Ask Lafeber


September 1, 2020

Entire Tail Fell off

Today we too had to put to sleep our beloved (we think approximately 28-30 year old) cocakatiel Reuben. Our other one we think is approaching 28-29 yrs of age. Reuben was fat, nice and dark and bright coloured and feisty up until a couple of months ago when he started really picking at his tail joint area and back…shortly after that we noticed his loss of weight and his tail looked like it was angling to the right and stiff. His beak started growing larger and quickly so I tried to cut it so he could eat comfortably. I made sure not to cut his little tongue as it was difficult to do on my own. Gradually the tail was angling more and he was having difficulty with balance but still did not fall. We were wiping some of his poop off so it wasn’t crusted on his tail today when we noticed what looked like his entire tail bone separating from his body. Alarmed we rushed him to our Vet and on the car ride over, Reuben was picking at it and the entire tail dropped from his body. What a traumatic experience but thank God he was not bleeding and he still stayed on his perch but you can tell he was in some sort of pain. The Vet had never seen this but we think it could be osteoporosis in such an old bird like him? All this time he and the other cockatiel have been doing really well on their seed diet so we must be doing something right all these years but it just could be very old age that did this or some disease internally due to the very old age?? Have you heard of anything like this? Glad Reuben is in a much better place with no pain now and glad we rushed him to the vet who said he was good and even ate a few treats before they put him to sleep.


Hi Grace & Faith,

I’m very sorry to hear about Reuben. He was indeed very old for a cockatiel. Most cockatiels in captivity only live up to about 12 years old due to inbreeding and poor nutrition. The normal grey cockatiels are more likely to live longer since this is the natural color, but even they do not live as long as they used to. You clearly took great care of Reuben and his surviving friend. It sounds like he probably had failing organs and this caused his decline. This is how most elderly birds leave us. I’ve never heard of the tail joint actually falling off, but they do lose the tail feathers sometimes when they are very old and near the end. The overgrown beak is a sign of poor organ function. I think you did what you could for him and even if taken to the Vet earlier, I don’t think he would have lived for any longer. At some point you will notice a decline in the companion due to old age. Unless he has complications like Reuben’s tail issue, most likely he will go in his sleep one night. Just know you have given them good care or they wouldn’t have lived to be this old.

Take care,


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