Obesity and Infertility

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Q: I have heard a lot about obesity and the infertility that can result from it. How do I know if my birds have become fat enough to cause this problem?

A: Parrots, just like people, vary individually as to how well they handle excess weight. They also vary as to in what part of their body they accumulate their excess fat. The best way to determine whether or not you have a potential problem is to physically examine the birds in question.

The first place to examine when judging the weight of a bird is the area on either side of the keel (or breast) bone. Whenever the breast “muscles” protrude further than the keel bone, the bird is overweight. Excess weight that is confined to this area is usually handled well by most birds and seldom creates any problems in relation to fertility. The two areas where fat deposits are most likely to cause reproductive problems are the lower abdomen and the hips. Much more common in males than in females, some birds tend to develop a ball of fat that protrudes from the lower abdomen just above the pelvic arch. In fact, this is the same area where females will appear “swollen” just before they lay an egg. Males that have a fat deposit in this area will have trouble fertilizing a female successfully. The area around the hips (where the legs are attached to the body) is a common problem area for both males and females. Fat deposits in this area can severely limit agility. Whenever mobility in the lower half of a bird’s body becomes limited, the bird’s ability to engage in successful copulation also becomes limited. Many birds become so handicapped by excess buildup in this area that they have trouble walking. These fat deposits, if allowed to continue to grow, will move up the back and around the wing joints. This results not only in a bird that has trouble walking, but in a bird that cannot fly. Birds that become handicapped in this way tend to lose interest in reproductive behavior because they are either too physically disabled to perform properly or because they are too lazy to bother trying.

When examining your bird for this problem, check the girth around the bird’s body just above the legs. If you feel lumpy deposits in this area or if the girth is as large or larger than the girth around the upper breast, your bird has a problem. The only remedy is dietary change.