Health Care

- By DeAnn Waggoner, Executive Director, Wings of Love Bird Haven

Everyone that owns a pet at some time will need to leave their home for more than a day at a time- requiring a need for a pet sitter or boarding facility to care for their beloved pet. Of course you want to do what is best and SAFEST for your pet. Below is our recommendation on how to choose this care in the safest way possible.

Considering that many pet owners are not "responsible pet owners" many people don't get their birds (or other pets for that matter) vet-checked regularly, nor do they get the necessary vaccinations they need to be and stay healthy. For this reason, the first question you should ask a boarding facility is if they require the birds to have been tested negative for the four most serious diseases: Polyoma (PVD), Psittacine Beak and Feather (PBFD), Psittacid Herpes (PsHV) and Psittacosis. If the facility does not require this, it is our suggestion that you not even consider using it. These diseases are extremely airborne. Should any bird in the facility have any of these diseases and your bird is anywhere within the same air space, it is possible for your bird to get it. Of course, if you've vaccinated your bird, some of these won't be a concern.

In our opinion, unless the above is done, it is far safer to find someone willing to come into your home to care for and feed your bird than to chance your bird being exposed to such diseases unecessarily. Even if you do this, make sure that the person caring for your bird in your home sanitizes himself prior to handling your bird or the dishes. Even someone coming into your home, if they own birds of their own, could be bringing in disease.

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(Xanthopterys goes 400-500)
Double Yellow-Headed450-65015
Spectacled (White Front)205-235
Tres Marias500
Greater Sulphur-Crested880
Lesser Sulphur-Crested350
Palm900 (Adults range from 600-1000)18
Greater Patagonian315-39012
Lesser Patagonian240-31010
Queen of Bavaria's270
Masked50 (most females weigh more than males)
MACAWBlue and Gold800-129220
MISCAfrican Ringneck105
Indian Ringneck115
Pacific Parrotlet31-34
Red-fronted Kakariki100
St. Vincent580-700
Zebra Finch10-16
Crimson Rosella145
Quaker or Monk90-150
Greater Vasa480
Lesser Vasa280
Timneh Grey300-36012

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- By DeAnn Waggoner, Executive Director, Wings of Love Bird Haven

Feather-picking: What Really Causes it? STRESS!

Simply put, feather-picking is the end manifestation of undue stress placed upon a bird by one or several conditions. These conditions are divided into five main categories.

2. Metabolic Causes (infectious and non-infectious)
3. Nutritional
4. Hormonal
5. Psychological


Feather-picking can have mild, moderate or severe presentations. Mild picking may manifest itself as chewing a few feathers or wing tips, while moderate cases involve plucking and removing feathers. The worst form is termed "Mutilation Syndrome", where birds actually inflict wounds in their skin and muscle possibly causing life- threatening situations such as bleeding, nerve or muscle damage, and severe infections.

Primary Etiological Groups

1. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PVFD) and Polyoma Virus (PVD)- PBVD affects the immune system of the bird and in one presentation actually causes the necrosis (death) of the feather follicle and its eventual loss from the body. Once a follicle is dead, no feather can be re-grown in that follicle. There is an accurate blood test to determine if a bird is a carrier whether the bird is symptomatic or non-symptomatic. Another virus, Polyoma, has been shown to cause feather loss as well, but typically prevalent in young birds with adults more likely acting as carriers.
There is a blood test as well as a vaccine for Polyoma disease.

2. Metabolic Causes. These are causes that affect internal organ structures and can
be sub-classified as (a) infectious and (b) non-infectious.

(A) Infectious Metabolic. Any infectious agent (i.e. Chalamydia, Bacterial, fungal, parasitic) that can damage an internal organ and/or cause enough stress on the bird to lead to a feather-picking syndrome, even though it may only show up as "ratty- looking" feathers.

(B) Non-infectious Metabolic. These are substances that are in the environment that can do harm to our pet birds. Examples: heavy metal poisoning (lead, zinc, copper), nicotine poisoning from second hand smoke, heart disease with decreased blood flow to various organs and chronic nutritional imbalances are only some of the causes which may present as feather picking. Sometimes the bird will "attack" the site of pain on the skin relating to the injured organ system in a predictable way. Most of these causes can be detected by blood tests, radiographs or other specialty tests.

3. Nutritional. This is purposefully located in the center of the list as the fulcrum between physical causes and mental/hormonal (sexual) causes. Nutrition alone can affect ALL organs and exaggerate any other malady of the body. The skin and feathers make up the largest organ system in the body and as such will reflect a lack of proper nutrients, similar to hair and nails in humans. Imbalances in Vitamin A, amino acids, calcium, trace minerals, Vitamin B and excess fats have all been shown to influence feather conditioning.

4. Hormonal. Many birds (male and female) with rising hormone levels as they mature can exhibit "sexual frustration" or "Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)" with the subsequent sign of feather picking. This may occur only seasonally (sometimes accompanied by increased aggression) in response to the "breeding season" for that species. However, this together with Psychological causes (#5) have been found to explain less than 23% of "feather picking" or exaggerated preening behavior. Today, there are several options to treat these cases and minimize the effects of hormones on a bird's mental state, including hormone therapy, neutering and/or mood-modulating drugs (which, by the way, we don't recommend except under extreme conditions).

