Why is my Conure Sneezing?

Q: I just noticed my little conure Frankie sneezing several times. Well, I’m not sure if it’s sneezing or if he’s just trying to unstop his nose. Does this sound like something I need to take him to the vet for or just watch him for a few days? He acts fine other than the sneezing/stuffy nose/occasional mouth breathing thing.

A: Sneezing can be a sign of serious illness in conures. Here are some of the reasons they sneeze:

  1. Bird Allergens: They sneeze sometimes for the same reasons as you or I would, they nasal passages are bothered by an allergen. If there were a infection or other problem you would see a discharge from the nares. If you don’t see any discharge he was probably just clearing what was bothering him. 
  2. Dry Air: Also if it is very dry (humidity below 40%) they will sneeze more. We have our birds in a bird room where they never sneeze (has a great humidifer in it and we keep the door shut to keep it at the right level 55%). When they come out in the living room, which is like the Sahara dessert (very arid despite the humidifier–can’t get it higher than 39 to 40% on a good day) they sneeze and itch.
  3. Dusty Air: Dust particles cause problems for our feathered companions. Seed hulls, dust from pellets, and the like. Additionally, conures are bothered by cockatoo/african grey/cockatiel dust and can develop infections, or a serious lung condition called plumonary hypertension. Conures cannot be housed with dusty bird breeds, even if you have air filters. Dust still clings to surfaces despite air filtration. If you house several birds, and one of them is a “dusty” breed, try moving your conure to a new location.
  4. Bacterial Infections: When conures breathe bacteria found in dust it causes sneezing, eye rubbing, excessive swallowing, yawning or coughing. The most common bacteria that affect birds are E.coli, Citrobacter, Strep and Staph. These bacteria are usually associated with water, sand, grit, seed, old food, humid areas, dusty spots and wet cages. Bacterial infections also occur in birds that have a poor level of natural resistance or a damaged immune system. 
  5. Neurological Damage:  If your bird has recently run into a wall or window, and has started sneezing or head shaking, he could be suffering from nerve damage. Take your bird to the vet immediately if your conure starts sneezing accompanied by head shaking, random tics, lethargy, or dilated pupils.

Reduce Dust in the Air

Some tricks to help minimize dust. Mist the cage liner before place in cage (it will keep most of the dust attached to the newspaper even after it has dried). There is a product called dander down that you can use on their cage bars to help keep their dust from attaching. Lightly mist them daily. You would be surprised at how well that does.

Both of my conures go through their sneezing fits. I would say, watch him. I don’t think that you need to take him to the vet just yet. He could have been just clearing his sinuses.