This page details all the common issues birds can get, covering Bird diseases, Diet issues, Behavioral issues, Environmental issues.
Bird stress and environment
Just like humans and any animal for that matter birds can get a whole host of issues stemming from environmental, genetic or disease organisms. Everyday birds are exposed to microorganisms and potential infections from the air, nature, insects, clothing, human hands, basically every part of their environment. The best way of keeping your birds healthy is to build a strong immune system that has the ability to fight disease and also by keeping their environment clean and the bird mentally stimulated and happy. We can usually tell a bird that is fed a low-quality diet just like we can tell a bird that is brimming with health. Vitamin deficiency plays a big role in the drop of bird’s immune function. We have detailed healthy diet programs on our individual bird pages. You can visit our team in store, and they can run you through a healthy diet program. In general malnutrition, unclean environment, genetics, stress and acts of God can all play a major part in many birds developing disease or not.
Below is a basic overview of all the common avian diseases, symptoms and basics about the diseases. Many can be fixed at home and others will need veterinary attention.
Disease from new colony – older birds can be asymptomatic carriers of a whole host of avian disease for many years and never have any visible health issues. Infected birds can spread the disease to a most often younger bird with an undeveloped immune system. Yes, some younger birds will be immune, but younger birds are more likely to be susceptible as they are stressed in a new environment. Adult birds are more resilient.
Disease from an existing condition – Birds can be asymptomatic, meaning they can carry diseases or a fungus with no telltale signs. There are many common diseases birds can carry, many will carry them and may live a full life and the same disease can be fatal to another bird. Birds will often mask their symptoms. Not all birds are the same, many are immune, and a bird can be hatched with a weak immune system and is highly susceptible to disease and pathogens. Just like cats and dogs, some diseases can be transmitted to humans as well, this is why it’s always recommended to wash your hands after handling any animal. A Bird with a really poor immune system could have more than one disease and fungus at the same time as it doesn’t have the immunity to fight off the disease.
Diseases come from the environment – sometimes you can do everything right and a bird will still catch a disease from very unlikely places. Many common bird pathogens can be spread in the air in small dust particles containing dried mucous, droppings and secretions. These dust particles have the bacteria on them. The dust particles are carried by the wind and blow through a window and land on the bird or the bird’s window.
Poor diet in Birds
Nutritional deficiency can lead to a number of nutritional diseases and also leave your bird susceptible to a whole host of organisms a strong immune system could normally fight off.
Goiter is a common issue from an underactive thyroid gland, this happens when birds are not supplied with enough iodine that is required for normal thyroid gland function. The Gland swells in size to try and extract all the iodine it can from the low iodine food the bird is consuming. Iodine should always be supplied to birds in captivity as they cannot source items containing iodine from a captive environment so we must supply this for them. Iodine supplements usually last a long time as the bird instinctively consumes it as they need it and they don’t use a lot depending on the diet they are on.
Obesity is a common disease in many parrots, especially budgies, Galah’s and Amazon Parrots. The most common case is a diet to high is fat or a diet high in low quality or incorrect grains for the species of bird that are not high protein. Our Birdsville team have been harping on for many years to our customers about how important diet is. Our Birdsville store stocks very healthy blends that have high quality grains and blends for every kind of bird we are a bird and small animal specialist.
Fatty liver disease
Seed is actually extremely healthy for parrots when fed properly and using good quality seed. Fatty Liver disease is possibly the most common issue in pet birds older than 6 months of age. This disease can occur from an all-seed diet or a diet on low grade seeds. Many supermarket seed mixes will have a lot of filler seed and cheaper seeds that cost less. Unfortunately, these seeds cause health issues in high doses. As the seed is often not fresh and stored in great volume it also loses its nutritional content over time. The over consumption of fatty seeds like sunflower and safflower can also lead to obesity, yes, we have special seed mixes at Birdsville if your bird is at risk of fatty liver disease. If you are unsure bring a sample into your local bird expert and they should be able to help educate you. quality seeds fed in conjunction with vitamins, pellets and seed we have seen the best outcomes in parrots.
Vitamin A deficiency
Birds deficient in vitamin A are prone to disease and infection, stress prone and more likely to die from other conditions as stress drops their immune system. Birds’ sufficient vitamin A levels will be healthier with a high functioning immune system are more disease resistant. Our Birdsville blends are designed with this important vitamin in mind, available in store, you can also supply spinach, raspberries, endive, strawberry’s, orange apple, peach, celery to their diet to ensure they have this important vitamin.
