Conservation...Coxen's Fig ParrotPBFD

   This is a disease which affects the growing cells in the feathers, beaks and occasionally claws of psittacine birds (parrots). PBFD is prevalent in wild populations of Australian parrots, particularly Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Galahs and Rainbow Lorikeets. It is also wide spread in avicultural both in Australia and overseas. Aviary birds which appear most susceptible to the disease are Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Galahs, Corellas, Budgerigars and Lovebirds.

Birds affected with PBFD virus display severe feather problems, deformed beaks and suffer from malaise, depression and weight loss. The disease can cause very sudden illness and acute death but often birds progress slowly to the chronic form of the disease. There is further feather loss and secondary infectious problems resulting from a depressed immunity.


Some birds do recovery from the initial infection; however, most succumb within two to three years, often due to concurrent secondary diseases.

Currently there is no cure or vaccine for this disease.

PBFD can be very distressing to aviculturalists when it is diagnosed in their collections and even more so for companion parrot owners when a much-loved pet is lost to the disease.

The School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, in Perth, Western Australia has a PBFD research program. This is a quote from their correspondence to the Society following our donation to their research:


“Our PBFD research includes development of diagnostic techniques, vaccine development for the prevention and cure of PBFD both in domestic animals as well as wild animals, hygiene protocols for preventing occurrence and spread of BFDV in aviary flocks and pet birds.

The research also continuously and routinely investigates the prevalence of virus and associated disease in as many species of psittacines as we come across. Also very important is our research into typing of BFDV isolates found in different species.

We are becoming aware that different species may have genetically (and consequently phenotypically) different beak and feather disease virus isolates. This is in turn is important for all the above mentioned areas of our research, as it may impact on ability to detect/diagnose presence of virus and specific antibodies and the design of and effectiveness of a vaccines.

To date, we have developed and verified a number of different diagnostic techniques. However, diagnosis of BFDV/PBFD with these techniques requires samples being sent to us by mail and then our subsequent diagnosis. New techniques will allow veterinarians to do diagnosis in a very short time without having to send samples away.

This will allow for rapid diagnosis and thus earlier decision making in regards to how the client may chose to handle the disease. These new techniques may also be cheaper to use than the exciting techniques and may therefore reduce the veterinary cost for clients.

The vaccine development is well on the way, with results already indicating the usefulness of our vaccine for protective immunity. However, larger scale vaccination trials and challenge studies is necessary, and is a major priority of our research group.

The funds donated by the Parrot Society of Australia will be dedicated specifically towards developing our PBFD-free flock (to pay for breeding cages, nest boxes, feed and birds). We are initially trying to do this with Peach-faced lovebirds because they breed fairly easily and regularly and we know that they are susceptible to the disease. We are also finding that there is nearly 100% infection rate at least in birds from pet shops so the problem is very wide spread.”