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Can Birds Get Airsick?

Some birds get airsick, but not when they are flying independently. Birds can get old-fashioned motion sickness when traveling by airplane, as well as in cars or by other modes of transportation. Other animals also can become sick during transit, which means that people who are traveling with pets should take special precautions, such as not feeding an animal or feeding it only a small meal six to eight hours before travel. Other suggestions include taking a pet for short trips to determine whether it shows signs of feeling ill, which can help the owner decide whether to travel with that particular pet.

More about motion sickness:

  • One theory is that motion sickness is a defense against the consumption of toxic plants. Toxic plants can create hallucinations that produce sensations of motion. These sensations, regardless of their source, triggers nausea, which would protect a human or animal by forcing him or her to vomit up the toxic plant.

  • Dogs can take antihistamines or anti-nausea medications to combat motion sickness, although it is important for dog owners to talk to their veterinarians before giving their pets any medications.

  • Some vets believe that pet owners can reduce motion sickness in pets by taking them on short trips to let them get used to traveling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can birds experience motion sickness like humans do?

While birds are highly adapted for flight, it is theoretically possible for them to experience motion sickness under unusual conditions. However, such instances are rare since their bodies are designed to handle the rigors of flying, including rapid changes in direction and altitude. Birds have a well-developed inner ear balance system, which makes them less prone to motion sickness compared to humans.

What might cause a bird to feel airsick?

A bird might feel disoriented or stressed during unnatural flying conditions, such as being inside a moving vehicle or during turbulent weather. These scenarios can disrupt their equilibrium, potentially leading to a state akin to airsickness. However, there is limited scientific evidence on the prevalence or symptoms of airsickness in birds.

How do birds' bodies prevent airsickness during normal flight?

Birds have a highly specialized vestibular system within their inner ear that helps maintain balance and spatial orientation. This system, along with their ability to control flight with precision, allows them to navigate the skies without the disorientation that can lead to motion sickness. Their visual acuity also plays a role in stabilizing their flight.

Are there any documented cases of birds getting airsick?

Documented cases of birds getting airsick are extremely rare, and the concept is not widely recognized in ornithological research. Most observations are anecdotal, and there is a lack of empirical data to support the occurrence of airsickness in birds. Their physiological adaptations for flight make such events uncommon.

Could captive birds be more prone to airsickness than wild birds?

Captive birds may not have the same level of exposure to flight as wild birds, potentially making them more susceptible to disorientation when they do fly or are transported by air. However, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that captive birds commonly experience airsickness, as their innate adaptations are still present.

What should I do if I suspect my pet bird is airsick?

If you suspect your pet bird is experiencing discomfort during air travel, ensure the bird's carrier is stable and try to minimize abrupt movements. Keep the environment inside the vehicle as calm as possible, and consult with a veterinarian for advice tailored to your bird's specific health needs and circumstances.

Discussion Comments

By anon311019 — On Dec 28, 2012

Motion sickness is caused by the eyes of the animal not tracking where it is going by moving its head. The vestibular apparati in the inner ears are 3D motion sensors. The sensors are not working properly when the head is not motion-tracking, the hair cells in the sensor move beyond its physiologic range and get confused, thus producing symptoms of motion sickness: nausea.

To cure the problem, make sure the animal can look out the window of the vehicle. If not possible, make sure the vehicle does not make abrupt motion changes. If you want to do the experiment yourself, blindfold one of your passengers while the driver makes sharp hair-pin turns.

By anon311015 — On Dec 28, 2012

That is really unusual and interesting, considering they (birds) fly. It's like a fish can swim but would get sick if it's in a submarine!

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