The lack of calcium can be from 2 reasons, 1 there hasn’t been enough calcium provided or from a lack of vitamin D mentioned just below. A lack in calcium will course a multitude of issues in birds including but not limited to brittle bones, soft bones, soft nails, soft beak, issues in egg production, egg binding, brittle eggs, poor feather growth. Providing both calcium and vitamin D with a healthy diet mentioned on our individual bird pages will reverse this condition. To avoid this, make sure you have calcium bells, shell grit if your bird is to be indoors make sure to read below about vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency
Birds are unable to produce their own vitamin D and naturally will get it from the sun. This needs to be at least 10 hours a week of unfiltered sunlight. It doesn’t work through glass, or you can provide a supplement with vitamin D in it. Birdsville have a variety of supplements of vitamin D available at all times.
Environmental causes of ill bird health
This article is almost 6 degrees of separation as you can control your bird’s environment, but some things are out of human control. The best you can do keep your bird’s environment as clean, safe as possible. Have a good substrate on the base of the enclosure that can regularly be changed, we have great success using shell grit but we do have many other options including but not limited to sand sheets. Make sure the substrate has good drainage and the area the enclosure or aviary is in has plenty of ventilation. Position food and water bowls to not sit underneath perches so the bird doesn’t poo in them.
Metal poisoning In Parrots
Poisoning from anywhere in their environment, from the house, cage or aviary. Birds can and will chew anything especially household items such as objects, even windowsills, keys, jewelry, toys and gadgets, metal buttons and studs, coins, clips for electrics and plumping and can get zinc or lead poisoning. Rusty old cages and rusty old food bowls are a common cause of metal poisoning. If its rusty you need to get rid of the item. Signs of metal poisoning include, vomiting, blood in feces, black or green diarrhea, convulsions, depression, Extra urine in droppings, crop staying full. Heavy metal poisoning needs immediate veterinary attention. In Humans symptoms from metal poisoning can arise 2 weeks after exposure as birds have a much faster metabolism, it’s likely that symptoms would arise much faster. A common illness in parrots we unfortunately still come across is heavy metal poisoning from old rusty cages. No antibiotics available at Birdsville can fix this and therefor your bird must be rushed to the vet so always check your cage and if its old and rusty please replace it.
Poisoning in parrots
There is a number of things that are toxic to parrots that can cause death. A pet bird could simply be flying around the house and nibble a bit of avocado a child has left on the floor and quickly cause illness and death. A number of items include but not limited to, onion, garlic, avocado, chocolate, xylitol an artificial sweetener found in many foods, rat poison, toxic plants.
Air is the most common need that all living creatures require but not all bodies work the same way. Our avian friends have air sacs that compress air differently than our lungs. Different compressions of air means what’s acceptable for us isn’t acceptable for parrots. If you have read this page, you will be aware of how sensitive birds are and many are aware that fumes from Teflon pans, and non-stick cookware can kill birds inside a household area. This is because Teflon when heated gives off microscopic vapors that when inhaled by birds is toxic to them. Birds are also very sensitive smoke, polish, pesticides, bleach, ammonia, detergents, bug repellent, wax, paint thinner, gasoline, insecticides, kerosene, lighter fluid, scented candles, household cleaners and other aerosols. Needless to say, when cooking makes sure your birds are nowhere in the cooking area of the house. We have had reports of birds passing away after a house that has been painted next door and finches passing away from the fumes. Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems which is why in the old days they used to place a canary in the coal mines. Toxic fumes can cause a bird to pass suddenly.
A damp environment can happen for a number of reasons including but not limited to, keeping birds in a damp area such as a laundry, or backyard space that is damp. Substrate that is damp, not regularly cleaned with old fruit rotting, or simply being dap because the area the cage is kept in doesn’t have enough ventilation. Having a water bowl that is in a bad location with water regularly spilling out. Damp conditions are asking for problems such as coccidian, oocysts, bacteria and worm eggs to grow and be transmitted to the birds via the mouth when they forage on the floor. Always keep the floor dry so hosing out food bowls in an enclosure is a bad idea.
Cold weather conditions or wind chill can be lethal to birds, especially young birds with undeveloped immune systems. Yes, a bird can get hypothermia, but the most common issue is the cold conditions cause the core body temperature to drop and so does the bird’s immune system to drop leaving them vulnerable to virus, bacteria, protozoan infection, even a combination of all 3.
Birds in the wild or aviary environment huddle together to conserve heat. More often than not when someone brings a new bird home, they buy one budgie to create a strong bond with the human family which is a slight risk.
It is very bad for your baby bird to get a chill, because it weakens the immune system and can lead to an illness. A baby that is warm, with a healthy food supply, has a much stronger immune response. Adult birds are less susceptible to the cold. Summing up it’s very important you keep all birds in a dry area where there are no wind drafts.
