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Bird Weights – How can you tell if your pet bird is too heavy or too thin?

Your bird’s weight can be an important indicator of its health.  Unfortunately, however, it’s difficult to access  weight by eye – feathers hide most of the useful signposts, and by puffing up or flattening its plumage a bird can give very different impressions of its size.

Gauging Your Bird’s Weight

With experience, it is possible to develop an “eye” for a bird’s weight – several older keepers I worked with at the Bronx Zoo were amazing in this regard – but a manual check is generally best.  With your bird in hand, feel along each side of the keel, or breast bone.  Even on the tiniest of finches, there should be a layer of muscle (in active, full-winged birds) or fat.  You should not be able to easily feel each side of the keel (the outer edge of the keel, which runs along the breast, will not have a fat/muscle covering).

If you are concerned about your bird’s weight, periodic checks with a gram scale are advisable.

Typical Weights

I’ve listed below some average weights for various birds (in grams).  Bear in mind that captive breeding has led to different strains of birds that vary widely in weight from what is “normal”.  Also, the weights of many species differ from population to population.  Budgerigars, for example, typically weigh between 25-70 grams, while Moluccan Cockatoos range from 650- 1,050 grams.

Zebra Finch                              10-18 Grams

Canary                                     15-30

Pionus Parrots                          200 (Blue-headed Pionus to 250)

Quaker Parrot                           100-150

Crimson Rosella                        130-160

Lovebird                                   50 (Peach-faced Lovebird to 85)

Red Lory                                   160-170

Rainbow Lorikeet                       125-140

Sun Conure                               100-130

Golden Conure                          260-280

Goffin’s Cockatoo                      230-400

Orange-winged Amazon            350-500

Reasons for Weight Gain

Cage Design, Exercise Options:

A small or poorly-designed cage leads to boredom, lack of exercise and increased weight.  This is as true for finches as for parrots.  Even when given ample out-of-cage time, birds with clipped wings tend to burn less calories than do their full-winged brethren.


Many species are notoriously picky eaters, and tend to choose the worst diets possible.  Sunflower seeds and mealworms, are common culprits.  Low Fat Pellets are an excellent option; acceptance of these can be encouraged by using LaFeber NutriBerries which integrate pellets with tasty foods.

I consider Foraging Toys to be indispensible – by forcing the bird to work for its food, they stimulate both mind and body.

Fluid Accumulation:

Liver and heart problems can cause fluid to be retained and a consequent increase in weight.

Egg Binding/Retained Eggs:

Egg-bound females will usually seem in acute distress and cease feeding.


Hepatic Lipidosis/Fatty Liver

Reasons for Weight Loss


Many diseases depress appetite or the ability to digest food.  In some cases (i.e. Avian TB), the afflicted bird may continue to feed but will lose weight none-the-less.  Weight loss is typical of Aspergillosus, PDD, Psittacosis, Candida and many other ailments.


Via airborne toxins (pesticides) or through chewing toxic materials or plants.

Digestive System Blockage:

From ingested wood chips, plastic, inappropriate grit; feces are usually retained.

Aggression from Cage Mates; Stressful Surroundings:

Check for aggression from a hidden vantage point; consider noise or lights at night as well.

Overgrown or Damaged Beak

External (mites) or Internal (roundworm) Parasites


Further Reading

Size and shape are useful earmarks for birders as well…check out this informative article from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Please also see my other Bird Health Articles.


Large, Beautiful Cages for Large, Beautiful Birds

As always, this year I spent ThatPetPlace’s annual sale weekend on site at our giant store (the world’s largest!) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  I was, as usual, thrilled to meet so many readers – thanks for stopping by.  I also took the opportunity to take a close look at our larger bird cages, some of which are sold at 60% below chain store and local pet store prices.  Today I’d like to highlight 2 that are ideal for Macaws, Cockatoos, Toucans, Mynas, Doves and larger Parrots.

The Importance of Cage Size

Cage size is a critical consideration when keeping any animal, but takes on special importance where active, intelligent species such as parrots are concerned.  This is especially true in situations where the birds are confined to their cages for most of the day.

The proper cage will add greatly to your bird’s health and quality of life, and will certainly render it a more responsive pet and companion.

An Ideal Cage for Larger Birds

Dual Space-saver CageI’m particularly impressed by our enormous A&E Dual Space Saver Cage. Of course, all parrots do best when allowed time to explore outside their cages in a safe, bird-proofed room, but this cage is ideal for times when this is not possible.

Suitable even for the largest Macaws and Cockatoos, the Space Saver can also accommodate pairs of smaller Parrots, as well as larger Doves, Toucans and Mynas.  This behemoth of a cage is almost 7 feet long and over 3 feet wide, and stands 6 feet high.  A sliding partition enables one to create 2 cages – ideal for introductions or the permanent housing of multiple species (or for use during avian “marital disputes”!).

The Space Saver is designed so as to fit into one’s home, not stand out– it is well constructed, attractive and available in charcoal, blue, green, platinum, white and sandstone.

Mammal Keepers Take Note

While looking over this cage, my animal-keeper’s mind wandered back to those times when I kept mammals as well as birds.  With a few simple modifications, I can see this cage as being very useful for those of you who care for Prehensile-tailed Porcupines, Red, Prevost’s and other Squirrels, Spotted Skunks and similar creatures.

Large Cages for Tight Spaces

Another nicely designed enclosure that caught my eye is the A&E Space Saver Hexagonal Cage.  Nearly as large as the Dual Cage, it has a pleasing shape that allows one to make use of corners and other such spaces in the home.  Available in 6 colors, its tough bars and built in seed-catchers suit it well for the toughest of our avian friends.

Free Shipping!

As you might imagine, the shipping costs on huge, metal cages can be substantial – so we eliminated them!  Both cages are shipped free-of-charge.

Further Reading

A unique take on the importance of cage size is given in this Duke University article.

Please see How Much Room Does a Finch Need? for thoughts on cages for smaller birds.


Springtime Tips for Bird Owners and Bird Watchers

Spring is an exciting time for those of us who keep birds as pets and observe them outdoors.  In the past I’ve written articles dealing with special concerns and opportunities that arrive with the spring…I’d like to summarize them here, and add a few new thoughts. Read More »

Chlamydia Infection (Psittacosis) in Birds – What are the Risks to Bird Owners?

Also known as Chlamydiosis, Chlamydophilosis and Psittacosis, Chlamydia infection presents little danger to most bird owners, but is a real concern for others.  Today we’ll take a look at this much-discussed and often misunderstood condition.

Infection and Immunity

Many parrots, most pigeons and certain other birds (chickens) carry the single-celled bacterium that causes Psittacosis yet remain in good health.  Read More »

Feeding Your Canary – Beyond the Seed Only Diet

Canaries (Serinus canarius) have been captive bred for hundreds of years and in that time have come to thrive upon the rather simple seed-based diets that many owners provide to them.  However, for optimum health, vibrant color, enhanced singing abilities and successful reproduction, your birds will require additional dietary variety.  Today I’d like to highlight some often over-looked Canary foods.  The diet described here is also suitable for the Canary’s close relative, the Green Singing Finch (C. mozambicus). Read More »

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