Why Does My Canary Make Clicking Noises?

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There is plenty to love about canaries, from their ease of care to their cheerful nature. While every owner has their own reason to adore the species, there’s one trait that everyone can agree on.

Above all else, canaries are beloved for the beautiful songs and melodies they can produce. As opposed to other species, canaries are known to have regular tunes. 

Accordingly, any changes to this song, such as clicking noises, are usually noteworthy. Canaries can make clicking noises for a variety of medical conditions, but several diseases are especially likely. 

Clicking noises in canaries are usually caused by air sac mites, but respiratory infections and iodine deficiencies may also be causes.

Read below to learn more about these causes and how to help your beloved bird.


Why Does My Canary Make Clicking Noises?

Why Does My Canary Make Clicking Noises?

Air Sac Mites

The most common cause of clicking in canaries is air sac mite infections.

Air sac mites are contagious parasites that affect the entire respiratory tract of a bird. Air sac mites can infest all birds, but canaries and finches are especially susceptible to them.

Birds often show no symptoms during early infection, but later stages are characterized by a distinct gaping and clicking noise.

Female mites enter a canary’s respiratory system and lay eggs in its lungs. After hatching, these mite larvae are kept dormant by your canary’s immune system.

Stress or other diseases can weaken your bird’s immune system, which allows the larvae to feed on their lungs and age.

Mature males continue to live in the lungs, and females migrate up to the bird’s air sac and mouth. Females burrow into the trachea of your bird, causing it to swell and release mucous.

Over time, canaries will begin to click due to their tightened trachea. By this point, veterinary intervention is recommended.

Respiratory Distress

Birds have very sensitive lungs, especially small birds like canaries.

Air sac mites are a common cause of respiratory distress, but many other issues may create this sickness.

Potential causes include:

  • Cigarette or cigar smoke 
  • Scented cleaning products 
  • Aerosol sprays 
  • Scented candles 
  • Non-stick cookware 
  • Viral infections 
  • Bacterial infections 
  • Fungal infections 
  • Seasonal allergies 
  • Environmental allergies 

If your bird is experiencing respiratory distress, it may also pant, cough, sneeze, have nasal discharge, or even bob its tail.

Respiratory distress is always considered an emergency in birds and requires an immediate vet visit.

Iodine Deficiency

One major cause of clicking in canaries is iodine deficiency. Iodine is a mineral that is used by a canary’s thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland in your canary’s throat, uses iodine to produce a metabolism-regulating hormone known as a thyroid-stimulating hormone.

Iodine deficiencies cause a condition known as goiter, which causes the thyroid to enlarge and become malformed.

This enlargement puts pressure on a bird’s throat and voice box, creating abnormalities in their vocalizations, including clicking.

Although iodine deficiencies are considered rare in canaries, an all-seed diet can make them develop a goiter, as seeds are low in iodine.

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Some seeds and nuts, such as millet and peanuts, actually encourage the development of goiter.


What Are Other Symptoms of a Canary that Makes Clicking Noises?

What Are Other Symptoms of a Canary that Makes Clicking Noises?

Clicking canaries almost always have other symptoms alongside their clicking, regardless of how subtle they are. 

While these signs won’t let you make a diagnosis, they can help inform you of your bird’s condition.

It May Appear Sick

Regardless of the specific cause, sickness may present alongside one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Panting 
  • Wet nostrils 
  • Sneezing 
  • Tail bobbing 
  • Coughing 
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Tail bobbing 
  • Being fluffed up 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Changes in weight 
  • Sitting at the bottom of the cage 
  • Changes in vocalizations 

Any of these symptoms alone are cause for alarm, but the more symptoms your bird is exhibiting, the more urgent the vet visit.

You May See Mites

If your bird’s clicking is caused by air sac mites, you may be able to see the mites in their throat in later stages.

Shine a light into your canary’s mouth and look at the back of their throat. If you see small, grain-like dots, these may be female air mites. Some female mites may be seen in your bird’s nostrils or on their beaks.

While the visual presence of black dots is often confirmation of air sac mites, a bird may still be infected if you cannot see them.