Heat stroke in birds
Birds the sensitive creatures they are at risk of heatstroke especially if they are left in a hot car or a cage that is in direct sunlight or sunroom. If left for too long heat stroke may result in death. If you see parrots panting with dropped wings it is a sign, they could be too hot and at risk.
Stress can come in plethora of forms and can be the difference between life and death for some birds. Stressed birds will have a compromised immune system and make them susceptible to disease.
Stress itself could be enough to kill a bird. Stress from predatory animals harassing them, cats, dogs, foxes, rats and birds. Rats and mice running around at night will stress birds as well. Stressors also include poor animal husbandry, damp conditions, boredom, loneliness, incorrect environment, cold, heat, poison, bacteria, virus, yeasts and fungus, natural breeding stress, toxins, mites and lice, Worms, protozoan, wet weather, high humidity, damp conditions, breeding behaviors, poor ventilation, low vitamin d, Low vitamin A, low minerals, low quality seed, molting, other animals, overzealous mate, injury, Low quality food, Change from quality diet to low grade diet, cancer, poor diet, fear, night frights, bad luck such as an insect or dust entering the premises through a window and infecting a bird with a disease, Over handling by kids and even adults of young birds can cause stress. Stress can come in many forms, a virus, bacteria or parasite will also cause stress. Humidity that rises above 75% may affect the health of birds especially species used to dry desert conditions during hot or cold weather.
A stressed bird can often come down with a whole host of conditions because a normally healthy bird would fight off infection, but a stressed bird could have 4 or 5 serious conditions going on simply because their immune system is unable to fight off infection.
–High level of stress- such as over handling by kids or excited owners, incorrect handling or over stimulation. We understand it is an exciting time getting a new pet and it is hard to not want to play with them, but it is important to remember they are young and everything in new to them. Please follow our instruction for the first 3 and 10 days to ensure your baby or adult parrot isn’t over handle, incorrectly handle or over stimulated.
Baby bird unweaning risks from stress: There is always risk of a baby parrot reverting or unweaning (stop eating food on their own). There are many reasons why a baby budgie may unwean, some of the reasons listed above in the stressors listed.
Recognizing the sign of a bird that has unweaned: The first signs of reverting is a head bobbing motion, slightly flapping wings while standing in one place and a begging noise. They baby bird may do all or one of these and if you are concern, bring the bird in for us to check or get it on some hand rearing formula.
If you think, your bird has un weaned it is important to act fast, as it will no longer feed itself and will starve shortly as the bird will likely not eat or drink. An un weaned bird must be fed hand rearing formula morning, mid-day and nighttime, our Birdsville team always have this product in stock.
Our Birdsville team will not sell a hand raised birds that hasn’t been self-sufficient for at least a week.
Playing with a baby birds’ beak. This can make the bird think you are feeding them and encourage them to beg. This can add stress to the bird It is recommended not to play with a baby parrots beak as it could trigger begging behavior. If this happens you may need to re-introduce hand raising formula, which Birdsville always has in stock.
Change of diet can creates stress. We always recommend baby birds go home with the same food they are on prior to purchase provided they were on good quality feed. A baby bird may not recognize a new food as food when you quickly change diet, causing them to start begging. Seed isn’t just seed as Many pet chain stores and supermarkets bird seed mix is low grade feed and baby bird’s will need to work harder sifting through it with filler seed to get the proper nutrition. This can be enough to quickly send a baby bird to a downward spiral of poor health.
Avian Contaminated water
Rarely but possible this could be from the water supplied to the bird as the bird drinks a pathogen contained in the water. Water dish is placed under a perch where the bird defecates or food or both. On a warm day this could grow high levels of organisms such as algae, coccidian oocysts, bacteria and worm eggs in a matter of hours which can put a bird’s health as risk. Water should be replaced regularly; we do use normal tap water for our birds.
Avian Contaminated food
Food container attracts insects and vermin which could spread an organism mentioned below onto the food that the bird consumes. Wet foods can grow harmful pathogens surprisingly quickly in warm weather. Moist or wet conditions can cause the food to spoil.
The cage in all birds requires regulars cleaning and old food shouldn’t be allowed to accumulate in the cage, on perches or in feeders. Water should be changed daily basics.
Using bird friendly cage cleaner comes ready to use with no need to dilute it. Simply spray onto your pet’s cage and wipe with a cloth to remove stains, soiling and Oduor. These cleaners are always available at Birdsville.
