Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sick/Dying Parrotlets


I hope you will be able to help me. I am at my wits end. I should begin with the fact that I have an indoor aviary where I raise finches. About 2 years ago I got my young son a parrotlet so he could have a more interactive bird. Despite being sold as 'hand-fed' and hand raised, he was always aggressive. About a month ago, a friend who has a small local pet shop decided to get rid of all her birds and offered me her 3 parrotlets at a fairly good price. I personally have seen them in the store for at least 6 months that I can recall and they appeared in good health. When I brought them home, I kept them separated from the other parrotlet and observed for any illness. To make a long story short, the first two died within two weeks, with no obvious signs of illness other than 'going light'. I tried many different types of seed, including millet spray since most birds seem to gobble that up and of course fed the previous food that they have been receiving. There were none of the obvious signs of illness. As a last resort, I tried hand feeding and given Amtex (amoxicillin). The only conclusion I could come to was that they may have not received the best care in the pet store and died from the stress of a new environment.

Now this is where things get a bit worse. I put the remaining, healthy bird in with mine (male+female) and my bird is now showing signs of being lethargic, sleeping, etc. Vent clean, droppings look good, I am observing for all the usual stuff. I am wondering if you are aware of any illness that is so lethal to these guys in such a short period of time. All the other birds in my aviary are healthy, including the remaining one from the pet shop. If anything, I would have expected to lose her if it was an issue of previous bad care. What, if anything can I do in terms of first aid?

I live is a rather rural area and have learned a long time ago that that the vets around here don't know much. I even drove an hour to see one that specialized in avian medicine and he was the least help. I have already lost two parrotlets and would be devastated by losing the one we have had for a couple years now. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I am grateful that you have taken the time to read this.


Dear Tina:

I am very sorry to hear about the problems with these birds. Obviously, I am not a vet nor does my 30 years of experience with parrotlets qualify me as someone who can definitively answer your questions. As someone who has birds, you know there is no way to absolutely know what happened or what illness, if any, these birds have had without a necropsy. I understand you live in a part of the country that doesn’t have vets you have confidence in although it is possible to have the birds transported to a facility that does necropsies. Most university veterinary centers will perform them (Texas A &, UC Davis, University of GA) and you can pack them in dry ice and ship them overnight. I am telling you this for the future and to let you know that no one can accurately tell you what is going on without one.

That being said, it is possible the birds could have any avian illness. Parrotlets are not unique and they are no more susceptible to illnesses than any other bird. They also do not have any specific diseases that ‘are so lethal to these guys they die in such a short period of time’. Of course, as a small bird they do have very quick metabolisms and ANY illness they get will go through them very quickly, just like your finches. Unfortunately, pet stores are not biosecure and every time that shop got a new bird in or even if anyone who owned a bird walked into that store, they were exposing every bird in it to all diseases. So if they kept them clean and fed them well, that’s great but it does not prevent diseases or illnesses from coming in. “Going light’ is an extremely serious medical condition for any bird but especially parrotlets since, again, they have such fast metabolisms and generally speaking if they lose a couple of grams of body weight over the course of a few days, they will starve to death regardless of clinical status. “Going light’ can indicate anything from a virus (such as PDD) to a fungal infection (Avian Gastric Yeast) or a bacterial infection (E. coli) or even a toxin (heavy metal poisoning from toys or the cage). Amoxicillin is an antibiotic and only works on specific bacterial infections but not all. If the birds did not have a bacterial infection or if the infection is not sensitive to amoxicillin, it would not work at all.

Unfortunately, the only way to diagnose the bird is to have it examined by a vet competent in avian medicine and have tests run. If you need to find a vet, you can contact the Association of Avian Veterinarians at They have link where you put in your zip code and they will give you the name of a member vet. More unfortunate, is that whatever is going on, it does sound contagious as the two birds died and now the third one appears to be ill. You can offer supportive care – such as heat, hand-feeding and isolation but the only hope for diagnosis and treatment is with a veterinarian.

Sorry, I wish I had better news.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization

A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

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