My Parrot is Sneezing – What’s Wrong!?

Sun Conure

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Melanie Phung

All parrots occasionally sneeze to clear their nares (nostrils).  However, frequent sneezing and the discharge of mucus is cause for concern.  Sometimes, a simple environmental change, such as the use of a humidifier, is all that is required.  In other cases conditions ranging from bacterial or viral infections to tumors, air sac mites or nutritional deficiencies may be involved.  Unfortunately, even if it is obvious that dry or dusty air is playing a role, medical issues cannot be ruled out without veterinary advice – websites purporting to aid in home diagnosis should not be relied upon.  In this article, we’ll review some common causes of sneezing and nasal discharge in budgies, cockatiels, cockatoos and other parrots.

 

General Considerations

As mentioned, an occasional sneeze is normal. The presence of mucus or other nasal discharge (with or without sneezing) should be taken as a danger sign.  Although typically associated with respiratory or related infections, mucus may also be formed when parrots need to rid their nares of dust, or in response to smoke or other chemical irritants.  Either way, prompt action is needed.  While veterinarians can draw some conclusions from the mucus’ appearance – clear, thick, coloration, presence of blood, etc. – pet owners should not speculate and attempt to resolve the problem without expert assistance.

 

Finger training

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Evenprime

Your Parrot’s Environment

Environmental problems are easier to remedy than are medical concerns.  While some budgies (parakeets) and some other species are adapted to arid habitats, most parrots are native to environments that are relatively humid for much or all of the year.  Indoor air in dry regions, and any indoor air that is heated or air-conditioned, is too dry for many commonly-kept parrots.

 

Fumes and mist or smoke from cooking, household cleaners and the like can also irritate the respiratory tract, leading to sneezing and the over-production of mucus.

 

Air filters, humidifiers, misting, live plants and saline flushes can be used to improve your pet’s environment.  However, be careful not to let environmental concerns mask a more serious medical condition – both can exist simultaneously.  Even if it is obvious that your home is too dry for your parrot, err on the side of caution and see a veterinarian.

 

Medical Concerns for Sneezing

Medical concerns that may be involved include fungal, bacterial, viral or yeast infections.  Parrots that have such ailments will usually show other symptoms as well, including appetite loss, a reluctance to move about, and labored breathing.  However, a bird may battle an infection for some time, behaving normally until a critical point is reached, at which time its condition can decline very quickly.  Therefore, a vet visit is prudent as soon as you notice unusual sneezing or a nasal discharge.

 

mediaNutrition

Any type of nutritional problem can weaken the immune system, leaving your pet open to attack by a variety of pathogens.  Vitamin A is of particular importance, as it is vital to the development of the cells lining the respiratory system.  Abnormal cells, common in Vitamin A deficient birds, seem to be easy targets for bacteria and other pathogens.  Most seeds are low in Vitamin A, while pellets and many fruits and vegetables have higher levels.  If your pet is on a seed-based diet, a vitamin supplement should be considered.  Please post below, and see the linked articles, for information on incorporating pellets and produce into parrot diets.

 

Other Possibilities

Tumors and other growths in the nares, sinuses or related areas may cause dry sneezing.  Parrots suffering from an air sac mite infestation may exhibit labored, open-mouthed breathing.

 

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Nutriberries and Pellets: Improving Your Parrot’s Diet

 

Parrot Health: Labored Breathing and Respiratory Distress

 

 

 

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease – An Incurable Parrot Virus Spreads

Cockatoo with PBFD

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by snowmanradio

The pet trade is being blamed for an emerging epidemic that is threatening captive and wild parrots worldwide.  Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) is caused by a Circovirus that evolves quickly, spreads easily, and survives for years in nests and roosting areas.  African Gray and Eclectus Parrots, Macaws, Cockatoos, Love Birds and Ring-Necked Parakeets are especially susceptible, but over 60 species have been infected. Included among these are wild populations of several endangered species, such as Swift, Orange-Bellied and Norfolk Island Green Parrots.  First identified in 1987, PBFD has recently reared its ugly head on New Zealand’s South Island, where it is killing rare Yellow-Crowned Parakeets.

 

An Emerging, Untreatable Parrot Disease

The virus that causes PBFD seems to have evolved in Australia, and for a time was endemic to that continent.  The threatened Orange-Bellied Parrot was the first species in which it was identified.  It has now been found in wild and pet parrot populations throughout the world.

 

Unfortunately, ongoing research has not yielded a cure.  Three forms of the disease are known.  Peracute and Acute PBFD afflict hatchlings and nestlings, and quickly lead to death.  Adult parrots infected with Chronic PBFD can be assisted a bit by strengthening the immune system, but they generally succumb as well.

 

A proper diet, exposure to sunlight or a UVA/UVB bulb, and the establishment of a natural day/night cycle has been useful in some cases.  Please see this article for more on testing, diagnosis, and treatments that may lessen the symptoms of PBFD.

 

The Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease Strikes New Zealand

Yellow Crowned Parakeet

Uploaded to Wiki[pedia Commons by Scott Wieman

In 2012, University of Canterbury researchers announced that a new strain of PBFD had been found on South Island, New Zealand, which until then had been free of the virus.  The island’s threatened Yellow-Crowned Parakeets were stricken.  The existence of a new strain is especially troubling, and illustrates the difficulties involved in studying and eliminating rapidly-evolving Circoviruses.  The disease was previously identified in the already-rare Red-Fronted Parakeets on Little Barrier Island, off New Zealand’s North Island (site of a Kakapo rescue operation).

