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Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 7940
Experience:  35 years in practice
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I have a 3 yr old budgie. He is presenting with a pinkish/brown

Customer Question

I have a 3 yr old cock budgie. He is presenting with a pinkish/brown tinge to his breast feathers that appears to be spreading. He appears to be OK in other respects. He is eating well, motions are normal, beak smooth and eyes clear and bright. He has,however, experienced a heavy molt about 3 months ago and continues to molt to a lesser degree. Is there a simple explanation to the change of feather colour or is there some underlying problem? I would add that his diet consist only of seed and some green leaf. I have never been able to get him to accept any other foods (fruit & veg) no matter how I try. Please help.
Bimbo's Mum.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 4 years ago.
Hello, Mum, I'm Dr. Bob. I'm sorry to read of Bimbo's condition. Your attention to his diet is well-founded. Avian experts have determined that 90-95% of pet bird health issues are dietary in origin. Pelleted food has been a real blessing for pet birds, forcing them to eat a balanced basic diet which can then be supplemented with fresh vegetables and just a few seeds and nuts. Birds fed diets not perfectly balanced eventually succumb to infections and deficiencies that they should be able to easily "shake off". Not only is what they eat important, but the proper proportions are every bit as important. To give some idea of how important, consider the following facts: Normally on an all-seed diet, budgies live an average of 5-7 years; with seeds and some other foods about 10-12 years; with pellets alone about 15-20 years, and with properly balanced proportions of pellets, seeds and other fresh foods, particularly dark leafy vegetables, about 25 years and even longer. Compare what you're feeding Bimbo to what professional aviary keepers feed their budgies: 70% high quality budgie or parakeet pellets, such as those made by Zupreem, Harrison's, Lafeber, or other reputable manufacturers. (these may be purchased from better pet stores or online), Pelleted food is the basic building block of a balanced diet and should comprise 70% of the total food consumed; 20% dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, cilantro, collard, turnip or beet greens, cooked sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin, carrots with the tops attached, dried chili peppers, yellow, green and red fresh peppers, and only 10% or less, seeds and nut foods. Sunflower seeds are very high in fat, not balanced in regard to calcium and phosphorus, and should be avoided as birds, like small children, tend to pick out and eat what they like, rather than what is good for them. Although it is green, lettuce is practically all water, of no food value whatsoever in the diet, and shouldn't be fed to birds. Fruit is okay as an occasional treat, but unless fed in a dried state, fruit contains 90% water, and quickly fills the bird up without providing many nutrients by weight. Grit is no longer considered necessary to the healthy upkeep of pet birds, and to make matters worse, grit impactions can actually be fatal. Besides feather and skin problems, fresh nutrients in balance with one another help prevent digestive, respiratory, nerve, organ problems including diabetes, as well as the behavioral problems like over-zealous preening, self-mutilation, excessive or changed vocalization, excessive egg laying in females, aggression, and actually eliminate the need for vitamin supplements or tonics in most cases. I fully understand that it may not be easy to get older birds (as opposed to starting out with a baby at weaning time) like Bimbo, to eat the proper amounts of the different foods, but you can read an excellent article about how to teach him to eat more properly online here: The article is written for cockatiels, but works as well, or better, in budgies. Commercial diets like Hartz, and other pet store or supermarket brands of seed-based foods, must be baked to kill insect eggs and larvae before shipping. This process also kills the germ in the seeds, destroying many of the heat-sensitive components in the food. In addition, these foods are rarely shelf-dated, and may be months or even years old when actually fed. The result is often that the bird fills itself up on foods that contain mostly empty calories and the digested material from seeds is very similar to the ingredients for paste, and the bacterial population that develops in the bird's GI tract tends to cause loose or sticky droppings which, by themselves, can initiate feather picking.
Proper photo-periods are very important and help reduce stress which can also be the source of difficulties. 12 to 14 hours of sleep, under a darkly covered cage, away from conversational, T.V. and other night sounds is the amount recommended for budgies.
Bimbo is young and apparently otherwise healthy and, with the dietary and photo-period adjustments, should be able to recover from this condition with his next molt, but if you think you need to consult an avian specialist, you can find whatever avian veterinarians may be in your area by going online to, or doing a search for "avian veterinarians + the name of the largest large city" to find the closest avian specialty practices. Hopefully I've answered all your questions but if you should have more, please let me know, I'll be happy to answer.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 4 years ago.
Hello again, Valerie.
If you have no more questions, I'll simply submit the above as my answer. You can, however, however still ask questions before accepting my answer, and I'll be glad to answer them for you.
Kind regards, *****
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dear Dr.Bob

I do understand the importance of a balanced diet and will continue to persevere with Bimbo. However I still feel you have not enlightened me as to the discolouration of his feathers. Are you suggesting that this is attributed to his diet alone? If so can addressing this problem alleviate it totally.


Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 4 years ago.
Great question! Discolored feathers on the breast are often due to diet, as the liver can accumulate too much fat on a mostly seed diet, resulting in a change in the color of feathers. Mild nasal discharges may cause staining on the breast feathers, as can toys that are not colorfast, and other extraneous causes may be the source. Far and away the diet is the underlying cause and correction of the diet will allow the new feathers that grow back after molting to be the right color.
If you should still have questions, please let me know.
Warm regards, *****