How to Know if My Canary is Sick

  • Date: December 5, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

How do I know if my canary is sick? There are several red flags to look for, including tail bobbing, decreased activity, a difference in their droppings, puffed-up feathers, squinty, runny eyes or inflamed cere, panting, changes in her singing, loss of appetite, dirty or dull feathers, or scabs and lesions

Canarys are such great little birds. Petite and cheerful with beautiful coloring. They make excellent pets for adults and children. 

But as with any pet, you want to make sure that you keep an eye on their health at all times because these little beauties are delicate. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common things to look out for so you know if your canary is sick.

Tail Bobbing

Tail bobbing is a very common sign of illness in canaries and a lot of other birds. If you see your canary exhibiting continuous bobbing of her tail, she may have a respiratory infection. 

The reason birds bob their tails when they aren’t well is because they lack a diaphragm, as we have. Because of this, the muscles at the base of their talks can help them get a better breath as it helps to expand their lungs for better air intake. 

The tail muscles will work a lot harder if your canary is having trouble breathing, which causes that up and down bobbing motion. Because tail bobbing is sometimes not noticeable until the bird is quite ill, it’s something you want to keep an eye on. 

And if you see this behavior, please call your veterinarian right away. 

A Decrease In Activity. 

As any Canary owner knows, they are active birds that enjoy playing with their toys and flying around in their cages. If you’ve noticed that yours has stopped bopping around or seems to be spending a lot of time tucked in one place, it may be time to get her checked out by a veterinarian.

 A sick canary will often keep her head tucked under her wing or sleep close to her food source, giving you a sign that she isn’t feeling well.

Discolored Bird Droppings

It may sound a little gross, but keeping a close eye on your bird’s droppings is very important. These little butt nuggets can tell us a lot about what is going on in their bellies. The color of the droppings may vary a bit with what you are putting in their diet, but keep an eye out for droppings that are yellowish tarry black, or rusty brown. 

Tarry black stools especially can be a sign of internal bleeding or other serious problems. Blood in the stool will usually present as black. 

It’s also good to pay attention to any noticeable changes in the consistency of your canary’s poop. Poop that is too runny or even too firm can also mean that something isn’t quite right in their digestive tract. 

Puffed up Feathers

Canary’s love to fluff their feathers, and it’s adorable to watch. But if you see your bird with her feathers puffed out for long periods of time, this can mean something is not right. 

Respiratory problems are indicative of ruffled feathers. Your canary may ruffle her feathers up to protect the fact that she may be losing weight. Weight loss can be extremely dangerous in your bird, and she would need to see a veterinarian right away. 

Runny Eyes or an Inflamed Cere

In case you weren’t aware, your canary’s cere is her nose. That adorable little patch that sits above their beak and shows her nostrils. If you see any redness or discharge coming out around the cere or their eyes, your bird could be very sick and need a trip to the vet. 

Cloudy eyes, with discharge, are often a sign of a respiratory or muscular disorder. She should be wrapped in a towel and kept warm on the way to the veterinarian.

Her Singing Has Changed

Birds, like people, tend to quiet down when they don’t feel well. Canarys are notorious for their active voices, so if you hear her becoming less talkative, there is a chance she may not be feeling good. 

If you notice a change in how she vocalizes or her normal patterns, that could also mean something isn’t quite right. 

Open-Mouthed Breathing or Panting

Respiratory problems in birds are prevalent, and they are also one of the most severe problems. If your bird is open mouth breathing while at rest, it’s possible that she may be have been sick for quite some time.

Immediate veterinary care and possible hospitalization may be necessary.

Reduced Appetite 

Birds are pretty good eaters with a high metabolism. So making sure they have the right amount of nutrition daily is vital. If you’ve noticed that your canary has stopped eating, she could have an intestinal blockage or an impaction further down her GI tract. 

Both of these are considered an emergency, and she could die without veterinary care. 

Dirty or Dull Feathers

Feathers play an essential role in the health of your canary. By nature, birds both in the wild and in captivity preen their feathers daily to keep themselves looking good. Any noticeable feathers that are clumped around your canary’s eyes or vent that look messy is an indication that things aren’t right. 

Scabs or Lesions

If she lets you, make it a habit to gently run your finger through your canary’s feathers as well as her unfeathered areas. Any lesions, scabs, or lumps may indicate a parasite or a sign of canarypox, a virus common in songbirds. 


Even the smallest pets require care and an attentive eye to look out for their well-being. If you know what to look out for, you can save both yourself and your canary a lot of frustration by being proactive. 

Make it a point to have a good avian veterinarian in mind so that you have somewhere you can take your canary if she were to get sick.

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