Do not allow feces and old food to build up on the enclosure or aviary floor as this will be a haven for potentially dangerous organisms to grow. Any moist food such as fruit and vegetables should be removed every 24 hours at least.
Perches positioned above food dishes contaminate the food
I shouldn’t have to put this is here but unfortunately still come across this issue. unclean conditions will spread disease. Cleaning the environment with a vet grade disinfectant is very important. Thats why we are always disinfecting our enclosures and recommend our customers do the same to keep their birds happy and healthy.
Bird Disease Spread by Wild birds.
Wild birds can carry many diseases and parasites and have no effect, but the same diseases can potentially kill a pet bird if infected. Many of the diseases can be airborne or spread on dust particles through the air.
Bird Disease spread by Insect’s and Rodents
This can affect birds in outdoor enclosures or indoor enclosures. Both indoor and outdoor enclosures are susceptible to fly’s, cockroaches and other insects bringing in and exposing your bird to organisms and parasites on them when they visit a birds food or water dish or landing on or touching the bird itself.
A list of organisms that could be spread by insects is coccidiosis,
Fractures, breaks, dislocations and sprains
Although rare they can happen with and kind of bird. Breaks fractures and dislocations need immediate veterinary attention. A sprain will often be back to normal within a few days to weeks. The bird will Favour the leg until it heals. The most common cause for these issues in healthy birds is getting the leg caught in an unusual and awkward position and twisting. This can happen a number of ways including but not limited to in a bird toy, the wire in the bird cage or wire in a bird carrier. The foot for example goes through the wire and the bird twists and Panicks causing one of the above injuries.
Bruising, cuts or impact injuries
Birds that are free ranging in a home can be spooked and slam into doors etc. Birds in an enclosure can have a night fright and slam into the side of a cage getting injured or even breaking their neck. Birds can easily be injured by other birds, cats, dogs, doors, stove, hot water, drowning in a toilet, drowning in a dog bowl.
Feather loss or damage from the above – Fortunately when a feather cleanly gets pulled out they will re grow but if the area the feather grows from is damaged it can cause problems and could likely need veterinary attention.
Bird Night fright
This phenomenon of finding an injured of deceased bird on the bottom of the enclosure is an unfortunate and shocking find. Sometimes this condition could be confused with a stroke, heart attack or sudden death mentioned below. The reason why night frights are a thing is most likely because birds are a prey animal and when they are naturally asleep, they would be considered vulnerable if they were living in the wild. So, birds can be light sleepers and react to noises or vibrations when they are asleep.
A night fright could happen for a number of reasons, another bird moves and spooks its friend, a loud noise, a bright light, lightning, bats dropping a seed pod outside, dogs barking’s, cats wailing possums arguing, bats screeching. Sometimes the cause is unknown as night frights can affect any species of parrot at any age but is most common in younger birds.
Sudden Death Syndrome – Similar to SADS in adult humans and SIDS in infant humans small animals are more susceptible but can happen with larger birds as well where apparently healthy bird can pass away for no apparent cause. There are many theories why this can happen including but not limited to fright, being spooked, fumes, heat stroke, heart attack, stroke, nightmare or nightfright. Often when an animal that has passed of sudden death a full necropsy report from a vet will come back showing no conclusive reason as to why the animal has passed. Sudden death can occur with any animal. Unfortunately, one cannot guarantee life of any creature tomorrow as it is a living being and not a toaster. By following this full page, and bird species info pages you have the best chance possible in keeping your pet happy and healthy.
Consuming foreign body
Birds love to chew on anything and everything in their environment but some birds just some dogs swallow fibrous materials that they shouldn’t. It has been hypothesized that birds that don’t receive enough behavioral enrichment at periods of their life are more likely to ingest things they normally wouldn’t. The foreign body will likely cause an impaction in the crop and the bird will not be able to perform normal bodily function and will lead to death. some of the ways this could appear is a swollen crop or depression. This condition needs immediate Veterinary intervention. One of the most common materials birds choke on is cotton, so avoid toys and materials for your parrots that contain cotton. If you are unsure of the material you are using, ask your local bird store, our staff at birdsville are more than happy to educate you on the different bird toys we have available.
If a bird breathes in a foreign body such as a seed into the windpipe it could block the passage of air or it could deposit in the lungs and cause infection. Needless to say, this condition needs veterinary attention.
Feather plucking in Parrots
Unfortunately, this condition is all too common, feather plucking can usually be told apart from a disease such as beak and feather because the feathers that go missing are within reach of the beak. The head usually has normal feathers but the chest, legs, rump and back can often be bald. Feather plucking can be for a number of reasons. The most common reasons are a lack in behavioral enrichment, a deficiency in diet or a change to normal routine.
