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Broken flight feathers - possibly barbering - advise needed

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Broken flight feathers - possibly barbering - advise needed

Postby Flightlessdragon » Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:24 am

Just to set the scene, my male kakariki is 3 years old, he flies well and has never been clipped. However last year his flight feathers started to break. On his last vet visit the vet thinks his wing feathers have all grown in with a weak point about half way down the shaft (this was last April and I can’t get him to the vet again until the covid 19 lockdown is over).

Since then he has continued to break these feathers. I usually notice that a feather is out of place and when I check, the shaft of the feather is snapped and just hanging on, I cut these dangling feathers because they interfere with his flight. But now he has significant gaps in his wings and I worry that it will get to point where he can no longer fly. He is very active and even with the gaps in his wings he is a strong flier.

In terms of diet, he is on Harrison’s lifetime super fine pellets and gets a veg mix one a day too. I have started to give him a bird vitamin mixed into his his veg (feather up vitamin mix is from northern parrots)


Edit: I have only just heard of barbering where the bird cuts its own wing feathers Using its beak, is there a way to tell if that is what is going on with my boy? And if he is barbering his wings how do I discourage the behaviour?
Last edited by Flightlessdragon on Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:42 am, edited 2 times in total.
Flightlessdragon
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 2
Types of Birds Owned: A Cockatiel and a Kakariki (New Zealand parakeet)
Flight: Yes

Re: Broken flight feathers

Postby Flightlessdragon » Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:34 am

I forgot to add that he has a full spectrum bulb lamp, so it’s not a lack of UV
Flightlessdragon
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 2
Types of Birds Owned: A Cockatiel and a Kakariki (New Zealand parakeet)
Flight: Yes

Re: Broken flight feathers - possibly barbering - advise needed

Postby Pajarita » Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:05 am

Welcome to the forum and I am so sorry you are having this problem with your bird. I am sure you find it as distressing as I do when you know there is a problem and cannot seem to find the solution or even the cause of it.

Now, yes, it does look as if your bird is barbering BUT in all honesty, barbering in aviary species is actually rare - if they do anything is more plucking or overpreening than barbering but just because it's not common it doesn't mean it cannot happen.

You do not say if the bird is kept at a strict solar schedule with full exposure to dawn and dusk but, if it's not, taking into consideration its age (fully sexually mature adult), its diet (way too high in protein), and the fact that he is an aviary species and is all alone, it could be that he is overly hormonal and sexually frustrated so, if this was my bird, this is what I would do:

1) Take it to the vet as soon as this Corvid19 situation is resolves and have it tested for PBFD because you need to make sure this is not a medical issue (PBFD is contagious -you have another bird, fatal and has no cure so you need to know for sure this is NOT the case here).

2) Make sure he is kept at a strict solar schedule (this is not going to help a lot right now because we are in breeding season but you need to start asap so the body starts to get used to reacting to twilight).

3) Change the diet. Aviary species protein intake is usually based on grass seed which is very low in protein AND is not available all year round so free-feeding a dry, dead (pellets are dead food), high protein food all year round is really quite detrimental to their health.

4) Stop the extra vitamins immediately. He is NOT lacking vitamins, my dear, he has been eating pellets which are fortified with lab-made vitamins - they might not be the best in terms of bioavailability and efficacy but they are vitamins and, for birds, less is always more.

5) Get another kakariki - one of the opposite gender. Aviary species are never happy with just a human for company once they reach sexual maturity. It's nothing you have done or not done, it's the way Nature made them and there is nothing one can do to change that.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 16263
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Broken flight feathers - possibly barbering - advise needed

Postby Flightlessdragon » Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:49 am

The full spectrum bulb I use is programmed to come on and turn off at the same time every day and night so both birds have a strict day length all year round. In the summer I use blackout cage covers to keep their days shorter to discourage breeding behaviours.

My avian vet advised the pelleted diet as opposed to a seed diet. And after switching to pellets his general condition had improved. Harrison’s pellets are 14% protein, which is within the recommended amount for parakeets, and with the supplementation of fresh veggies the total protein percentage of his diet will be lower than that.

I Don’t think it’s PBFD as he doesn’t show any of the other symptoms, but I will take him to the vet as soon as I can.
Flightlessdragon
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 2
Types of Birds Owned: A Cockatiel and a Kakariki (New Zealand parakeet)
Flight: Yes

Re: Broken flight feathers - possibly barbering - advise needed

Postby Pajarita » Fri Mar 27, 2020 11:10 am

Well, you don't say at what times the lights are supposed to go on and off but, if you are doing it right, you must be changing the timers every 2 weeks or so - are you doing this on a regular basis? Because, without it, they are not been exposed to a strict solar schedule as the daylight hours change about 20 minutes every two weeks or so (studies show that birds endocrine systems register a 20 minute difference in daylight) and you need 1.5 to 2 hours of twilight both at dawn and dusk (otherwise their bodies cannot register the change in daylight hours). I don't use timers any longer (I used to have them when I had the rescue), I have done this for so many years that my brain has trained itself to register the change in the angle of the sunlight and react to it - and I am VERY strict about it (ask my husband who is driven to distraction every time we need to go out with my complaints and my worrying every time we go out and are cutting it short to the 'cutoff' time for their lights :lol: ).

