Accolades to Patricia Sund, author of the piece, “Oscar The Survivor,” who took painstakingly efficient measures to ensure that her meeting with Oscar did not put her own flock at risk of infection. (I don’t believe BIRD TALK has ever had a contributing author don a hazmat suit to interview her subject, which goes to show how transmittable PBFD can be.)
Lately, it seems, every morning starts with a clean sweep of the bird room to pick up wayward feathers and related debris. In fact, I had just finished picking up several of my cockatiel Gracie’s down feathers this morning when he gripped the top of his cage and started flapping ... sending whatever feathers and dander that had quietly settled on the cage bottom swirling into the air. Coincidently, he always seems to do this whenever I happen to be wearing black. At the time, this was very annoying since I was trying to get out the door to work, without looking like I sprinkled talcum powder on myself.
Once in the office, I was given a reality check while reading through this issue. Specifically, “Faces Of PBFD” made me thank my lucky stars to have a healthy, fully feathered flock, even if that requires frequent sweeps of molted feathers.
You’ve probably heard of psittacine beak & feather disease (PBFD), but, fortunately, many us have never had to do battle with it. This is one avian disease where photos really illustrate its toll on the infected bird, as well as just how emotionally devastating it is for the bird’s owner and even the avian veterinarians who try to treat it.
With this issue, instead of focussing on the clinical aspects of an avian disease (e.g. “how the disease works”), we profiled a very special bird, Oscar the cockatoo, which despite having lost most of her feathers, seems to relish life.
We also talked to the avian veterinarian who identified and named the disease. We learn of his frustrations in pinpointing just why birds were succumbing to a condition that caused their beak and feathers to rot and his hope that PBFD will some day be conquered.
There is hope on the horizon. Vaccinations for PBFD are in the works, and we will be profiling these, as well as other advances in avian medicine, in an upcoming issue. And please be aware that PBFD doesn’t always end in euthanasia. Many birds, like Oscar, continue to live happy lives years after initial diagnosis. But until PBFD and other communicable diseases are a thing of the past, we should all err on the side of caution and discipline ourselves as far as following strict quarantine practices when adding a new bird to the flock and making a habit of implementing at least basic bio-security protocol.