It usually is not just one reason and often a combination of all 3. Plucking is definitely something that needs to be treated because if you keep doing the same thing it will likely get worse.
Lack in behavioral – enrichment is usually to being left in the cage for long periods of time and also a lack of interesting toys to play with. Part of the reason we have such a huge range of bird toys in store.
Deficiency is Diet – Birds on an unhealthy diet, low grade seed or a fatty diet are much more likely to pluck. Birdsville have a number of low fat high protein blends with great success and healthy options on getting birds back into better health.
Change of routine – Birds are creatures of routine, so when a routine they are used to changes this can start a bird plucking. If you get your bird every day at 6 pm and then you go away on holiday the routine is broken and the birds world falls apart. For this reason, we have never recommended any parrot owner does a routine for their birds. Which is hard because you want to get them out every time you come from work. Anything you can do to break routine is recommended.
There is a whole host of worms that can effect birds the more common ones are Roundworms, Hairworms, tapeworms,
Protozoan examples single celled parasitic organisms, and to avoid these infections try to keep your birds away from wild birds such as wild birds, rats and mice as birds.
usually has an incubation period of 5 to 23 days before symptoms arise from infection.
This parasite lives in the intestinal lining of birds, the damage they cause can create a hemorrhage and make it difficult to absorb the nutrients they need. Sings of this condition are depressed, skinny, diarrhea, sometimes with blood present. Most animals infected with coccidia are asymptomatic but young or immunocompromised animals may become ill and even pass away. Coccidiosis can affect a wide array of animals including humans, and livestock they are usually species specific. It is spread from one animal to another by contact. The oocyst the coccidia egg has a hard shell and can lay dormant on the ground for long period of time. When a pigeon defecates on the ground another animal can then touch the same surface with the eggs attached. Cockroaches and flies can mechanically carry coccidia from one place to another, especially since flies are attracted to fecal matter. The fly then lands on a pet food or water bowl or even on the animal itself. Coccidiosis can complete their lifecycle in 2-5 days, so numbers build up very fast with an incubation period of 8 days until symptoms arise.
Trichomoniasis aka canker
This protozoan can affect a bird anywhere from the mouth to the crop. Affected birds will show signs of vomiting, weight loss, yawning, neck stretching, depressed, green runny droppings or loose droppings with mostly urates and no brown feces part. Transmission is from direct mouth to mouth transmission or contaminated food or water, unlike coccidiosis there is no resistant cyst so it doesn’t survive in the environment for long periods of time. It has an incubation period of 5 to 28 days before symptoms arise.
This Protozoan usually has an incubation period between 1 to 14 days before symptoms arise. Birds can contract giardia from drinking water. This parasite lives in the digestive tract that forms cysts that are shed in the feces. Some of the most common symptoms are diarrhea that is discolored and fowl smelling with mucus, anorexia, dirty or oily looking feathers and lethergy.
Quill Mites – These mites Feed on the feather quills and dust and irritate and stress the birds leaving them more at risk of disease.
Red mites, Often live in crevisses in and around the aviary during the day and come out to feed on the budgies and will come out and bite and suck the blood of birds as they sleep, this condition not only stresses the bird but can make them anemic.
Air Sac Mite
Quite a common disease in birds in Australia, these small mites live in the air sacs and windpipe of birds. from my experience Its most commonly found in canaries, finches and occasionally in smaller parrots and cockatiels.
Signs of air sac mite are open mouth breathing, singing or chirping has ceased, heavy breathing, when you place the bird close to your ear you can hear wheezing.
Left untreated the condition is fatal but the treatment is very simple as an ointment placed on the back of the bird that slowly kills the mites.
This easy treatment available at Birdsville will also rid the bird of any other mites including scaly mite at the same time. We recommend a precautionary broad spectrum antibiotic in the water as when the mites die it can cause an infection on a stressed bird. Birdsville always have avian broad spectrum anti biotics in stock.
Scaley face in bird’s
Most commonly seen in budgies, canaries and finches but can affect any bird including chickens. Signs of this condition include, crusty looking skin is seen on the face, legs, feet and rarely on the rump.
Left untreated this condition is fatal but can easily treated. Birdsville have a number of different medications to easily treat scaley face and they will look like brand new happy birds again.
Below are to photo’s of a budgie with a case of scaly face, a burrowing mite (Knemidokoptes) which is quite common in birds especially Budgerigars. This mite will affect the tissue around the cere and sometimes the eyelids. Just like the bird pictured below it can also affect the legs and feet and if left unchecked this condition will eventually lead to death.