There is no Harrison (or any other pellet, for that matter) that gives you an actual level protein. Look carefully at the labels and you will see that they all say: higher than, no less than, minimum, etc. so, in reality, you don't know how much protein you are feeding (soy is the cheapest ingredient in all pellets and the main source of protein in them so, for all you know, you are feeding 18% or higher). But, aside from that, the problem with free-feeding protein is that, with the exception of natural seed-eaters (like canaries, for example), all birds are pre-programmed to gorge on it. See, the thing about protein is that it's not found in abundant and all-year-round sources in nature - they just do not exist in the wild, only in cultivation fields but nature did not take man messing up with nature into consideration when it finetuned the species to thrive in their natural habitats. Protein for herbivores is mostly seasonal because it depends on plants producing seed (or nuts - which are also the seed of the tree producing them only, same as in grains, the seed and the fruit are one and the same) and this doesn't happen all year round for any plant so, because protein is necessary for life and, most importantly, for reproduction, nature gave birds a particular desire for it and, when a bird finds a source of protein, it will eat and eat and eat until there is no more or the bird is full. Give a parrot a bowl of seeds, a piece of fruit and a green and the parrot will always go first for the seed first BUT give a canary the same food and it will go for the leafy green first of all - why? Because canaries are natural seed-eaters which come mostly from temperate climate and crave the greens they do not find in their natural habitat during the resting (aka winter) season while parrots, being mostly canope feeders and from either tropical or semi-tropical climates have green material available to them all year round so they crave protein most of all.

Also, please be informed that avian vets do not study parrot nutrition. I have three Avian Medicine text books and the chapter is on Avian (not parrot) Nutrition and mostly dedicated to omnivores like chickens (we do know a lot about chicken nutrition but VERY little on parrots'). Avian nutrition is such a HUGE field that a chapter on it is pretty useless, actually. Think about it! You have birds that eat only seeds, birds that eat only fruits, birds that eat red meat, birds that eat fish, birds that eat nectar and pollen, etc. sheesh! you even have birds that feed on carrion exclusively! You are talking about a lot of completely different diets so covering them all in any depth is pretty much impossible... What I am trying to point out is that, unless the avian vet has had multiple parrots for a number of years and has studied each of those parrot species dietary ecologies in depth, there is no way they can know. Mind you, I've had two avian vets that did know about parrot nutrition -at least for the species they kept themselves because just because a parrot is a parrot, it doesn't mean that they all eat the same diet (which is another beef I have with pellets that go by size and not species because you can't feed a cockatiel the same that you would feed a GCC and you cannot feed an African Gray the same that you would feed an Amazon even though the species are of comparable sizes). And they knew that pellets are not and never will be the best dietary option for parrots but they still recommended them - and you know why? Because they did not think that people would feed them right so they figured (and told me this themselves) that pellets were the 'lesser evil' - not a good recommendation, right?

But, don't take my word for it (never take ANYBODY'S word for anything when it comes to parrots diets because not a single one of us knows enough), do your own research and you will see. This is what I have in my 'reference' files: Kakarikis evolved to live in pairs during breeding season and small flocks during the resting season (aka winter) - this tells us that having a mate if necessary for their happiness. They are partial ground foragers (which tells us they feed on green grass seed as a source of protein) and they have been observed eating the ngaio and taupata berries as well as the flowers of the pohutukawa tree (this tree flowers in November to January which is their summer and not spring, and also their breeding season). Biologists calculate that their diet consists of, at least, 2/3 fruits and their seeds (remember, these are green seeds, not dried, and they need to eat a lot of the fruit to reach the few -not dried- seeds inside) during breeding season -which tells us they evolved to eat low protein/low fat/high moisture (pellets, with a max of 10% are as DRY as a bone compared to plant material that is 85 to 95% water)/high fiber - and this one is a doozy (as well as the unknown protein content) because the ratio is completely wrong. Fruits and other plant material (which comprises the bulk of parrots natural diets) have an average ratio of 1:2 to 1:5 when it comes to protein:fiber while the pellets you are feeding have a higher than 14% protein to a lower than 4.5% fiber and this is only useful if they are using the right kind of fiber because the type commonly used, psyllium, is useless to parrots.

Like I said, PLEASE, do not take my word for it, do in-depth research (and this means not breeders, owners or avian vets' recommendations but going to scientific studies, biologists, field biologists and ornithologists papers and reports) and see for yourself.

As to symptoms of PBFD, there are two strains, a severe and a mild (aka chronic) form of it and this one can present with different symptoms but shaft weakness (which translates into broken feathers like yours has) is one of them. I also think -and hope!- that your bird doesn't have it but, if it were my bird, I would make sure, just in case... And you can do this on your own, you don't need an avian vet for it. See this: https://www.animalgenetics.us/Avian/Cost-Dollar.asp
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 16263
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes


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