The Pet Trade Connection

New Zealand is home to several of the world’s most unusual parrots, such as the alpine-dwelling, meat-eating Kea and the nocturnal Kakapo.  Despite decades of protection and study, the much-loved Kakapo is on the brink of extinction.

 

Kea

Uploaded to Wikipedia commons by snowmanradio

Escaped and released non-native parrots, products of the legal and illegal pet trade, are considered to be the source of the PBFD outbreak on New Zealand.  Eastern Rosellas, which are native to Australia but feral on New Zealand, were found to be infected with the virus.  Other Australian parrots that are or may be breeding in New Zealand include the Rainbow Lorikeet, Crimson Rosella, Galah, and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo.

 

To determine the extent of the PBFD problem in New Zealand, researchers are monitoring native and introduced parrots.  In recent years, nearly 800 individuals representing 7 endemic parrot species were tested for PBFD.  Genetic analysis of the PBFD virus is also being undertaken.

 

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease in Pet Parrots

 Saving the Kakapo

Kea Intelligence Shocks Researchers

 

New Bird Species in 2013 – Owls, Jays and other Surprises

Rinjani Scops Owl

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by or Sangster G, King BF, Verbelen P, Trainor CR

Birds are the most intensely observed and studied of all vertebrates, yet each year ornithologists and birders, surprise us with new species.  2013 was a particularly fruitful time for the species-seekers.  Included among the year’s discoveries are an owl endemic to a single island, a loud, colorful songbird found in the middle of a bustling capital city, and scores of others, some quite large and brilliantly-colored. Without further delay – check out the new bird species of 2013 below!

 

Rinjani Scops Owl, Otus jolandae

This owl was confused with the Malaccan Scops Owl until an ornithologist noted a difference in their calls.  The Rinjani Scops Owl produces  whistling vocalizations that are most “un-owl-like” and, once heard, cannot be confused with those of its relatives.  The fact that it is endemic to Lombok Island, in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda chain, lends greater importance to the find…island endemics often face threats to their survival.

 

Birds of the Amazon Basin

C. chrysops

Uploaded to Wikipedis Commons by David.Monniaux

Once again, the Amazon Basin yielded more new birds (and a great many insects, fishes, mammals and other creatures) than anywhere else on earth.  This might be expected, as it is a world center of bird diversity, with over 1,300 species identified thus far.  But many of the 15 new species described this year surprised even seasoned local ornithologists with their size and coloration…the Campina Jay (a similar relative is pictured here) and the Tupana Scythbill (a

similar relative is pictured below) are good examples.   Other new species included woodcreepers, puffbirds, antwrens, flycatchers and gnatcatchers.

 

Cambodian Tailorbird, Orthotomus chaktomuk

Although the Cambodian Tailorbird is only wren-sized, it sings loudly and its rust-colored head cap and black throat are very distinctive.  So ornithologists were quite surprised to find that it had been “hiding in plain sight”.  It was first seen at a construction site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s bustling capital city.  Further investigation revealed that it inhabits patches of scrub throughout the city, and is common on nearby river floodplains.

 

Orange billed Sparrow

Uploadedto Wikipedia Commons by Jerry Oldenette

Guerrero Brush Finch, Aremon brunneinucha

This beautiful little bird, a relative of the sparrows and buntings, is in need of study and protection.  Found only in the cloud forests of Mexico’s Sierra Madre  del Sur mountain range, it is similar in appearance to related species (please see photo), but little is known of its natural history or the status of its population.

 

Sierra Madre Ground Wren, Robonius thompsoni

This newfound bird is placed in a very unique genus, which contains only two other species.  Ground Wrens are found only in the northern Philippines, and seem unrelated to other songbirds.  They stay mostly to thick brush and forest undergrowth, and are believed capable only of weak flight.  The newly-discovered species is, like the others, a master ventriloquist…locating one by voice alone is said to be impossible.  Much remains to be learned about the group’s natural history and conservation needs.

 

Red Billed Scythbill

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Michael Woodruff

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

 

Further Reading

Bald Parrot Discovered in Amazon

2012′s New Bird Species

 

Happy Holidays, That Bird Blog Readers!

Dear Readers,

Thanks very much for your interest in my articles on That Bird Blog and for sharing your thoughts, observations and questions.  Other readers have benefited, and I have learned much of value as well.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our correspondences, and wish each of you, and your loved ones, a happy and healthy Holiday Season and New Year.

Thanks again, Frank Indiviglio

Frank Indiviglio

Rockafella center

The Best Holiday Gifts for Parrots and Parrot Owners

African grey parrotHi, Frank Indiviglio here. I’m a zoologist and book author, recently retired from a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo. Today I’d like to review some holiday gift-giving options for the birds and bird-lovers on your list. I’ve mainly focused on items that can improve an owner’s pet-keeping experience while adding to their bird’s quality of life.

Cages

Providing your pet with a larger cage is one of the most important steps that you can take to ensure its good health and longevity. My observations of parrots, both in the wild and under my care in zoos, have convinced me of this. Appropriately-sized cages allow our birds to engage in a greater variety of behaviors and, by reducing stress, help to limit health-care expenses.

t5071Training is often simplified, as parrots kept in tight quarters are difficult to interact-with.
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