Not only can birds experience depression, but severe depression can also trigger self-destructive behaviors, a weakened immune system, and a host of other issues.1 Compare your bird’s behavior to the items on this list if you think it might be depressed. Depression-related symptoms could mean that you need to alter your bird’s surroundings or your level of connection with your pet.

Appetite Loss

Parrot standing outside a cage.
Julia Kuskin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Although it can be a symptom of several different types of issues in pet birds, one big indicator of depression is appetite loss.2 Because birds have such fast metabolisms, it’s important to learn to recognize it very quickly if your bird stops eating. Weight loss can come quickly and be very harmful to a bird, so if you notice that your pet’s food intake has changed for two consecutive days, you will want to schedule an appointment with your avian vet to investigate the matter.


Two cantankerous parakeets squawking on top of a chair.
Ted Horowitz/Getty Images

One of the biggest and most easily recognizable signs that a bird is depressed is a sudden change in personality. Often, especially in parrots, this manifests itself as aggression. While aggression can be seasonal and related to hormonal issues, continually out-of-character behavior may be a sign that your bird is chronically unhappy. To be safe, have any sudden behavior changes investigated by a vet to rule out medical concerns. If your bird has a clean bill of physical health, then you should begin to assess what is going on in your bird’s life that could have triggered the behavior.

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    Feather Plucking

    Red and green macaw preening.
    Ger Bosma/Getty Images

    When a bird starts feather plucking, it can quickly progress into a chronic and devastating problem.1 If you start noticing bald patches on your bird, have your avian vet check things out so that you can rule out disease. Once you are certain that there isn’t a medical issue in play, then you can try to figure out why your bird is plucking. Many birds start to pluck out of boredom or when they aren’t getting enough social interaction, so scheduling more time with your bird each day may be what your pet needs most of all.

    Change in Vocalizations

    Green and yellow parrot squawking.
    Wong Fok Loy/EyeEm/Getty Images

    You know your bird better than anybody—and if you have owned it for a while, then you should be pretty familiar with the frequency and types of vocalizations that your feathered friend makes on an average day. If you begin to notice a change in the level or kind of vocalizations that your bird is making, then it could be a sign that your pet is experiencing depression. Many birds resort to screaming out of boredom or frustration, so if your bird is louder than normal, it may be a sign that your pet would like to spend more time interacting with you.3

    Stress Bars

    Green parrot perching on a cage.
    Mayara Klingner/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Another indicator that your bird could be stressed or depressed is the presence of stress bars on his or her feathers. While stress bars aren’t a health concern, they can clue you into problems with your bird’s overall happiness and quality of life.4 If you notice stress bars on your pet, take a good look at your bird’s diet, environment, play schedule, and interactions with you. If you identify areas for improvement, take action and notice how your bird’s appearance and well-being change

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet’s health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

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