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what does a stressed budgie look like?

How To Tell If A Budgie Is Stressed

Stress adversely affects how budgies absorb and process nutrients. It can also lead to destructive behaviors, putting your budgie at risk of harming itself and attacking its owner and other birds.

Signs of stress include a loss of appetite, malnutrition, jealousy, stress bars, self-mutilation, and lethargy. Also, stereotypes such as toe-tapping, head swinging, pacing, and screaming are warning signs.

Some stressors can be removed immediately, enabling your budgie to calm down. Unfortunately, stress can lead to sudden death in budgies due to adrenal failure or a heart attack.

How To Know If My Budgie Is Stressed

Budgies can be upset by changes to their environment, new faces, and even different foods. However, stress can’t be treated dismissively as it can be so harmful in a short amount of time.

Unfortunately, the symptoms can be hard to spot, especially true for new owners, who may overlook repeated behaviors or strange vocalizations.

In some cases, these behaviors are blamed on problematic birds. Then, the budgie is ignored or rehomed, only making the situation worse in the future.

Behavioral changes, like aggression or repeated behaviors, often manifest before physical symptoms, like self-mutilation and stress bars.

These signs will enable you to identify a stress problem at an early stage:


Budgies aren’t naturally aggressive birds. If your budgie suddenly becomes confrontational or unfriendly, this is a clear sign that it’s stressed.

Budgies can become defensive when they’re:

  • Scared
  • Jealous
  • Feel their space or resources are threatened

It doesn’t matter if the budgie reacts this way for a good reason or an irrational one, as it’ll still put an emotional and physical strain on its body.

The most common forms of aggression include:

  • Biting
  • Hissing
  • Lunging
  • Screaming
  • Flapping its wings
  • Puffing itself up
budgie stressed out

Loss of Appetite

Budgies have a fast-paced metabolism and need to eat regularly. However, when they feel ill or think they’re in danger, they may forgo meals or be unable to consume them.

Eating is a vulnerable state, and your budgie may feel more endangered by taking a lunch break. If its health is compromised, it may be too tired or too confused to eat, even if it wants to.

If a budgie’s diet is unbalanced and lacks vital nutrients, it may lose interest in its meals. Worse yet, its health could be adversely affected, making it too sick to eat.

Fearful Behavior

A scared budgie will be stressed until whatever frightened it is removed.

As prey animals, budgies are on constant alert for predators and threats. Their entire body is geared for quick reaction times, making budgies jittery when startled.

Of course, some budgies are more easily frightened than others. Poorly socialized budgies or those new to your home may react badly to new sights or sounds.

Introducing a cage mate, turning on loud music, or wearing a brightly colored piece of clothing could make your budgie feel uneasy.

Older, well-socialized budgies that have been with you long-term are more likely to adapt to these changes. However, putting them in a new cage or repainting the room could still leave them stressed.

You’ll know your budgie is feeling scared and afraid when it:

  • Retreats to the back of its cage
  • Avoids being picked up or touched
  • Screams when someone gets close
  • Becomes very quiet
  • Avoids food or water
  • Has trouble sleeping
  • Experiences night frights regularly

Causes Damage

Destructive budgies will tear apart toys, perches, and food/water dishes, and they may fling seed, poop, and other waste. Flipping bowls and tearing down decorations are also possibilities.

A stressed budgie won’t take time to play or have fun like it would have done. If it runs out of options or the stress worsens, the budgie could self-mutilate.  

Destructive behavior is usually caused by boredom, but it can be a cry for attention.

Repeating Behaviors

Stress can often manifest as repeating or stereotypical behaviors, such as:

  • Toe-tapping
  • Head swinging
  • Pacing
  • Screaming

These habits seem benign, but they’re often your earliest warning of stress in budgies. For example, a budgie that paces back and forth on its perch is trying to:

  • Distract itself
  • Find a way to escape
  • Cure its boredom

Pacing doesn’t harm a budgie, but what it represents can be a problem.

Stressed Budgie Sounds

Budgies are naturally talkative birds. When stressed, they may suddenly change their vocalizations.

A budgie may become very loud, screaming, shrieking, and yelling, seemingly for no reason. Alternatively, it may become quiet, refusing even to chirp or click.

If you sing to it, feed it, or attempt to play, it likely won’t respond.


Budgies normally spend most of their day exploring, flying, chirping, and playing.

If your budgie is stressed, it may lose interest in any of its favorite activities. It may also be so scared that it refuses to come out of its cage.

If you can’t detect the signs of fear or discomfort, you may think your budgie seems low-energy or tired. However, once stress goes on long enough, your budgie may grow sick and lethargic.

The budgie may not have the energy to fly, move around, interact with you or others, or even eat.

can a budgie die from stress?

Stress Bars

According to the Journal of Animal Ecology, fault bars are a proven way to check if a budgie is stressed.

What are stress bars on budgies? Also known as fault bars, these are white lines that stretch across a budgie’s feathers. They run crosswise and affect the vane or soft area of the feather.

Stress bars are akin to strands of hair turning white on humans. As stress takes its toll on a budgie, its system finds it difficult to allocate all the body’s resources.

Regenerating cells, producing keratin, and absorbing nutrients will fall by the wayside. This will show in the feathers, which are the most pigmented area.

A poor diet can lead to stress bars. Even with a balanced diet, a budgie stressed by outside factors may not glean the nutrients it needs. These can result in a bad molt, leading to further stress bars.

How To Calm A Stressed Budgie 

When a budgie is stressed, it can be hard to calm down. Your first instinct may be to hold, comfort, or pet the budgie. However, that is the worst possible response, even if it’s good-intentioned. Invading your budgie’s space will only stress it more.  

Instead, try to reduce the amount of stress in its environment without disturbing your budgie. Even if an illness or poor diet causes stress, this is still a good start. A calm environment will help calm the budgie, so you can get close enough to help. Start by:

  • Turning down the lights or pulling the shades
  • Quieting the room
  • Removing other pets from the area
  • Keeping your distance
  • Having family members or roommates leave the budgie alone for now

Can A Budgie Die From Stress?

When stressed, the body releases a hormone called adrenaline. This allows the budgie to escape a harmful situation. However, adrenaline can build up in the body if it can’t escape.

With increased adrenaline, sugar in the bloodstream is immediately converted into energy. As a result, blood pressure is raised, and the blood vessels in the muscles are dilated. This causes an increased heart rate and an increase in temperature.

When a high level of adrenaline is constantly released, this can lead to adrenal gland failure, resulting in sudden death for a budgie. Also, a heart attack may cause death due to an increased heart rate.