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Whether you have a tiny parakeet or a large macaw, these ten tips will help you determine if your bird is sick. If you are shopping for a parrot, use this tip sheet as a handy guide to make sure that the bird you're interested in isn't displaying any signs of illness.

1. Look at the bird's nostrils. Are they clear and open? There shouldn't be any crusty material caked on the face or head feathers. This could indicate an illness--possibly a sinus infection, or that the bird has been vomiting.

2. Is the bird breathing easily? Gasping for breath or tail bobbing are signs that the bird is struggling to breathe. It also means that the bird is sick.

3. Look at the bird's eyes. They should be bright and alert. Dull eyes, droopy eyelids or lethargy are indications of illness or disease.

4. Are the vent feathers matted, stained or missing? Could be signs of diarrhea or internal parasites.

5. Do the bird's feathers have a healthy sheen? Are they bright and vibrant? Very young birds or birds who are going through a molt can have rough looking feathers. This is normal and will change when the new feathers are in; a bird whose feathers are broken off, chewed, or dull and brittle should be avoided.

6. Is the bird steady on its perch, maybe even dozing on one foot? There are differences between a healthy napping bird and a sick bird. A sleepy healthy bird will awaken immediately and be alert, active and bright; the sick bird will remain fluffed up and may shiver. Sick birds are often wobbly on the perch or are crouched in the bottom of the cage.

7. Found a deal that seems "too good to be true"? It probably is! Make sure you visit reputable pet shops or breeders; if you have any doubts, contact your local Better Business Bureau.

8. Is there a previous medical history available on the bird? If there is, ask to see it. You will need to know of any past health problems before you spend your hard earned money on that expensive parrot.

9. Are there other birds already in your home? If so, quarantine any new birds for at least 30 days in a separate room. This is a safety precaution; sometimes a bird can be a carrier of diseases which that particular bird may be immune to, but could make your other birds ill.

10. Do you know the name and number of an avian veterinarian? If not, have someone recommend one, or look in the phone book. It's a good idea to keep the number close at hand--should an emergency arise with your new bird, you don't want to waste precious seconds digging around for a phone number.

Good luck with your parrot, and keep these tips in mind. At the first signs of illness, contact an avian vet and start the correct treatment. With good care, your pet bird will be with you for years to come!