Is My Bird Suffering From A Bird Cough?

parrot at the vets

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Birds tend to hide it when they are sick. So you’d be right to worry if your bird was coughing.

Thankfully, if a bird is coughing, it doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong. There are many reasons why birds would cough.

Let’s explore some of the main reasons why birds cough so you can figure out what’s causing it. 

What does a bird cough sound like? 

Before we dive into the reasons behind the cough, what does a bird cough even sound like?

Well, a bird’s cough doesn’t sound like a human’s cough. In most cases, it doesn’t sound much like a cough at all.

That’s why it’s often difficult to identify when the bird is coughing. 

Sometimes a bird’s cough will sound a lot like a chirp or a shallow sound. 

If you notice that your bird doesn’t sound the same as usual, it’s time to see the vet.

Vets and pet carers are trained to tell the difference in bird sounds, so they’ll be able to determine if the sound is normal or not. 

It’s also important to know that a sneeze and a cough sound very similar in birds, so always look for help to determine if your bird is coughing.

If you are a member of pet clubs or social media forums, record your bird and ask other members to help you figure it out. 

What causes birds to cough?  

There are plenty of reasons why birds would cough; here are some of them. 

Mimicking or playing 

Parrots like to mimic your own behavior. If your bird has heard you coughing before, it may start mimicking the same sound. 

Especially if you’ve been down with a cold and cough for a while, your parrot may playfully mimic your coughing or even sneezing. 

It’s understandable that you might think you gave your pet a cold. But there’s usually no reason to worry.

It’s rarely possible for human viruses to be passed on to birds. 

Like we said before, bird coughs don’t sound much like human coughs.

So if the bird’s cough sounds an awful lot like your own, it’s usually just mimicking, and you don’t need to worry. 

Allergic reactions

Birds suffer from allergies just like humans do. If there’s an irritant in the air, the bird will cough to try and expel the allergen.

The cough may be combined with a sneeze in some cases. 

A cough is probably caused by an allergy if you notice the cough around the time you change something in your house.

Pinpointing an allergen is often a challenge. The best way to find and deal with the root cause is by elimination.

Usually, the main triggers for allergies are perfumes, floor polish, cleaning agents, or air fresheners. Birds are especially sensitive to strong scents.

It might also be new clothes, rugs or furniture. 

Try to isolate the cause of the allergy and the cough should clear on its own. Also, watch out for the bird food.

Some birds may be allergic to some ingredients in the food.

That’s why it’s important to buy or make only the highest quality food for your bird. 


Inhaling dust may trigger bouts of coughing and sneezing to both humans and birds.

If your bird looks otherwise healthy and starts to cough, there might be too much dust in its surroundings. 

A thorough clean-up of the cage and surrounding areas will usually solve the problem.

Dust off all the surfaces with a feather duster and then give it a good wipe down. 

Also, make sure you replace the air filter at least monthly to keep the air dust-free. 

Respiratory illnesses

Sometimes a bird may start coughing because of a respiratory problem. 

You should be worried especially if the cough comes with other signs of illness like weight loss, drooping wings or general lethargy. 

Contact the vet to help you identify the sickness and get medical treatment.

Remember, most times; a cough doesn’t really sound like one. So try to be responsive to any changes in your bird’s normal sounds. 

parrot at the vets
Always seek help if you suspect your bird is sick

When to worry if your bird is coughing?

Some bird coughs, especially the human-sounding ones, are often nothing to worry about.

If an allergy sets off the cough, it should resolve itself once you identify and remove the trigger. 

However, birds are always great at hiding their illnesses. It’s their species’ natural self-preservation technique to keep them safe in the wild.

So if other worrying symptoms accompany the cough, immediately seek medical help. 

Here are some of the tell-tale signs of serious illness you should watch out for. 

  • Unusual color in their excrement ( You may notice blue or greenish substances in their droppings)
  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Tail bobbing (moving its tail up and down rapidly)
  • Dull or shedding feathers
  • Discharge on the nose
  • Droopy wings
  • Tiredness
  • Restlessness

These signs would indicate a respiratory illness that usually needs to be taken care of immediately.

Also, track your bird’s weight so you can quickly see if something is wrong. 

How do you know if the bird is really coughing or just mimicking?

You can usually tell by the sound of the cough. If the cough sounds very much like a human one, there’s a very high chance it’s just mimicking.

Also, monitor the frequency of the cough. If, for example, the bird coughs in the morning and doesn’t cough for the rest of the day, it most likely means it was just irritation or mimicking, and you have nothing to be worried about. 

But if the frequency is prolonged and doesn’t seem to be going away, contact the vet. 

Another critical factor to look out for is the bird’s body movement.

If the bird bobs it’s head a lot while coughing or makes a lot of flapping motions, it might just be enjoying the playful mimicking. 

If your bird is moving its tail in an up-down motion or showing other signs of illness, it’s most likely a respiratory problem. 

The most important takeaway here is to seek help anytime you aren’t sure about a cough. 

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