What is the treatment for scaly face
Luckily this is very easy to cure completely by using Scaly Face Treatment or Vetafarm Avimec which will kill the mites allowing your birds skin to heal. During this process it is advisable to have your bird on a good quality seed mix and place vitamins in the bird’s water supply to boost the immune system. Our birdsville store always have this medication on hand. If you are unsure bring your bird in store and we can check it as well, we can also give some suggestions to stop the condition spreading to other birds if you have them.
Yeast or Fungal
yeast or fungal infections are common in birds. Species of yeast that affect birds include candida, aspergillus, cryptococcus, malassezia and Macrorhabdus. There is different variations of all these kinds of infections just like there is many variations of corona virus.
also known as candidiasis is very common in the environment and is classified and a fungus. Fresh fruit, vegetables and moist organic material must not be left in the enclosure too long as spoiled food harbors candida. Keep water clean changing at least twice a day. Poor hygiene in general can contain candidiasis so cleaning the enclosure regularly with cage cleaner or f10 disinfectant is recommended. Immature birds are thought to developed spontaneous primary candidiasis possibly because of exposure to cold drafts or cold weather also Juvenile birds have an un development of gastrointestinal defenses which allows candidiases to develop. One of the most common sources of candida are soaked and sprouted seed, no matter how meticulous one is in preparation, the bird consumes the sprouted seed and is infected with candidiasis.
This isn’t to stop people from feeding sprouted seed to their birds as the rewards far outweigh the risks in my opinion as it’s so healthy for them. If you are to supply sprouted seed, make sure you use multi or avi clense available at birdsville to reduce any chance of infection. Candida has an incubation period of 2 to 5 days before symptoms arise from infection.
It’s also spread by beak-to-beak contact, contaminated water, food, environment. Humidity over 75% in hot or cold weather is also thought to have an effect creating ideal conditions for candida to attack to the crop lining of birds.
another fungus with an incubation period of 2 to 5 days is an environmental contaminant that is present in the birds habitat. A lack of ventilation and proper ventilation, too much humidity or poor sanitation practices could increase the possibility of contracting Aspergillus as its not contagious from bird to bird and more commonly infects birds with compromised immune systems. Anything that causes immune suppression such as viral infection, poor air quality, cigarette smoke, respiratory irritants in the air, stress, poor husbandry, steroid use, anything that causes stress and drops the bird’s immune system can all cause secondary infection of aspergillus.
A fungal infection existent in most animals including birds plants and humans the incubation period for this fungus is unknown. This fungus rarely infects birds but when it does the transmission is usually from inhalation of spores possibly from pigeon excreta.
This condition normally effects the skin of many kinds of animals including birds and humans. This condition effects the skin and mucousal areas
also known and mega bacteria or avian gastric yeast. These microscopic organisms are 40 times bigger than bacteria. This disease typically causes a weight loss syndrome with bulky soft, dark feces as food is poorly digested. Many birds carry macrorhabdus with no sign of illness that remain healthy. There has been a case of a bird carrying the virus and then developing symptoms 4 years later. It is believed the presence of another disease, poor diet, young bird stress, cold or some kind of stress can bring on the disease. The transmission and incubation period of this disease is not yet confirmed, but theory is that infected feces are ingested by non-infected birds.
This condition is often more likely to appear in birds that have a poor natural ability to repel the disease, infection is often be confined to those individual birds with those bloodlines.
The best way of reducing your birds’ chances of getting this condition is reducing stress. See the section on stressors on this page as any of them could play its role in a budgie coming down with this condition.
The most common form of the disease in birds that show symptoms is a chronic wasting where the bird becomes very skinny, this form is thought not to be contagious unless it’s a bird that is genetically weak against this condition.
There is a form that can occur and outbreak in colony of birds. This is thought to be at a period of increased population within an aviary as baby birds are all coming out of their nests at the same time boosting the population creating a stressful environment.
Viruses in birds
This disease is a member of the herpesvirus and is spread by contaminated air, feather dust, contaminated food or water. This disease can be picked up from surfaces as well.
Some signs of this disease include, depression, Excessive urine, fluffed feathers, lethargy, anorexia. With incubation period of 3 to 7 days for symptoms to arise.
This disease is caused by the paramyxovirus and comes in 3 forms velogenic virulent, mesogenic moderate and lentogenic mild. It usually has an incubation period of 2 to 15 days before symptoms arise after contracting the virus. This disease can affect any bird species and is thought to be spread by wild birds. The disease is spread by direct contact with infected birds or contaminated water or food by infected birds, also with contact with people, equipment, vehicles, shoes, clothing contaminated by infected birds. Birds will experience different effects depending on which strain they catch, but these range from mild respiratory problems, loss of appetite, watery eye discharge, ruffled feathers and death.
