Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) is a disease that leads to feather loss and can eventually lead to the bald parrot syndrome. This disease is, to say the least, a nuisance. It affects parrots (Psittacines) of all types but a form of the disease can also affect doves and pigeons. In Budgerigars the disease is sometimes called French Moult.

How to Tell If Your Bird Has Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease

Birds with Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease become bald and look downright ugly. Most people would have seen a parrot with this disease. Often their owners knit them cute 'Cocky' jackets to keep them warm!

 Birds with Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease become bald and look downright ugly.

You can distinguish between PBFD and normal feather plucking by looking at where the feathers are being lost. If they are missing from the head and crest - an area they cannot get to with their beak to pluck - then it is likely to be Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease.

If your bird has PBFD it will show abnormal feather and beak growth. The feathers look like stubble and are obviously deformed and the beak, too, can be affected. Early in the disease, you may notice that your Parrot produces less powder down - the white 'talcum powder' dust that can be rubbed off the feathers of healthy parrots. It also causes a depression of the bird's immune system and this can lead to the development of other diseases. Ultimately, it causes death although affected birds can live for a long time.

If your bird is affected by this disease, you will probably notice short clubbed feathers. Sometimes the feathers are curled. Feathers in normal birds have a 'sheath' around them when they first grow, but this is soon lost. Birds with PBFD retain this sheath so the feathers, apart from being short, don't grow into a normal feather. You may notice that the feather shafts often break, or that narrowing or pinching of the shafts occurs. The condition worsens with each moult and your bird will usually become progressively balder due to inactivity of its feather follicles.

The beak is often affected too. It is deformed, especially the upper beak, and often overgrown. It usually splits or breaks.

A form of the disease also affects very young parrots. Before any feather abnormality is noticed, they develop diarrhoea, become lethargic, lose weight and die.

There is now a specific DNA test available for the disease. This is a blood test and can be done by your veterinarian who will send the blood sample to a laboratory for diagnosis.

What Can you Do to Help Your Bird if it has PBFD?

Regretfully, there is no specific treatment for the disease at present. Infected birds can live a long life but they do need very good care because they are susceptible to other diseases.
If you have a bird with PBFD you should ensure it lives in a healthy, clean environment, as free from stress as possible. You should ensure you are giving it a good diet, and regular veterinary care is also important.

If the beak is overgrown, it can be carefully trimmed, but you may prefer to leave that job to your veterinarian. Sometimes the deformity of the beak is painful. You should ensure that you see your veterinarian if you feel your bird is suffering. It is important that your Parrots beak is not so deformed that it cannot eat.

Some birds seem to respond, at least for a short while, to Biotin being added to their feed. Your veterinarian can give you more details.

A virus know as a Circovirus causes the disease. Much research is currently underway trying to produce a vaccine to counter this virus, but none is yet available.

The virus is a nuisance as it persists in the environment for a long time and is resistant to most disinfectants. It is readily spread between birds by faeces and feather dust. Parent birds may pass the disease to offspring during feeding and a carrier state - infected and contagious birds which dont show the disease - is thought to exist too.

Any bird with the disease should be isolated from any apparently non-infected bird to stop the spread. However the virus can be transmitted to birds by human attendants where it is carried on clothes, feeding containers and so on. Hygiene is therefore very important.

Its contagious nature makes this a problem disease in an aviary of parrots but it can also make an individual bird very sick. It will certainly shorten its life. If you feel your bird may have this disease, contact your veterinarian or a specialist avian veterinarian for further advice.

The Internet has a wealth of information on this condition. Try searching for 'Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease' using any search tool.