Diseases of Cage Birds


Hypovitaminosis A is the name given to a deficiency in Vitamin A in birds. Hypovitaminosis A is very common in aviary birds.

Sufficient amounts of Vitamin A are essential for optimum health in birds as it plays a part in many  vital functions. It is important for the correct functioning of eyes, skin, bones, mucous membranes and hearing. In cases of hypovitaminosis, the mucous cells undergo changes which prevent the production of mucous. This prevents the cells repelling the invasion of bacteria. The micro-organisms enter the body and begin to multiply. The symptoms vary depending on the body system most affected. In most cases the respiratory system is affected but reproduction and digestion can all be affected by a lack of Vitamin A.

Goldie's Lorikeets

Deaths occur, generally following bacterial, viral and fungal infections. A seed-only diet is one of the main causes of hypovitaminosis A and the most common cause. Whilst easy to treat in its early stages, continued Vitamin A deficiencies can have serious consequences.


Because Vitamin A has an effect on so many body functions, the symptoms are many and varied. As the respiratory system is most commonly affected, sneezing, discharge, swollen eyes and gagging occur as the nasal passages become blocked. Lesions develop on the mouth and tongue. Secondary symptoms include diarrhoea, bedraggled plumage, weight loss and general malaise. Feathers lose their colour and condition. The feet become deformed, eggs may be soft-shelled with chicks dying in the egg or weak on hatching.

Sources of Vitamin A

Good sources include leafy, dark green vegetables, yellow and orange fruit and vegetables. Broccoli, apricots, mango, sweet potato, spinach, tomato and eggplant are all full of Vitamin A.

Commercial bird pellets or crumbles for birds generally have a good nutritional balance. Such formulated foods can form 65 to 80% of the diet with 15 to 30% consisting of vegetables plus some fruit and nuts. Feeding pellets or crumbles prevents the bird from picking through his food and leaving behind those ingredients he doesn't like.

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Be sure to choose commercial products that are intended for your particular pet bird. A mixture labelled as suitable for macaws and golden conures will contain more fat while a mixture for cockatoos and Amazons will contain more protein.

Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly and remove uneaten food at the end of the day. Your bird may consume more vegetables if they are offered at times when the birds would normally feed ie early morning and late afternoon.

Offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Hang food from the roof or perches, or hide some in toys.


A professional diagnosis is imperative if you suspect your bird may be suffering from Vitamin A deficiency. This is the only method of diagnosing the disease accurately. Too much Vitamin A is equally as dangerous as too little and trying to home treat for the wrong ailment can be fatal to your pet.

Prevention is always preferable to cure and careful attention to your bird's diet will go a long way to avoiding this unpleasant disease.

Other articles on aviary birds that you might like to read:
Pacheco's Disease in Parrots
Psittacine Disease in Parrots, Cockatoos and Lorikeets
Eclectus Parrot - Characteristics
Blue and Gold Macaws - Possible Health Issues