Regardless if you can see air sac mites on your bird, you should still bring it to the vet.


What Do I Do if My Canary Makes Clicking Noises?

What Do I Do if My Canary Makes Clicking Noises?

Abnormal sounds and behavior from your bird require immediate action, typically involving a vet. Acting quickly is potentially life-saving for your beloved bird.

Quarantine Your Bird

If your canary is making clicking noises, there’s a good chance it has an infectious disease.

Both air sac mites and several major causes of respiratory infection are highly contagious to other birds.

To protect your other birds from contamination, it’s a good idea to separate your bird from any others.

Additionally, if your bird is showing signs of respiratory infection, moving them from suspected air pollutants and to the vet is key.

Take care when moving your bird to reduce stress if possible. Move it to a dark, quiet room without any additional stressors and cover it if needed.

Anti-parasitic Medication

Whether or not your bird is infected with air sac mites, having some anti-parasitic medication on hand may be a good idea.

Some owners routinely give their flocks small treatments such as Ivermectin as preventative medications, though this is not always recommended.

That said, any drug should only be administered under the direction of a vet, as it is easy to overdose on such a small bird.

Supplement Your Bird’s Diet

If you suspect your canary has an iodine deficiency, the best way to help them is to make a dietary change.

Changing to a high-quality pelleted diet is an excellent first step, but you should ask your vet for help with the transition.

Liquid iodine supplements are highly effective, but these are very easy to overdose with.

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Just as an iodine deficiency can be potentially fatal, a large overdose may also result in death. Take special care and contact a vet before administering liquid iodine.

Consult a Veterinarian

By the time your canary makes clicking sounds, whatever is causing it has likely progressed to a dangerous level.

More often than not, veterinary intervention is needed for hospitalization or prescription-strength medicine.

Bringing your bird to a qualified avian vet, if possible, is always recommended at any sign of disease.

Either contact your vet over the phone or take your bird to one in a covered cage.


How Is a Canary Making Clicking Noises Diagnosed and Treated?

How Is a Canary Making Clicking Noises Diagnosed and Treated?

While improved husbandry may lessen some of your bird’s symptoms, treatment is generally dependent on diagnosis.

Air Sac Mites Diagnosis and Treatment

If your vet suspects your canary has air sac mites, they will likely examine your bird for signs of infestation.

This may be as simple as checking their trachea in a dark room or examining a tracheal swab under a microscope.

Even if air sac mites are not physically seen, your vet may still decide to administer medication and see if your bird’s condition improves.

The standard treatment for air sac mites is anti-parasitic medicine.

Medicines such as Ivermectin are administered topically or orally to infected birds in early or moderate stages.

For more severely infected canaries, your vet may decide to hospitalize your birds.

Your vet may also suggest preventative medications for future use with your canary and any other birds you may have.

Respiratory Infections Diagnosis and Treatment

Because it can have so many potential causes, your vet will likely run diagnostic tests to identify what is causing the respiratory infection.

The specific treatment for the infection will be treated according to its cause.

For instance, bacterial infections will be treated with antibiotics, or allergies may be treated with antihistamines.

Depending on the severity of the infection, hospitalization may be required.

Your vet may suggest husbandry changes to avoid future infections.

Iodine Deficiencies Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing iodine deficiency typically involves a review of dietary history, physical examination of your bird for goiter, and possibly blood work.

Your veterinarian will likely provide you with a temporary iodine supplement. Depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation, this may be introduced into their water or given as a vitamin.

In extreme deficiencies, hospitalization and iodine injections may be required.

Your bird will likely remain on the supplement until their condition improves and you have switched them to an iodine-sufficient diet.


Final Thoughts

With how beautiful yet consistent their songs usually are, hearing your canary make a strange new noise would catch anyone off-guard. 

Usually, clicking noises indicate that your canary has an infestation of air sac mites. Otherwise, your bird may have an iodine deficiency or a respiratory infection.

Regardless of the suspected cause, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit to an avian vet as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Thankfully, each of these causes is easily treated as long as they are caught early on.