The cheerful and vocal cockatiels enjoy great popularity as pets. The parakeets, which belong to the cockatoo family and live together in large flocks in their native Australia, never let it get boring with their posh behavior and sociability.
In their natural environment, the birds cover great distances in flight in search of food, so even in “captivity” they should be given the opportunity for sufficient free flight.
But what to do if the cockatiel suddenly can’t or won’t fly anymore?
Possible reasons can be found here.
1: Injuries and traumas
A bird that has flown a lot and with pleasure so far and then suddenly no longer wants to or can do so, should always be examined for acute injuries.
Especially very acrobatic fliers run the risk of injuring themselves on furniture, branches or grids when flying freely in the room or in the aviary. This can result in bruises, strains or, in the worst case, broken bones in the area of the wings or shoulder joints.
A cockatiel that suddenly has one wing hanging down and no longer wants to fly should therefore be presented to a veterinarian immediately.
Head injuries or trauma to the legs may also be responsible for the bird’s sudden inability to fly. In addition, birds newly added to an existing group may fight and seriously injure each other.
Therefore, any change in flight behavior should be medically cleared as soon as possible so that the bird can be treated appropriately.
Some diseases that occur in parrot birds can also affect flight behavior. Among other things, tumor diseases are relatively common. If the tumor develops near the shoulder or under a wing, for example, it can affect the bird’s ability to fly.
Some tumors also become so large that their weight alone prevents the bird from flying.
Infectious diseases such as PBFD, a virus-induced damage to the feathers with extensive feather loss, can also cause your cockatiel to be unable to fly. Another viral disease is French Molt, in which birds lose their long feathers on the wings and tail and then fail to regrow them.
Respiratory diseases, usually caused by bacteria or even parasites, weaken the bird by the lack of oxygen supply, and it will instinctively stop flying and other efforts. Likewise, eye diseases with a reduction in vision or even complete blindness will eventually cause a bird to stop flying.
Basically, a bird that is not doing well will change its behavior. Regardless of the primary cause, sick birds are less active, often sit fluffed up in one spot, and fly only when absolutely necessary. An attentive owner will notice the change in behavior of their feathered friend and have them examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Incorrect or low-quality food can cause your cockatiel to have a nutrient deficiency, which can show up in a plumage growth disorder, among other symptoms. If this is the case, the food must be replaced with a high-quality parakeet food – at best, the feathers will then grow back and the bird can fly normally again.
Especially in nestlings, a lack of vitamin D and calcium causes the bones to not harden sufficiently and as a result they can bend. The disease known as rickets leads to malpositions, especially in the legs or even the spine, so that the affected birds cannot even learn to fly. Special rearing food for cockatiels should be used here.
4: Congenital inability to fly
In very rare cases, a young bird may hatch from the egg with a congenital deformity of the legs, wings or vertebrae and then remain flightless for life. Often these birds are unable to survive and die shortly after hatching.
5: Lack of training
Just as with us humans, lack of exercise over a long period of time in birds causes muscles to deteriorate and tendons to shorten.
Birds kept in cages, which are rarely or never given free flight, will eventually be unable to fly properly because the flight muscles have simply atrophied. Only by changing the housing conditions can an affected cockatiel strengthen its muscles through careful retraining and eventually learn to fly again.
In fact, obesity is a very common reason pet birds lose their ability to fly. Incorrect food, too energy-rich supplementary food in the form of industrially produced treats and nibble sticks, in combination with too little exercise or even exclusive cage keeping lead to the bird becoming fatty and eventually barely able to support its own weight. Only a fundamental change in husbandry conditions can remedy this situation.
7: Fear of flying
Although it may sound strange, there are actually birds from time to time that develop a fear of flying.
Usually this is due to a traumatic experience, such as a painful accident or a highly anxiety-provoking situation during free flight. A particularly sensitive bird can develop a psychological fear of flying after such a negative experience, which can only be remedied by the bird keeper with very great empathy.
8: Keeping mistakes
Keeping birds in captivity is inevitably always accompanied by a restriction of their freedom of movement, because in their natural environment cockatiels in particular fly long distances every day in search of food and water. To compensate for this at least to some extent, a parakeet keeper should give his birds the opportunity to be able to move around sufficiently. Keeping them in large free flight aviaries with plenty of space for several wing beats is optimal, alternatively at least daily free flight in the room should be possible.
The design of the aviary with naturally grown branches as perches, activities that encourage flying, such as different food hiding places or freely hanging climbing ropes, and the provision of a sufficiently large bathing opportunity also help the bird to act out its natural behaviors and thus keep its muscles and joints fit and healthy.
In captivity, cockatiels can easily reach an age of 15-20 years.
However, the older the bird is, the more its strength diminishes and its muscles and skeleton deteriorate. Therefore, even a very old parakeet will gradually reduce its flight activities and eventually may even stop them altogether.
Attention: Flight incapacity should result in a visit to the vet!
We have now presented you with some reasons why your cockatiel may no longer be able or willing to fly.
While some causes are not so tragic, others can mean serious consequences for your feathered friend’s health. For this reason, you should always play it safe and visit your trusted veterinarian.
Your bird will thank you for it, guaranteed.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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