Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)


A little history about PBFD….

Since the mid-1970s, Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) has been detected in both wild and captive parrot populations. PBFD is not only the most commonly recognized viral disease of wild psittacine birds -especially in Australia- but it is a problem globally wherever captive psittacine birds are bred. The disease has been found to be widely infectious and often fatal. PBFD has become a major cause for concern to conservationists and aviculturists as the virus is resistant to many disinfectants and is long lived in the environment. For instance, it can withstand freezing and can remain in nest boxes from year to year infecting successive clutches of nestlings.



Which birds are primarily affected?

PBFD affects primarily parrots (especially macaws, African Grey parrots, cockatoos, Eclectus, Ringneck Parakeets, and Lovebirds), but different strains of the virus can cause disease in pigeons and passerines (such as canaries and finches).


What causes the disease?

A virus, member of the family Circoviridae, which includes the smallest known autonomously replicating pathogenic animal viruses


How is PBFD transmitted?

Viral particles can be spread by:

  • Air flows
  • Dry feces
  • Contact between sick and healthy birds
  • Workers’ clothing
  • Facilities
  • Nest materials
  • Food dishes
  • Cages

The virus, if not destroyed, can remain viable in the environment long after the infected bird is gone. In addition, the virus is transmitted from the mother directly to the egg or the chicks.


What are the symptoms?

  • Symmetrical loss of contour, tail and down feathers
  • Subsequent replacement by dystrophic and necrotic feathers that fail to grow soon after emergence from the follicle
  • Beak deformities such as fractures, abnormal elongation, and palatine necrosis
  • Other symptoms include lethargy, depression, diarrhea and immunosuppression
  • Since the virus attacks the immune system, they become more susceptible to sicken from other disease agents, for example, fungi and bacteria
  • Always refer to your veterinarian for a complete diagnosis of your birds


Why should I get my birds diagnosed?

It is very important to have your birds diagnosed from PBFD because all of them could potentially get infected with the virus, as well as future generations if the facilities are not properly disinfected. We recommend repeating the test at least once a year within the routine checkup. If the birds are part of a group (ie in an aviary), a test should be carried out when they are first acquired and then repeated at the end of a quarantine period.


How is the disease diagnosed?

In iQ BirdTesting laboratory we perform a DNA test based on the Polymerase Chain Reaction method which provides prompt and reliable results.

  • A positive blood sample test confirms an active infection of PBFD, although the bird might develop a sufficient immune response to fight the infection and, after 30 to 90 days, give a negative result. Therefore, we recommend reexamining all positive birds 60-90 days after the initial test. If the second diagnosis shows that it remains positive, the bird is considered as permanently infected, and will possibly develop the clinical symptoms of the disease. The age of the animal and the species will determine the progression of the disease.
  • A negative blood sample result indicates the bird is not infected in the moment of the test, but the bird should be reexamined after 40-90 days.


iQ BirdTesting recommendations for sample collection:

For disease testing we accept either or both:

  • Blood card with blood from a toenail (click here for instructions on sample collection)
  • Whole blood sample -usually drawn by a veterinarian- in a vial with the anticoagulant EDTA
  • We do not accept feather samples for testing diseases

We also recommend collecting a cloacal swab for testing PBFD.