Iodine Deficiency in Parrots and Pet Birds

Iodine Deficiency in Parrots and Pet Birds

When birds are fed an all seed diet, they can become iodine deficient. An iodine deficiency causes a disruption in normal thyroid function, and can result in thyroid hyperplasia, also called thyroid dysplasia, or a goiter, resulting in a thyroid mass. The mass, which may press against the trachea and esophagus  can cause breathing and swallowing problems.which can be life threatening. What's worse is that the mass can grow and harbor bacteria and fungi.  Due to the popularity of feeding high quality pellets, this condition is relatively rare, these days, but it can still happen.

Iodine deficiency is diagnosed upon examination, symptoms and your birds diet.  The vet may want to take x-rays. Blood work may also be obtained to test for thyroxine levels. Treatment, of course, is dependent on how severe the condition is but usually requires iodine supplements and / or iodine rich foods at a minimum.  Usually, iodine can be added to the birds water or formulated into a vitamin mixture.  Once the bird is on a higher quality diet and thyroxine levels are back to normal, treatment may discontinue.

Your bird's prognosis for recovery of routine iodine deficiency is good with improved diet, however, in cases in which the mass has caused trauma to other organs, other treatments may be necessary.

One bird safe food that is rich in iodine is seaweed.  Of course, there are numerous varieties of seaweed with varying levels of iodine.  Kelp, a kind of algae “seaweed” is common in Asian diets. But, can it be good for your bird?

This fast growing algae is harvested from “kelp forests” within shallow bodies of saltwater.  Kelp is considered a “super-food” because it packs massive amounts of nutrients in a small package!  Just a small pinch a few times a week offers enormous benefits to a parrots overall health.

What Does an Iodine Deficiency (Goiter) in Birds Look Like?

scraggly feathers of iodine deficient bird

  • High pitched voice
  • Breathing problems
  • Holding head upright to help breathing
  • Clicking and squeaking sounds
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Visible swelling around the neck
  • Fragile feathers that break with normal preening resulting in bald spots.
  • Curly feathers
  • Feather discoloration
  • Your bird may appear lethargic and if it is a singer, it may not sing!
  • And, more....

Benefits of Kelp:

  • Kelp contains Iodine, a crucial nutrient for healthy thyroid functioning. Iodine has been shown to be critical for healthy feather production, normal molting, breathing and fertility.
  • Kelp is packed with vitamins, especially B vitamins, which are critical for cellular metabolism and vitamins C and E, which are both heavy-duty antioxidants and boost blood vessel health.
  • Kelp contains minerals, including calcium, boron and magnesium that are necessary for healthy bones and normal muscle function.
  • Kelp contains anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-tumor properties.
  • A small amount of kelp has powerful immunostimulant properties.

Avikelp Kelp Granules: A daily suggested of granulated kelp is 1/10 to ¼ teaspoon per day, depending on the size of the bird.  That is a very small amount! 

We fed our feather compromised and balding parrotlet a half-pinch of kelp daily for about 6 weeks and then we weaned down to 3-4 days per week. We simply sprinkled it on her cooked, moist food in the morning.  Her favorite is Volkman Birdeez Buffet 15 Minute Soak & Servewith added fresh fruits & veggies, topped off with a sprinkle of AviKelp.

  • Sprinkle a small amount on your birds morning cooked food mix.  AviKelp includes a 1/8 teaspoon scoop so use this as a guide.
  • Cooking with AviKelp. Try adding 1/8 teaspoon of kelp to mash or birdie bread, that you can feel over he course of a few days. You only need to feed a very small amount of kelp to see results. A suggested amount of powdered kelp is: 1/10 of 1/4 teasp. per day for a medium sized parrot.  This would be a half pinch.
  • Add granulated AviKelp to your birds' pellets

Parrotlet with Iodine Deficiency



While Kelp can help to stimulate a sluggish thyroid, it has been found that too much kelp, or if given daily for a long period of time, can actually inhibit thyroid activity, which could possibly lead to plucking.  Please carefully follow package instructions

Make sure to use preservative, additive free Kelp like  AviKelp.  

We'd love to hear your comments about how you've improved your birds nutritional intake or it's feathering.


Join Facebook Group for Feather Plucking Parrots

Diane Burroughs, LCSW

Located in Denver, I'm a Mile High author and parrot feather plucking expert. I've always been a devoted animal lover with a special passion for parrots, Diane is also a behavior specialist. Make sure to join my Facebook group, UnRuffledRx Parrot Feather Plucking Help now!

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  • Diane Burroughs, LCSW
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