Although rare humans can contract this virus and will often have flu like symptoms and conjunctivitis for 1 – 2 days.
Any outbreaks must be reported to the federal department of agriculture who will euthanasia any animals with this virus. Treatment in not permitted in Australia.
Avian influenza Virus type A
With many strains of this virus usually only the B and C forms of this virus effect humans. Often with an incubation period of only a few hours but averaging 2 to 5 days. It is spread by bodily fluid such as droppings or bodily fluid. Some birds with this virus will display depression, loss of appetite, coughing sneezing sudden death. The disease must be reported to department of agriculture who will euthanasia any animals with the virus.
Beak and feather disease
known also as circovirus, or French molt, a bird suffering from this condition is likely to show abnormal feathers or beak and nail growth. The disease attacks the follicles of the feathers, and they often appear brown or flat at the quill the base of the feather, these feathers fall out, weight loss, loss of powder down. Recognizable in white birds such as Sulphur crests and corellas as their feathers appear dirty or yellow. The beak will also appear shiny, the beak should look chalky. When you touch a cockatoo there should be powder on your hands. In Australia this disease is very common and is usually a baby bird disease, picked up from a young age as older birds are often a quite resistant to catching the disease. In my career of 20 years, I still haven’t seen a south American bird affected by the virus but have seen many cockatoos, and lorikeets brought in with the disease. This disease is so common in Australia just by the number of wild nestlings’ lorikeets that leave the nest unable to fly because the flight feathers have not developed properly. So, there is a lot of parrots that carry the virus unaffected but sadly the offspring are.
When you know what to look for beak and feather disease is very obvious. because we have baby birds, we have to escort them out straight away and recommend a vet. The disease is incurable and attacks the immune system some birds will die a slow horrible death from another virus. We have many customers who has had birds with beak and feather that tested positive over 20 years, and they still appear healthy with no symptoms.
Beak and feather disease is spread by food sharing through the crop, fresh or dried excrement and skin and feather particles.
There is no treatment for the disease and is fatal for some birds, but support can be given by healthy nutrition vitamins and a stress-free environment.
Beak and feather disease can be found in the blood as soon as 2 days after natural exposure to the virus and weeks before the bird will develop abnormalities.
Polyomavirus or Papovavirus
Young birds up to 56 days old are the most at risk of this virus and is usually fatal. Theory as believed that older birds from immunity to polyoma virus. The incubation period is 10 – 14 days before the bird shows symptoms.
Some birds will have the virus and show no symptoms. These birds can carry the virus being asymptomatic passing the virus onto their chicks but having no issues themselves, and some chicks are born the same way as the parents and so the cycle continues.
Birds that show symptoms, death is likely a matter of time. Symptoms include abnormal feather growth, blood spots on skin, vomiting, depression, loss of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss paralysis, tremors regurgitation.
With an incubation period of 5 to 15 from infection to symptoms. Chlamydia aka (psittacoses) is a common disease of birds all over Australia and every breeder will have very likely had chlamydia in their collection of birds without even knowing it. The disease is so common we seasonally medicate our birds in store for this disease just in case if its presence.
How is chlamydia spread? Its spread It’s entirely possible that a bird could have contracted the disease from an outside source such as pigeon/rat poo, breathing in dust containing dried saliva, feathers, mucous and droppings from infected birds. This can spread to an indoor pet via human hands, dust in the air or an outside fly landing on an affected surface containing the virus, then flying inside and landing on a birds’ water dish, or the bird itself.
Many birds live normal lives with the Chlamydia laying dormant, as they can also be asymptomatic and carry it for very long periods of time. Some birds can be immune to the disease as well.
Some birds with a lower immune system will break out in the virus. So keeping birds healthy through good diet and nutrition is excellent in helping keeping them disease free.
Young birds when stressed, moving to a new environment can become more stressed than normal and makes them more susceptible to diseases like Chlamydia. Young birds have underdeveloped immune systems are generally more susceptible.
This is why we are always so fastidious in keeping the shop clean, making sure they have a super healthy diet and have holding periods with all new birds that arrive.
Bacteria in birds
There is a number of kinds of bacteria that can effect birds. they are usually in 1 of 2 groups gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Gram negative bacteria are more likely to cause disease but not always. To identify the species of bacteria Gram staining is a process of dying bacteria and then viewing them under a microscope. This is the useful way all veterinary clinics use in classifying bacteria to have a better chance of choosing the most effective antibiotic.
