After Fighting with Another Bird, My Bird Keeps One Eye Closed. What Do I Do?

“They are able to make behavioral decisions about whether they keep one half of the brain awake or allow both halves of it to sleep,” Niles Rattenborg related in a telephone interview with CNN.

Rattenborg is a behavioral neurophysiologist at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, and he was talking about birds and the amazing ability of birds to sleep with just one eye closed and their brain half-awake. This characteristic is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS), which is also found in dolphins, manatees, and seals. But, with birds, they have control over this ability. They decide if they want to sleep with their brain in full rest or remain half-awake with one eye open to detect predators.

Photo: YouTube/Lesley the Bird Nerd

However, in this case of a bird owner who’s seeking advice from PetHelpful’s Ask-A-Vet section, her pet has been keeping her one eye closed for some mysterious reason. Hiya wrote, “I have a 6-month-old African lovebird. We bought her when she was 1–2 weeks old, and we never took her outside since we didn’t cut her wings. Three days ago, we took her to the local pet shop to check her gender and to buy another bird for her. We put them together, and she fought with the new bird, pulling his feathers and all. We gave the male lovebird back after 2 days. During all this time, she was very cuddly with us and even slept with us for 1–2 hours in bed. She was extremely jealous when the male tried to come near us. Yesterday I noticed one eye is always closed or half-closed. Is it because of stress, eye infection, or sickness? And what medicine should I give her?”

These are the expert recommendations from Dr. Mark dos Anjos. First, Hiya should try to take her pet to an avian veterinarian. Her bird’s eye might have been injured by her other bird during their fight – that’s why she closes it in pain.

Photo: YouTube/Lesley the Bird Nerd

Her bird’s retina must be checked with an ophthalmoscope to see any injury. However, a scratch may not be easily observed unless dye is placed on the eye and checked with a special kind of light. According to Dr. dos Anjos, “about 90% of birds that have been through trauma also have damage to their retinas, the part of the eye that lets them see normally.” Once an avian veterinarian has determined the cause of the eye problem, proper medication would be prescribed.

Just in case there’s no avian veterinarian in her locality, Dr. dos Anjos also advised Hiya to use an eyewash on her pet. It can remove dirt from the injury, kill some of the bacteria, and ease her pain. But Hiya should askfor assistance from another person because cleaning a lovebird’s eye is not an easy task.

Photo: YouTube/Lesley the Bird Nerd

Moreover, for a mild infection, Hiya can also buy eyedrops with antibiotics. But she must be careful in reading the label and avoid any eyedrops with dexamethasone or any other kind of corticosteroid unless her bird has been checked by a vet. Steroids will make the injury worse – that’s why Hiya should avoid it without proper veterinary guidance.

Hopefully, Hiya’s bird will recover the health of her eye. But, just in case the injury results in blindness, Dr. dos Anjos assured her that birds can still live normally with vision loss.

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