Birds Sneezing And Coughing | Why Do Some Birds Sneeze Often?

Like us, birds also get sick, but they always hide their sickness. Given that, it can seriously terrify you if you see your pet bird sneezing or coughing.

Yes, birds do sneeze and cough. But the good news is that it need not be alarming always. Here, we know everything that is to know about birds sneezing and coughing. Read on! 

Sneezing in birds  

Birds have a habit of sneezing once or twice a day. It is their daily habit, and it helps them clear their air passage of dust and other irritants. A thin and transparent nasal discharge can sometimes accompany it. If you witness this, you can rest assured that there is nothing to worry about.  

However, if the bird is sick in any way, then you will notice the birds sneezing more frequently, and the nasal discharge would be thick and have a color hue. It is a strong indication of respiratory disease. The same goes for coughing.  

Related Read: What Do You Give A Sick Bird? How Do You Revive Its Health?

Differentiating between a bird’s sneeze and cough 

While birds do sneeze and cough, they do not make that distinctive cough and sneeze sound that we humans make because they lack a diaphragm and the vocal cords required by humans to cough. Moreover, it is challenging to differentiate between a bird’s sneeze and cough. It takes a knowing ear to identify and distinguish them.  

A bird’s sneeze is so soft that you can barely hear it. It’s a soft brief utterance, accompanied by the short and tight closing of the eyes and, sometimes, a slight, clear nasal discharge.

In contrast, a cough is a slightly different chirp that is often a shallow sound. It is made in quick succession with the forward motion of the head. 

Causes of bird’s sneezing and coughing  

A bird can sneeze and cough for several reasons. A few of them are: 


Sometimes the dust lines the nasal passage of the bird to trigger a series of sneezing and coughing. The dust buildup tickles their nose and induces sneezing as a reflex action.

Keeping your pet bird’s surroundings clean will almost always resolve the sneezing issue in birds caused by dust.  

Related Read: Aspergillosis In Birds: Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Diagnosis & Prevention

Too dry environment  

Most birds are well-adapted to humid environments. Often pet birds need to face a dry indoor environment due to air-conditioning or room heating.

Even the outdoor conditions are sometimes too dry for the bird’s comfort. All these conditions dry up the nasal passage of the bird and induce sneezing and coughing.  

Allergic reactions  

Just like us, birds are also vulnerable to allergens in the environment. In fact, their respiratory system is far less robust than ours.

The allergen can be strong odor and fragrances, floor polish, cleaning agents, new furniture polish, new clothes, air fresheners, etc.  

Sometimes, the bird can also exhibit an allergic reaction to the food it is consuming. You can identify it if the bird is sneezing and coughing regularly after eating.

Related Read: What Not To Feed Wild Birds? ( Harmful Foods For Wild Birds )

The bird may be allergic to a specific ingredient in the food. Turning to a different food brand and cutting down on packaged food will help you identify and eliminate the allergens.  

The reason for the allergic reaction needs to be diagnosed by trial and error and eliminating all possible causes one by one. Careful observation and innovative steps will help reduce the sneezing and coughing caused by allergens.  

Related Read: How To Cope With The Loss Of My Pet Bird

Mite infestation 

Similar to cats and dogs, birds are also vulnerable to mite infestation. If your bird is allergic to mites, its infestation will trigger sneezing episodes.

It might also make the bird pluck and pick at their feathers, which might prove fatal for them. More often than not, it requires the intervention of a professional veterinarian.  


Pet birds can also sneeze by mimicking their owners. Parrots are a shining example of it. If they watch you sneeze, cough and hack, they would inevitably emulate you, and it might sound like an actual respiratory disease.

You might believe that they, too, have caught a cold. Still, it’s important to realize here that human viruses are mostly non-contagious to birds.  

Related Read: Do Pet Birds Smell? Even With Well Maintenance?

When do sneezing and coughing become a cause of concern? 

If a bird coughs or sneezes, you can try investigating all the above reasons and eliminate each possible cause by the trial-and-error method.

Despite this, if sneezing and coughing persist, you should be concerned as it indicates a respiratory disease. A few of its telltale signs include: 

  • Continuous and persistent sneezing. 
  • Thick and colored nasal discharge. 
  • Unusual blue or green color in the bird’s excrement. 
  • Lethargy and restlessness 
  • Watery eyes followed with closed eyes. 
  • Labored and difficulty in breathing which are often manifested by tail bobbing, i.e., rapid up and down movement of the tail. 
  • Fluffing and plucking of feathers 
  • A change in the bird’s voice. 
  • Wheezing 
  • Unable to perch 
  • Bird coughing, that is different from human cough. 

For all or any of the above symptoms, it is important to rope in an experienced vet who can identify the respiratory disease and treat it right.  

Kind of respiratory diseases in birds 

Now, let’s understand the kind of respiratory diseases in birds that manifest sneezing, nasal discharge and coughing symptoms. There are primarily four types of such respiratory diseases in birds.  


Presently, we know of innumerable viruses that can cause avian respiratory diseases. These are often contagious and can spread through the flock or aviary at a rapid pace.

Apart from serious respiratory issues, they can also seriously impact the neurological and systemic systems of the birds.

A few leading viral diseases are avian influenza, Newcastle disease, pox, infectious bronchitis, laryngotracheitis, etc.  


They are also present in innumerable numbers and can cause infectious respiratory diseases. They are transmitted both horizontally and vertically.

A horizontal transmission means via direct contact while a vertical transmission means passing infection from the hen or mother to the egg.

Of the two, vertical transmission is more dangerous and can be highly dangerous for the aviary population.

A few of its leading diseases are E Coli, Pasteurella, infectious coryza, etc. 


There are two types of fungal diseases found in birds. The first is aspergillosis which is passed from the hatchery to the litter. The second is candid, which is non-communicable and passed from an individual to a bird.  


Parasites like worms, blackheads, and coccidia can also cause aviary respiratory diseases and are mainly transmitted via the oral or fecal route.  

Nutrition based 

Lack of adequately balanced nutrition leads to respiratory diseases and other diseases like rickets and cage layer fatigue.  

All of the above diseases can only be cured with professional medical help. In severe cases, the bird might require hospitalization. If treated at home, you will need to follow every instruction laid down by the vet.  

Final words  

It is vital that you become a pro in differentiating between general sneezing/coughing in birds to that triggered by a disease.

You must seek immediate medical help if you get even a little bit suspicious.

Simultaneously, you must also realize that the bird might not recover from the disease and may not survive. But if it has recovered, you must be extra cautious and follow the post-treatment plan prescribed by the vet.

This will ensure the complete and healthy recovery of your pet bird. 

Related Read: What Bird Should I Get? Which Pet Bird Is Best For Me?

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds