Examining Your Bird


Because of the stress to your bird, we recommend that you try and schedule your exam together with nail grooming, administering medicine or any other activity that involves capturing your bird. In this example, Linda examines her cockatiel, Roxanne.


  • Bring your toweled bird close to your chest. Carefully loose one end of the towel and let it slip back to expose one half of the bird’s body. As you do this, use your free hand to still the wing, so that it doesn’t wildly flap. Put a thumb on the joint, and use your free fingers to extend the wing.

  • Examine both sides of the wing for feather cysts, lumps, swellings at the joint, and new flight feathers.

  • When examining the wing, be careful to open and close it by opening and closing the joint midway along the wing. This joint is the equivalent of our wrist joint.

Keel Bone

  • While still gently securing the bird’s head, fold the towel back away from the chest area of the bird. Be careful to keep enough of the towel on the bird to keep the wings from flapping. In this manner, you can examine the keel bone to determine your bird’s weight.

  • The keel bone runs top to bottom, down the middle of the bird’s chest. Feel on either side of this raised bony structure. If there is tissue on either side of the bone, the bird is in good weight. If you have difficulty even feeling the bone, the bird is overweight. If the bone is raised, with only a little tissue on either side, your bird is a bit under weight. If the bone protrudes sharply, you bird is very under weight, and is very likely ill or experiencing great stress on a daily basis.


  • To examine the bird’s foot, gently grasp the lower leg at the joint to secure it for the visual exam. Look for a uniform texture to the skin, swellings, crimped toes, areas of irritation, especially on the bottom of the foot. Do all of the toes flex? They should. If nails are overly long, now is a good time to trim them. Feel upward from the joint to where the leg meets the body, and feel here, also for bumps or crusts or any areas that feel fluid filled.

Reward Your Bird

  • After giving your bird a health exam, always reward her after the ordeal has ended. Talk quietly to your bird while it’s still in the towel, give it a head scratch and a kiss.

  • Release her slowly and gently. Immediately after the bird is free, give her ringing praise. And, a treat!