Gram positive bacteria have a thick cell wall and show blue or purple indicating its potentially one of a number of bacteria types including staphylococcus, bacillus, streptococcus
gram negative show pink or red on staining and have a thin cell walls indicating its potentially one of a number of bacteria including campylobacter, Salmonella, E.coli, mycoplasma
Is a condition found everywhere in the environment of birds. In mixed collections this disease is more likely to just effect birds with weakened immune systems. This condition is more common is unventilated humid and dusty areas often found indoors that haven’t got access to fresh air and sunlight. From infection it usually has an incubation period of 2 to 3 days before symptoms arise.
A gram-positive bacterium, this disease is usually caused by any stressful conditions that impair immunity see our bird stressors area above on this page. Streptococcus is naturally occurring inside many birds’ gut flora. stressed bird can come out in this condition quite quickly as it usually an incubation period between 2 to 5 days before symptoms arise.
Salmonella is spread by contaminated feces, this is spread by food, water, direct contact even insects. Contaminated food is the most common reason to pick up this infectio. This bacteria usually has an incubation period of 12 – 72 hours before symptoms arise after contact.
Also known as Chronic respiratory disease a very small bascteria like organism. has an incubation period between 7 days to 21 days before symptoms arise, however shorter and longer durations can happen.
Mycoplasma can be spread by humans, insects and other animals, it can be transported on your skin, hair, shoes
A birds immunity will indicate each individual bird’s susceptibility, visit our stressors area mentioned above. This condition is contracted mostly in 2 ways
Humidity levels in the air higher than 75% in cold or warm weather can reduce a budgies natural defenses to resist disease. Cold damp conditions and or contaminated food or water. Insects such as flies and cockraches can transmit large quantities of E.coli to food, water or the bird itself. This disease usually has an incubation period of 1 to 3 days
Other conditions birds can get
Enteritis or diarrhea in birds can be caused by bacteria, stress, virus or parasites. This condition can cause a bird to die of dehydration.
Other diseases birds can get include but not limited to
Cockatiel conjunctivitis, Diabetes. tumors, wing tumours, gout, paralysis, syndrome, cockatiel conjunctiveitis, macaw acne, egg binding, chronic egg laying, Herpes virus of the feet, Dry Pox, Pox Virus, Septicaemia Pox, Wet Pox, papillomatosis, nestling viral disease, Blocked Gizzard, sour crop
When to see a vet???
when should you see a vet or your bird specialist store
One of the most common issues in older birds is plucking, below you can see a photo of birds that we have rehomed in the past and all have the same issue of pulling their feathers out. Plucking is not a disease but a bad habit similar to a human chewing on their fingernails. In extreme cases the parrot can continue and chew their skin, and this becomes life threatening. If you have a bird that plucks its feathers please come in and see us as we have a number of diet and behavioral regimes that can help reverse this problem.
Knowing your bird and its normal behavior and body condition may save your birds life. At Birdsville, we have a selection of antibiotics, a broad-spectrum antibiotic powder for use in ornamental birds for bacterial infections including E.coli (Enteritis), Mycoplasma (Chronic Respiratory Disease) and Chlamydia (Psittacosis). This is added to the drinking water. our antibiotic is an ideal “first line” antibiotic where a definite diagnosis is not available. If the birds fail to respond to the treatment within 3 days veterinary advice should be obtained. lice and mite treatments, vitamin supplements, probiotics and much more available.
A common illness in parrots we unfortunately still come across is heavy metal poisoning from old rusty cages. No antibiotics available at birdsville can fix this and therefor your bird must be rushed to the vet so always check your cage and if its old and rusty plea
about or what
How its spread
can humans catch it and symptoms
Medication or vet treatment
Possible Signs of Bird Illness or injury
Fluffed up appearance, Loss of song or raspy voice, Loss of weight, Unusual amounts of sneezing, coughing, Discharge from the nasal area, Red nostrils, Dirty vent, unclean around the anus, Loss of appetite, Dropped or drooping wings, Eye discharge, Swollen eye lids, Swelling or growths (lumps), Sitting on the floor, Lethargic, Changes in droppings – becoming looser, changes in colour, Loosing feathers, bare patches or injury
Recommended Vets and links below
The Wild Vet
1300 9453 83822A Bridge Road, Glebe Carlingford
02 9871 6036
772 Pennant Hills Road Carlingford
Small Animal Specialist
Hospital 02 (9190 6806)
Level 1, 1 Richardson place North Ryde
02 9436 4884
57-63 Herbert St Artarmon
995 Bourke Street waterloo Sydney NSW 2017