apologize for not getting back to you sooner.
I have looked over all the lab work you sent me. It is very thorough
and I do not think they neglected to do anything. As your vets have
said, there is really no indication what Pancho's problem is. Thank
you for the photos as well. I have a better feel for your birds
talked about possibility of allergies. I see that his immunoglobulins
and differential white blood cell counts were run on several occasions
and that they were all normal. So I do not think that Pancho has
become allergic to the cockatoos or to any food ingredient.
looking closely at his plumage and the new pinfeathers, I do not
believe that Pancho has a thyroid problem or any other hormonal
problem that affects feather growth. There are absolutely no stress
bars on his feathers or indications in his blood work that he has
any form of infectious disease and I do not feel that the subtle
changes seen in his lung fields have anything to do with his feather
at his cere, nares
and unfeathered skin, there is no evidence that he has a vitamin
deficiency or a protein deficiency. His uric acid levels are too
low for me to suspect visceral gout and there
is no evidence of liver problems. I do not believe this is a tumor
problem because his weight has not dropped and no masses or organ
displacement were seen on the x-rays.
believe you said that his cage is constructed of stainless steel.
If it should contain any factory-fresh galvanized mesh or chain
link, the unlikely possibility of zinc toxicity exits. Particularly
if you use cleaning products that are acidic. But none of his blood
work indicates a problem like that and I don’t see any galvanized
wire in the photos you sent. I just mention it in passing.
was trying to determine the type of wood used to construct some
of the wooden flights in your photos. If they are constructed of
green, pressure-treated lumber, some brands contained arsenic (Pressure
Treated Chromated Copper Arsenate)
. Exposure to that type of lumber – particularly if the birds
gnawed or licked it, would not be good. If your home was built before
1978, I would be sure the birds do not have access to the lead in
paint. But the problems we see with that, usually involve the nervous
system and blood – not the feather system.
do not think this is a sex hormone thing because none of the compounds
given to him to turn off those hormones had much effect on him.
think that the real reason the tests have all been relatively normal
is that Pancho does not have a medical problem and never did have
believe his problem had a number of simple psychological and nutritional
components combined with a lack of flight space, exercise and boredom.
think that at this point, you have already intuitively made a lot
of the lifestyle changes that matter. But parrots that begin to
over-preen are very, very hard to break of the habit even when the
initial cause has been eliminated.
I think it is a very good idea to use the Elizabethan collar. I
have no experience using them with the cone pointed toward their
chest, but if your vet uses them that way successfully, fine. I
do want to be sure it does not injure Pancho’s delicate skin
at the ring that is on his neck and I think it will need additional
padding there. We talked about that on the phone. I want to be sure
his weight remains steady so I know he is having no problem eating
or drinking. His food and water dishes will need to be higher. If
you can do that now, I think all his feathers will grow back just
when the collar comes off, there will have to be a lot of changes
in his life. And if he cannot adjust to wearing his collar, those
changes need to come now. Many owners cannot bear to see their pets
in them. You just have to try to be strong.
is what I think he needs:
environmental makeover. Bigger cage, cage that is very long but
does not have to be very wide. One wide enough that when he flies
or flaps, both wing tips have a minimum of 12 inches space between
the sides of the cage.
cut perches of orchard wood with the leaves and everything left
on. Cut from some trees that produce edible fruit. He will spend
his days pealing them himself – macaws love to do that - and
chewing on the leaves and it will take his mind from his plucking.
He is not helping to raise chicks or flying over the jungle foraging
and his days go by slowly. When the branches are all peeled, get
him new ones. Be sure the orchard did not spray for pests.
lots of environmental enrichment tricks and mental stimulation –
the things they do at progressive zoos. There are plenty of ideas
online. Make him work hard for his food – just like he would
in the wild. Provide him with a water spray area to play in. Water
mist makes them so happy and content !
Pancho little or no pelleted food and few if any sugary, cultivated
fruits from the supermarket. I have the same problem with my clients
with monkeys - the fruit, seeds and nuts that macaws and monkeys
eat in the wild are much lower in sugar and carbohydrates than supermarket
fruits and vegetables. Jungle fruit and seeds are full of fiber
as well. So instead of the sweet cultivated stuff, feed the tough,
woody fruit portions and vegetable stems that humans tend to throw
away – big, hard carrots, the lower portions of asparagus,
the tops of turnips, pineapples, etc. all the things restaurants
discard. Just wash them well in light bleach solution and then several
rinses of fresh water. There is no need for any vitamin supplements.
Birds are creatures of habit that do not make diet changes readily
or easily. So do everything very gradually, mixing the old with
the new, and monitor his weight closely. He can loose a few grams
- but I don't want him loosing more than 10% of his current body
weight during the transition. He is not a fat bird.
back on the nuts and peanuts and no sunflower or Safflower seeds.
No wild macaw ever ate them. They are too caloric and oily and some
of them are too high in aflatoxins
as well. Feed variety, variety, and variety. If you give him corn,
make it fresh corn on the cob with the husks still on and don’t
overdo it. I do not know what is available in the Miami area. If
you have friends with big parrots or macaws that are as old as Pancho;
look for the friends whose parrots and macaws have the brightest,
most vibrant feathers and the least dings and divots in their plumage
of over grooming or slow feather re growth)
and copy as many elements of their lifestyle as you can.
always kept my macaws flighted. They seemed happier that way. But
I know you show your birds and flighted birds can fly off or get
into other trouble. When I had Hyacinths at Sea World, I would occasionally
have to get our fire truck to blast them out of tall trees when
they refused to come down - and we lost a few big parrots and cockatoos.
So I do not want to suggest that if there is the slightest chance
you will loose Pancho. Some birds just have a bad day and split.
do not know if it was your camera or the sunlight when you took
those photographs. But everyone's colors look washed out. I photoshopped
in two other macaws below yours, and posted them at the top of this
article. The hyacinth is a wild one in the Mato
Groso area of Brazil, shot through a telephoto lens. The greenwing
is one the hundreds that fly down to the clay licks at Tambopata,
Peru. I would like you to make those colors your goal. Your rarely
see them in macaws living on pelleted diets. Even the caged hyacinths
in the Mato Grosso and the caged greenwings at Tambopata that they
keep there for the tourists to photograph don’t have those
colors. That’s because the display birds are fed no differently
than most parrots in the United States. Left to their own in selecting
a nutritious diet, parrots and children make lousy choices –
that’s what made Frito-Lay great.
ago, I used to chew the fat with Dr. Ted Lefeber of Niles Illinois.
We would talk about his tough cases of plucking parrots similar
to Pancho. He had quite a few come in to his clinic with that problem.
And some where like Pancho - very hard to cure. He also owned a
place in South Florida where he had a big flight cage. When all
treatments failed, he found that a lot of those birds would re grow
feathers if he turned them loose in his Florida flight. If nothing
else works for Pancho, I want you to find someone with a similar
big flight cage in the Miami/Homestead area and see if they would
accept Pancho for a while. But lets just see how he does in the
collar and with some dietary and environmental changes. If you have
to go for group home living, remember that a well-adjusted group
of macaws does not take kindly to new inhabitants. Particularly
when space is limited or there is an active breeding pair in the
group.The introduction and first few weeks will have to be closely