The most common reason budgies lose their balance is ataxia, which affects the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, so they appear uncoordinated and clumsy. Loss of balance can also be due to ear infections, sciatic nerve compression, tumors, nutritional deficiencies, and head injuries.
A budgie’s center of balance comes from its ears. Small organs are located deep inside the ear called semicircular canals or ducts. These are three C-shaped tubes covered in tiny hairs and contain fluid.
These tubes and the fluid and hairs within them transmit messages about birds’ orientation to the brain. Budgies rely on these semicircular canals to help them stay balanced.
According to Integrative Organismal Biology, birds have a lumbosacral organ located in the lumbosacral vertebrae called the synsacrum, which helps birds balance.
The lumbosacral organ is considered a secondary balance organ, with the primary balance organ being the inner ear’s semicircular canals. This could explain why budgies are so good at balancing.
When something goes wrong with one or both balancing organs, budgies can get wobbly, thrown off balance temporarily, or lose their balance entirely.
Why Is My Budgie Losing Balance?
Here are the main factors that contribute to a budgie losing its balance:
You probably remember being dizzy and unable to stand or walk when you’ve experienced an ear infection. The same thing happens with budgies.
Ear infections are quite common in budgies. You may not have ever noticed where your budgie’s ears are located because their ears are hidden behind their feathers to protect them from water and debris.
Ear infections in budgies can be caused by:
Symptoms of an ear infection can be:
- Brown or yellow discharge
- Inflamed or red skin around the ear
- Constant shaking of the head
- Foul smell from the ears
- Loss of balance
Sciatic Nerve Compression
Your budgie’s sciatic nerve can become compressed or even damaged from an injury or due to trying to pass a large egg. It’s also possible that a mass or a tumor is growing and compressing the nerve.
When the sciatic nerve is compressed, it can cause numbness or tingling in one or both legs, leading to loss of balance and coordination.
If your budgie suddenly loses its balance, it may have a tumor somewhere in its body. Brain tumors can cause a whole host of mobility issues, especially loss of balance.
Testicular tumors are common among male budgies and have been known to cause lameness, paralysis, and limb weakness. All these issues can lead to loss of balance or the inability to stand.
A budgie with nutritional deficiencies can experience health problems, including losing balance. The most common nutritional problem among budgies is a Vitamin A deficiency.
Ensure your budgie is being fed a well-balanced, nutritious diet that contains plenty of Vitamin A but also contains vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as:
- Vitamins A, B-6, C, and K
It’s not that uncommon for budgies to get head injuries. A head injury can result if your budgie is free flying around your home and flies into a ceiling fan or window.
Signs that a head injury has occurred include:
- Muscle weakness
- Head tilt
- Uncontrollable eye movements
- Loss of balance or inability to stand
- Behavioral changes
If you suspect your budgie has a head injury, seek immediate veterinary treatment.
What is Ataxia in Budgies?
Ataxia is the most common reason for loss of balance in budgies.
It’s a condition that affects the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Ataxia can attack the nervous system and cause damage to the spinal cord, brain, or inner ear.
The damage can have devastating effects on your budgie. Due to the damage to the nervous system, the brain will no longer be able to determine the physical position of your budgie’s limbs, head, or body. Your budgie will no longer be able to control its movements.
If your budgie has ataxia, it may appear wobbly and clumsy, stand with its legs spread apart to try to regain some balance, or it may use its beak to hold onto the cage to try to stay upright. If your budgie tries to sit on its perch, it will likely fall off, and it’ll be unable to walk without falling over.
Causes of Ataxia
Any illness or injury affecting the nervous or musculoskeletal system can trigger ataxia. Ataxia can be caused by environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, or genetics.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, caged domestic birds are susceptible to various toxins within their environment. Things you have around your home that your budgie could eat, breathe, or come into contact with such as:
- Mouse, rat, or ant poisons such as arsenic
- Lead salts in insecticides
- Household insect sprays
Birds are attracted to many of these toxins and eat them, and they breathe in airborne toxins. Many toxins your budgie could come into contact with could cause ataxia, so be vigilant about what you leave out when your budgie is nearby.
Budgies need to eat diets that are well-balanced with different nutrients and vitamins. However, many owners feed their budgies a seed-only diet, which won’t provide them with all the necessary nutrients.
Budgies should eat diets that contain seeds, greens, fruits, and insects. Generally, nutritional deficiencies are noticed and fixed before they get bad enough to cause ataxia. However, ataxia is a possibility if your budgie goes long enough without the right nutrients.
A lack of necessary nutrients can damage organs and systems throughout the body. Always ensure your budgie is receiving everything it needs to stay healthy.
The chance of genetics being the cause of ataxia is low, but it’s possible. According to Avian Medicine, hereditary degenerative neurological diseases and conditions can cause ataxia in birds.
Can a Budgie Recover from Ataxia?
If your budgie is diagnosed with ataxia, a vet will probably recommend hospitalization while treatments are given. Depending on the reason for the ataxia, treatments can include:
- IV fluids
- Antifungal meds
- Chelating agents to reduce metal toxicity in the blood and tissues
Whether your budgie will recover from the ataxia depends heavily on the underlying cause and its level of advancement.
Ataxia can cause death, so be prepared for the worst. After your budgie is examined and treatments are started, your veterinarian can give you a prognosis for your budgie.