Heavy Metal Poisoning
by Tony Vaughan
This seems to be a problem that is becoming more prevalent in the last few years. Probably due to more awareness and therefore is being recognised more readily.
The most common form of heavy metal poisoning is that of zinc. It occurs after a bird (usually a parrot) ingests some zinc from the aviary wire, food and water containers or metal shavings. The wire needs to be treated in some way to form an oxide coating on the surface. This changes the appearance of the wire from bright silver to dull grey (some white powder maybe present - this is insoluble and harmless). Treating with a mild acid, straight vinegar is the most commonly used, will achieve the desired result if you don't have the time to weather the wire for a minimum of two months, during which time the wire should be wet-down regularly. Putting the wire into a swimming pool also works, however, don't leave in too long or you may not have any galvanising left - just long enough to grey the wire.
BEWARE!! The above treatment only remedies some of the problem. Balls, blobs, spikes and feathers of zinc cause the worst problem as these particles lodge in the gizzard of the bird where they are continually ground up. This causes large levels of zinc to be absorbed into the bird's system resulting in sudden illness followed by death. Sometimes in less than 24 hours from ingestion to death.
Loosely attached balls can be removed by brushing, however, blobs, spikes and feathers need to be cut off.
The hardest to deal with are the spikes. Because of their positioning they are hard to see (to humans that is, birds on the other hand seem to be drawn to them)
Another member, Mike Anderson, the first person to mention these spikes, has tried many methods to remove them, including wire brushing (both manual and rotary) and scraping, none of which was 100% successful. The only suitable method seems to be cutting them off with side cutters, a very time consuming task (up to one hour / sq. m )
Not all rolls of wire have the problem, so careful scrutiny of the wire is necessary. They seem to occur on the short wire (i.e. the wire that goes across the roll) side and seem to be caused by some intermittent production problem when the excess zinc is brushed off the wire in manufacture.
The easiest (and most painful) way of locating the spikes is by rubbing your hand over the sheet of wire.
If you find rough galvanising or areas of spikes which you consider to be excessive contact B.H.P. Wire Products in your state or city and they will inspect the wire and make a decision on the quality.
Lead poisoning can be caused by simple things such as the solder on galvanised "D" cups or the lead weights on the bottom of curtains.
How many of you have arc welded in your aviaries with birds nearby? Did you realise that the fumes from the welding rod flux can be toxic to birds. It contains high proportions of many metals (in gaseous form) and can cause acute "Heavy Metal" poisoning if the birds are subjected to the fumes for even short periods of time.
Want more information on this subject?
Read our member, Mr Kevin Goulter's experience of his Blue Bonnets with "Heavy Metal" Poisoning.
© 1997 Parrot Society of Australia Inc