When you look at a human, you can genenrally tell they are obese just by looking at them.
The same goes for dogs – we can immediately tell when a dog has been given a few too many treats by their owners.
But when it comes to birds, obesity may not be as easy to spot.
Sure, we can look at a bird and say that they look a little pudgy, but the truth is, some bird species simply are pudgy.
Furthermore, a bird or parrot can look overweight, without actually having a weight problem.
Round body shapes, fluffy feathers, posture, and natural weight fluctuations can all influence how a bird looks.
So this raises the question, can parrots actually get fat?
The answer to this question is yes – parrots can get fat. With that being said, obesity is more common in pet parrots than it is in wild parrots.
Why? Because wild parrots are always active – they are constantly flying around and foraging for food.
Pet parrots, on the other hand, don’t have to work for their food and don’t get as much flight time and exercise as their wild counterparts.
As a result, they are more susceptible to weight gain, especially if their diet isn’t properly monitored.
But how can you tell if your parrot is overweight, and what might have led them to become that way?
Today we will answer these questions, as well as:
Why don’t wild parrots get fat?
What problems are associated with obesity in parrots?
How can you prevent your parrot from becoming obese?
How can you help your parrot lose weight?
So let’s not waste another minute:
Is my parrot overweight?
We’ve already established the fact that a parrot can, in fact, become overweight.
But what qualifies as “overweight” for a parrot?
And how do you know if your parrot is obese?
A parrot’s weight will differ depending on the age of the parrot, as well as the species of parrot.
The average yellow-billed Amazon, for example, weighs 260 grams.
This is a vast difference from the yellow-naped Amazon, which can weigh anywhere from 480-680 grams on average.
On the smaller end of the spectrum are painted conures, weighing an average of 55 grams, and Pacific Parrotlets that weigh an average of 31-34 grams.
Of course, just because your parrot doesn’t fit exactly into the “average” weight scale doesn’t necessarily mean they are fat or overweight.
But what does qualify them as overweight?
In order to tell if your bird is overweight, you don’t actually have to look at their weight at all.
Rather, you can look at their body shape.
The first place to check is your parrot’s breast muscle.
Look at your parrot from the front – you should see a bone that runs down it’s midline.
This is known as the “keel”.
The keel contains muscle on both sides.
When a bird is overweight, this muscle will look like cleavage.
You can also use this muscle to determine when a bird is too thin, in which case the sides of the keel will be bony.
Another way to tell if your parrot is overweight is to look at their jugular vein.
Part the feathers on the side of your parrot’s neck.
You should be able to see a jugular vein.
If you can’t, your parrot could be overweight.
Of course, there are other signs that you can look for that suggest obesity too.
If your parrot becomes easily tired or out of breath with exercise, they may have too much weight on them.
Excessively long beaks can also be a sign of obesity.
If you are unsure whether or not your parrot needs to lose weight, consult your veterinarian.
They can check your parrot’s weight and look for signs of obesity, and then give you tips to help with weight loss.
Why don’t wild parrots get fat?
As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s much more common to see obesity in pet parrots than it is wild parrots.
Why is that?
There are a couple of reasons.
Firstly, wild parrots get a lot more exercise than pet parrots.
In the wild, birds are constantly foraging for food.
Not only do they have to find food for themselves, but they also often have to find food for their chicks or mates.
In addition, parrots are always on the lookout for predators, which also requires energy.
As a pet, parrots don’t have to seek out their own food – it’s given to them.
They also don’t have to worry about predators.
In return, pet parrots have much lower activity levels and are therefore more susceptible to gaining weight.
The second reason that you don’t see a lot of overweight parrots in the wild is that birds naturally have a high metabolism.
Wild birds require a lot of energy for generating heat, flying, and maintaining biological processes.
In return, fat is almost always used as energy.
It’s rarely built up enough to lead to obesity.
Again, parrots in captivity don’t require as much energy, so it’s not uncommon to see fat buildup, which will eventually lead to weight gain.
The problem with obesity in parrots
Just as obesity can cause a variety of health problems in humans, so too can it in parrots.
Two of the most common health effects of obesity in parrots are known as atherosclerosis and hepatic lipidosis, otherwise known as fatty liver disease.
Parrots that develop fatty liver disease are at much-heightened risk of heart attack and stroke.
In addition, parrots who are obese are at increased risk of cancers, reproductive failure, and impaired growth in baby chicks.
Bumblefoot is also common in obese parrots, which is inflammation and infection of the foot.
Can I prevent obesity in my parrot?
Obesity occurs when a bird consumes more energy than it expands.
Preventing obesity, then, can be broken down into two components: maintaining a healthy diet and exercising.
Firstly, parrots require a healthy diet.
Seeds and nuts contain extremely high levels of fat, so they need to be combined with other nutritious and bird-safe foods.
Parrots kept in captivity should eat a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and formulated diets.
The second component of preventing obesity in your parrot comes along with proper exercise.
Unless you have a full aviary for your parrot (which is unlikely), flying isn’t always an option.
With that being said, there are other options to ensure that your parrot gets adequate exercise.
Climbing, games, walking and encouraging your parrot to flap its wings are just some of the many ways that you and your parrot can get a good workout together and reduce the risk of obesity.
How can I reverse obesity in my parrot?
Reversing obesity comes down to the same tactics as preventing it.
It may take some time for your parrot to lose weight, but if you control their diet and encourage exercise then over time your efforts will pay off.
If you are following regular guidelines for diet and exercise and your parrot is still not losing weight, they could have an issue with their thyroid or some other health concern.
Set up an appointment with the veterinarian to have them checked out for any health problems that may be preventing weight loss or encouraging weight gain.
In conclusion, yes, parrots can get fat.
While weight gain is usually caused by improper diet and lack of exercise, it can also be caused by underlying health conditions like issues with the thyroid.
If your parrot seems to be gaining weight rapidly or is having difficulty losing weight despite your best efforts, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.