maintain physical activity and is easily agitated.
  • Its posture is spongy and not firm, especially if the chest has grown larger and the bone that is located there (keel) is not palpable.

Besides the above indications, it will be good for you to visit your veterinarian occasionally so to rule out problems of obesity. He/she can check the condition of your winged friend; the physical examination will usually take into account the condition of all parts of its body such as legs, nails, beak, wings, feathers, eyes, ears, and wax (part that is located above the beak and over the nostrils in some birds).

If your veterinarian finds that your bird is overweight, he or she may do some blood tests to check the level of cholesterol in the blood, as well as sugar and triglyceride levels.

How to feed your bird a good diet? 

The best way to prevent your bird from suffering from obesity is by taking care of its eating habits and daily activities. However, for those that suffer from this condition, the most prudent thing is to follow your veterinarian’s indications, since in case you make an abrupt change in the diet your winged friend may go hungry because it will prefer the food it is used to.

Some general guidelines that can help you improve your bird’s condition are:

  • Try to make a transition to a balanced food such as feed, some of them indicated for a specific species. This type of food is a combination of all the nutrients and vitamins necessary for your winged friend. Nevertheless, in terms of appearance and taste, they are not usually so attractive for birds, so the change should be slow, being aware of your pet’s weight.
  • A useful tip in this transition is to take note of the hours in which your winged pet feeds since, in wildlife, they have a schedule for each activity of the day and will be more likely to spend eating in the morning and evening than during the day and afternoon, remember though that this depends on the species you have.
  • Be sure to supplement the diet with fresh vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, and cabbage.
  • Foods rich in fiber will also come in handy for your birds, such as beets, celery, and corn.
  • Fruits are not recommended for obesity cases due to the sugar content called fructose.

Other quick fixes for your bird’s health 

In addition to a good diet, it is good for your bird to start moving more a few at a time, some tips to achieve this are:

  • As for the place where your bird lives, a large cage with ample space to move, climb and play will be good.
  • On the other hand, if your bird lives outside the cage, its environment must have stimuli that motivate it to interact and play. You can do this with foraging toys or those that can be pecked like ropes. Leave perches where it can climb, maybe to reach its food or drink water, in any case, make sure that the change is not drastic.
  • Birds get bored quickly of toys, so it’s good to bury them periodically and if possible, find new toy ideas.


It would be wise to highlight the importance of knowing how our birds feed, what they need the most, or what they may lack in their regular food.

It will also be good to always look for new feeding alternatives to give them an environment similar to their natural one in which all food source is beneficial and to be aware that, if they do not like a certain food, they can make up for their nutrients with supplements.

Related Blogs 

5 Ways to Exercise Your Bird for Good Health

What is a pet bird’s diet?

Top 20 superfoods for birds