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  A budgie suffering from PBFD A large-area loss of plumage is quite unusual for budgies and other parakeets during a normal molt. If a bird has bigger gaps or even skinny parts on its body and if these are not recovered with feathers after a few days or weeks, besides feather picking a virus infection called PBFD could be a possible reason.

This plumage defect called "Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease" (Psittacine Circovirus Disease or PCD) hides behind the abbreviation PBFD; you also could call it "Parrots' Feather and Beak disease". Usually bigger parrots, cockatoos and lovebirds are seized by this infection caused by the so-called avian circovirus. But also budgies and other parakeets can be infected. Cases of infection are known from all over the world. The infection appears quite often.

Symptoms and course of disease
A budgie suffering from PBFD The symptoms of PBFD are not distinct, there is no typical disease pattern. Basically, it is essential that an infection with avian circoviruses causes dysfunctions in growth of beak, feathers and claws.

Avian vets distinguish between an acute and chronic course of disease. Older birds usually show chronic courses which means a creeping aggravation of their constitution. Hereby the plumage constitution of infected animals gets worse every molt until these animals show a plumage that might make you guess the bird was a feather picker. Furthermore the beak is growing faster than usual and often even askew or deformed. This are hints for a layman that the bird might be infected with PBFD.

If the chronic disease is quite advanced, most of the birds are completely naked. They also lose the head plumage which is a secure sign they did not pick their unreachable feathers themselves.

Bacterial skin infection with staphylococcus After a little time the skin gets white and scabbed facings. These are centres of inflammation as the naked skin is very sensible and even smallest injuries can make bacteria as staphylococcus infect the bird as shown on the picture on the right. You can see blebs filled with sanies.

Exceeding claws are quite common in this stadium of PBFD. When elder birds are affected, after an outbreak the disease usually leads to death after one or two years.

The acute course looks different. Mainly young birds (chicks, fledglings) suffer from this and die quite fast. This results from the common appearance of the plumage dysfunction, low immunity, diarrhoea, vomitus, and great lassitude.

Ways of infection
Infected adult budgieInfected birds excrete the viruses by their droppings. Their plumage dust and the content of their crops is infectious. Usually chicks and fledglings get infected by their parents in the nest. Often the parents only carry the virus but are not obviously ill. But older birds, too, can be infected by breathing in infectious dust. In case of an infection the incubation period depends on the bird's age. Nestlings often sicken within three or four weeks whereas elder birds take several months to years until the first symptoms of PBFD break out.

Evidence of the disease
Only a clinical analysis of blood can give you an absolute assurance about PBFD. The deformed feathers are analysed, too, either by an avian vet or a clinical laboratory.

Treatment and inoculate prophylaxis
This budgie suffers from PBFDWhen you get the sure diagnose of PBFD you have to remove infected birds immediately from the flock. All birds that are under suspect have to be sorted out, too, in order to protect the remaining birds. The housings and all things the infected birds had contact with have to be disinfected properly. Ask your avian vet about the disinfectant you should use because not each one kills avian circoviruses!

Infected birds have to be kept solely or together with infected fellows. Beaks and claws have to be cut their life-long if necessary, and you have to prevent secondary infections. A well-balanced nutrition for improving the immune system is strongly required. PBFD can not be healed, and unfortunately today it is not possible to get a commercial inoculate prophylaxis.

German version of this text: Gaby Schulemann-Maier,
translation of this chapter: Isolde Aufschläger external link.

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