Old World Aviaries

My experience with Psittacine beak and feather disease

Jean Pattison

In my case, long before import closed its doors, I had purchased four adult pairs of Jardines. They were so beautiful I went back a year later and purchased two more pairs, but these had "young" bird features. My first four pairs were very reliable breeders for a few years. Then the young ones decided to lay, and were fertile. It was the end of my breeding season, and I had a few left over Greys I was feeding, plus all the Jardines went to nest and had chicks at about the same time. I believe I had 6 baby Greys and about 10 baby Jardines. The Greys were about 6 to 8 weeks old when I pulled the Jardines at 3 weeks. I had one chick from one of the new breeding Jardines. Everything was uneventful until the Jardines started weaning. I had one Grey that had gotten food in his nostril, and I wasn't able to flush it quite right. I was having a heck of a time with him, and he didn't want to wean. This baby Grey cried a lot, and was very clingy.

I walked into the nursery one morning, and all the tail feathers of the one new Jardine's were lying in the water dish. "Uh-oh, what's going on here?" Well I have seen a bird get feathers caught and they drop them. He was in a holding cage at this time. I called my daughter and asked if she would take him to her house, because she didn't have any birds. Over a period of about 4 days he lost a few primary feathers daily. My vet was on vacation, but I called her and she said get the baby out, which I had already done. She also asked about the grey with the runny, clogged nostril? "Not doing well," I informed her. She returned about a week later. I had the Grey on antibiotics, but it was still not doing well. He died the day before she got here. He had psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), which was confirmed by histopathology. But, everyone else seemed fine.

The day after the histopathology results on the Grey baby, the vet was here to draw blood on everyone. The procedure was nuts, because of how careful you have to be because the test is so sensitive. I got the vial from a plastic bag in another room, and held it as her assistant met me part way. He would fill the vial. The vet would change gloves, and get a new syringe from another plastic bag, etc. The vet advised me that I had very healthy babies. But, I would probably have a few positives, and they would seroconvert. Not to worry. Of course I sat in the middle of my nursery floor crying my eyes out, knowing all my precious babies were going to die. We had called ahead, and the lab was expecting the samples. We had the results in the next day or two. It was a remarkable turn around.

Out of all the birds we had eight positives. They figured, in all the time of the shedding, some had already seroconverted. We put all the negatives outside in a holding area away from other birds. All the positives stayed in a different area outside.

Now, where did it come from? Going back over all records, it had to be the newer Jardines. All the other pairs had babies in here for years and years, and some of the parents to some chicks had been screened for PBFD. Because the new Jardines had been purchased as youngsters out of quarantine, logically they already had it, or got it from a Jardine I already had in close proximity.

We tested birds in all directions. All the old and newer Jardines and all my Timnehs. These were the birds grouped in the same location. The only bird positive was the father of the chick that lost his tail feathers. He was euthanized, and his son was euthanized.

Ninety days later all the nursery birds were retested. The negatives were still negative. Four of the eight original positives were negative, and four were still positive. We waited another 90 days and retested again. All birds were negative. So, out of 16 babies in the nursery, 2 died; the actively infected Jardine and the compromised Grey.

Many of my birds, as the test had become available, had already been screened for PBFD, and the ones I already had, prior to the tests availability, have since been tested. No other bird ever came back positive.

All birds that come onto my property are tested for PBFD. When I bought a large group of Cape Parrots here in Florida, they were all tested while I had them in my quarantine, and out of 12, 3 were positive. We retested in 30 days (birds over 3 years, you retest in 30 days, birds under 3 years, you retest in 90 days). The retest on the three, came back negative.

Part of the health of the chicks in the nursery may because the parents fed for at least 3 weeks. I was very lucky in a lot of ways. They say that sometimes you may never find the carrier and be able to eliminate it. I was also told that the father of the Jardine chick probably had not shed prior to his first breeding. The stress of breeding was probably the reason for him to actively start shedding. The hen that was origninally with the postitive Jardine was re-paired years ago. Her babies have all tested negative, as she has.

Had it not been the end of the breeding season, it could have been a disaster. No birds moved in or out of the nursery, once the PBFD chick had come in. I was very lucky.

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