5. Psychological. The mind is a powerful organ that takes in various environmental experiences through the senses and attempts to make logic out of it. Sometimes this logic mechanism short circuits and the only way the bird knows how to deal with life's anxieties is to take out his or her problems upon it's own body. Some of the worst self-mutilation cases have been diagnosed as an "acute psychotic episode".

Diagnostic Protocol

A good medical history is crucial in all feather-picking cases. The overall goal is to perform tests to rule out the common/likely causes in a methodical manner based on history and a physical examination. With an organized medical plan, an answer can often be achieved without missing a key area. Various testing can include blood panels, viral testing, radiographs, chlamydophila testing, heavy metal testing, DNA sexing, as well as diet and nutritional evaluation. A diary of events leading to the symptoms composed by the owner of the affected bird can be very helpful in dealing with hormonal and psychological causes.

Since most birds presented to a vet's office with plucking problems have a chronic history of picking, time is of the essence since, in general, for every day a bird picks, it takes at least one day to repair the damage.

In conclusion, the situation of "feather-picking", "exaggerated preening" and "mutilation syndrome" is NOT simple at all. They key point to remember is that feather-picking is only a "system", not a diagnosis. However, with today's technology, experience and the bird owner's patience, most birds can have dramatic improvements, but first, a proper diagnosis must be reached, the proper medication selected (in extreme cases) and the proper environmental changes achieved.

If you found article useful, please considering making a $2 donation to benefit the birds at Wings of Love Bird Haven by clicking the button below.


One of the most important things you can do for your bird is to establish a good rapport with a certified avian vet immediately upon bringing your avian friend into your home. The reason for this is simple: You don't want to wait until there is a problem with their health to have the doctor see the bird. It is extremely valuable for your vet to have recorded data on an annual basis to compare with if ever a problem does come up.

The Well Birdie Check...

The "WELL BIRDIE CHECK" should be done within 2 weeks of bringing the bird into your home. During this check the vet should do the following:
1. Check the weight of the bird in grams
2. Do a physical examination, which should include examining the nares, vent, oral
cavity and ears of the bird.
3. A CBC (complete blood count) should be obtained.
4. Gram stains of oral cavity and fecal droppings.
5. Testing for Chlamydophilia, Polyoma and Psittacine Beak and Feather disease.
5. Vaccinations as deemed necessary.
6. Other suggested tests, depending on the birds age, species and health condition.
7. Discuss any behavioral/hormonal concerns or changes that you might have noticed.
8. Microchipping should be done, especially if the bird does not have a leg band. It is also our suggestion that any legband the bird has be removed.

There are several very important reasons why leg bands aren't the best form of identification. First, leg bands have a tendency of getting caught on toys, ropes, etc and have been known to cause serious injury--even death in some cases. Second, after continued wear, the pounding of the band on the birds digital flexor tendon can lead to tendonitis and loss of flexor function. Third, many birds object to something on their leg which leads to chewing on it causing behavioral problems such as featherpicking. Fourth, over time the numbers on the band wear off and are illegible making their identification useless. Fifth, if the bird is lost or stolen the first thing the new owner will do is to "remove" the leg band making identification proof impossible. Tatooing, another form of bird identification, is permanent but not unique or able to be registered.

Microchipping a bird just makes is a piece of silicon with a unique 12-digit alphanumberic code that is read by a reader that emits an electronic signal and sends the code back to the display. The tiny implant is planted into the birds chest musculature while it is fully awake. This form of identification has been being used for years with no known side effects.

The Annual Vet Check...

The Annual check should essentially repeat the above items (with exception of the testing for the 3 diseases, microchipping and the vaccinations) to have a comparison of the birds health for future referencing. Don't count on "My bird doesn't look sick...".

Most humans "appear" well and then suddenly succumb to heart attacks, seizures, cancer and other incurable diseases. Birds, being wild animals are able to hide their symptoms of disease better than humans or even dogs and cats. It is imparative to have this yearly checkup to catch any problem before it becomes fatal.

How to Choose a Good Vet...

Choosing a good avian vet is very important for your bird- and for your own peace of mind. We recommend the follow...

1. The vet should be a member of AAV as that promotes advanced avian medicine. Beyond this...
2. Ask for references from local pet stores and clubs.
3. Call the clinic to see how many "bird" visits they have per month. IF they have only a few occasionally then it is very difficult for the veterinarian to stay current on avian medicine.
4. Set up an appointment for you and your bird to meet the vet to see if you and your bird both have a good "rapport" with the vet. This is very important. Don't wait until something happens to get to know him.

Something no one wants to think about...

The importance of having a Necropsy done.
A necropsy is the examination of an animal after death. When one of our beloved pets die it is a great loss, but sometimes the reason for the death can give insight, closure and often save the life of other pets or even humans in the home. A necropsy is a full internal and external examination of all the birds organs which will tell us the cause of death.

To gather the most valuable information from a necropsy please do the following immediately after the bird is found:

1. Place the birds body in a Ziplock bag.
2. Place just a few drops of water in the bag.
3. Remove as much air from the bag as possible and seal.
4. Refrigerate (do not freeze) the body.
5. Bring the body to the vets office within 24 hours of death. If later a necropsy can still be done however some organs might not be of diagnostic value. Remember, doing a necropsy will help you not only discover why the bird died but can give insight, which could save future animals or people from illness or death.

If you found article useful, please considering making a $2 donation to benefit the birds at Wings of Love Bird Haven by clicking the button below.