Is My Bird Sick? She Has Been Twitching Her Head Side to Side

“Birds are twitchy primarily because they are prey animals who need to constantly be aware of predators that could attack from any direction. However, they also twitch as a way of shedding old feathers and relieving itchiness during molting seasons, and they use twitching movements to communicate,” according to the website of the Bird Gap.

Yes, twitching is a natural behavior among healthy birds. But it can be a sign of a serious illness, as well. So, it’s best to know the possible reasons why a bird may appear twitchy:

Photo: YouTube/Animal Wonders Montana
  1. Twitching is a natural behavior for birds as prey. It helps them to be more aware of predators like cats, squirrels, and birds of prey.
  2. Twitching of wings, also known as aeroelastic flutter, is a means of communication among mates that’s usually related to the excitement of mating and reproduction. This behavior is often combined with crouching, cooing, and tail elevation.
  3. Twitching helps in shedding off old feathers and relieving itch during molting.
  4. Photo: YouTube/Animal Wonders Montana
  5. Seizure induces a bird to twitch its wings. When wing twitching happens frequently and persistently, it’s best to take your bird to an avian veterinarian because it’s a sign of illness that needs urgent treatment. It can also be a sign of dehydration, overheating, malnutrition, or ingested toxin.
  6. Hungry young birds twitch and puff their feathers to alert their parents. It’s also a sign for you to feed them if you care for such offspring.
  7. Birds twitch to see more of their surroundings since their eyes are fixed in their sockets.
  8. Photo: YouTube/Animal Wonders Montana
  9. Birds twitch their heads in order to perceive depth or distance. This behavior is called “head throw.”
  10. Flight feathers naturally shift and flutter since they are structured to be aerodynamic.
  11. Frustration makes a bird twitch to relieve tension or emotions. It may be accompanied by screaming, biting, feather-picking, or toe-tapping. When a bird refuses to eat due to stress, it’s best to take it to a vet.
Photo: YouTube/Animal Wonders Montana

In PetHelpful’s Ask-A-Vet section, a pet owner named Christina sent a question about her bird’s head twitching. She described her condition as follows, “Why does my bird’s head twitch side to side? I just got her. She and her mate came together, and he isn’t doing it, only her. I’ve been offering pellets and vitamins.”

This is Dr. Mark dos Anjos’s reply: “Some birds just move their heads around when looking at a new object in the environment, but I would definitely want to rule out any medical causes before assuming something else is going on.”

He also mentioned twitching as part of the mating behavior of some bird species. These birds may regurgitate their food before throwing it up in order to feed a mate.

Photo: YouTube/Animal Wonders Montana

On the other hand, twitching may have medical reasons behind it, according to Dr. dos Anjos:

  • Bacterial or viral infection of the nervous system
  • Infection in the internal ear
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • Vitamin deficiency

In cases like this, it’s best to take a pet bird to an avian veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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