How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

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How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

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If you want a bird that is beautiful, intelligent, active, and very entertaining, a caique (pronounced “kai-eke”) may be the bird for you. These lively little parrots pack a lot of personality into a tiny bundle of feathers, and they’re known to be the clowns of the bird world. Caiques have easily made a place for themselves in the homes and hearts of countless bird enthusiasts. A caique would be the right choice for a family or person that wants to keep a pair of birds.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Black-headed caique, white-bellied caique, seven-color parrot, dancing parrot, yellow-thighed caique

Scientific Name: Pionites melanocephala (black-headed), Pionites leucogaster (white-bellied)

Adult Size: 9 and 10 inches

Life Expectancy: 20 to 30 years

Origin and History

In the wild, caiques call home the areas of South America north of the Amazon. Their range includes Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname. They also live in parts of Brazil and Venezuela.

This species enjoys the swamps and tropical lowland forests. Often found in small flocks of about 30 birds or a pair, they’re naturally very social birds and are rarely alone. The word “caique” comes from the indigenous Tupi language from Brazil, meaning “aquatic bird.” These birds enjoy bathing.

Temperament

Caiques are known for the strong bonds that they can form with humans. They love attention. They can be quite affectionate and enjoy time playing with a human companion or just sitting with them. If you’re looking for a new best friend, this may be the species for you. They love to show off and are not called the “dancing parrot” for nothing. Quick learners, they’re adept at picking up fun tricks and have great personalities.

Caiques are playful, comical little birds that enjoy activities and the opportunity to explore. Always on the move, they’re one of the most energetic parrots and quite curious and mischievous. These birds can also become cranky at times and can nip or, in the least, find ways to use their beak when interacting with people.

As pets, caiques usually do well alone or in pairs, but be careful not to cage a caique with another species. They can become aggressive and deliver surprisingly harsh bites.

Speech and Vocalizations

Some caiques may learn to speak a few words, but most prefer to stick to “bird speak.” You’ll enjoy their whistles and songs as well as the environmental sounds they mimic. Though they can get loud, they’re generally known for a moderate noise level with soothing sounds in comparison to other parrots. At times, they may emit calls that are very high-pitched and shrill. Before committing to this species, make sure their noise level and vocal abilities are what you are looking for.

Caique Colors and Markings

The markings of a caique are distinct; they have more of a color-blocked look. Their heads, wings, bellies, and thighs tend to be a distinct color from other body parts with few gradients between the colors. The black-headed and white-bellied caiques are the most common color variety.

Black-headed caiques have mostly black heads with orange or yellow cheeks and a green streak under their eyes. Their wings and upper tail feathers are a beautiful green and bright yellow on the thigh feathers and under their wings. They have a beige-white colored abdomen with gray legs and a gray beak. They are also called the seven-color parrot.

Subspecies of the white-bellied caique, specifically the yellow-thighed and yellow-tailed caiques, are becoming popular as well.

Caring for Caiques

Caiques must get regular, scheduled playtime. Shower this bird with lots of positive interaction. They are usually able to entertain themselves for short periods, making them a good choice for working bird owners.

They are also relatively small, which makes them appealing to those who dwell in apartments and condominiums. Despite their small size, caiques will do best in a small aviary or large cage. At a minimum, provide a cage that is at least 2 feet long and 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall. The spacing between the bars should be no more than 3/4-inch wide.

Since they are intelligent, they also make pretty good escape artists. Ensure their cage is sturdy and can keep these crafty birds safe. A wrought-iron cage is best since they often try to chew the bars.

Provide this bird a bathing dish with fresh water every day. They are very fond of splashing around in the water.

Common Health Problems

Caiques are generally healthy birds. However, this species is susceptible to polyomavirus, a potentially deadly virus mostly in young birds that causes severe intestinal issues and can affect the bird’s heart, liver, and kidneys.   At birth, the bird can get a vaccine to help prevent this disease. And, you can get an annual booster to help keep your bird healthy if your pet bird will come across other birds in their home environment.

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, caiques eat seeds, berries, and fruit. As pets, feed them a high-quality extruded pellet. Supplement this with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. As with all bird species, clean, fresh drinking water should be made available at all times.

Leafy green vegetables like Swiss chard, watercress, kale, or collard greens are nutritious additions to their diet. Fresh fruit makes a wonderful topping for the veggies. A dash of healthy seed such as chia seed here and there is fine but refrain from an all-seed diet, which does not meet their vitamin and mineral needs.

You can start by offering a 1/2 cup of parrot pellet and a 1/2 cup of fruit and vegetable salad upon waking in the morning. Scale back the amount you give your bird based on the amount of food eaten. If the bird eats everything, you can offer a second feeding a couple of hours before bedtime. By the end of each day, toss out any uneaten fresh foods. Keep an eye on your parrot’s weight. If they are noticeably gaining or losing weight, adjust the food serving sizes.

Exercise

Caiques are active little birds and are unique in that they seem to prefer to walk more often than fly. Caiques enjoy floor time and you will enjoy watching them on the floor or any large flat surface. They have a unique hop that is charming and endearing. They appear to be a windup tin toy that hops along in a very amusing way.

A caique should be given a minimum of 1 hour outside the cage each day to hop around and exercise its strong leg muscles and do a bit of supervised exploring in a bird-safe room. To safeguard the room, turn off ceiling fans, close all windows and doors, cover the fireplace, and remove all toxic plants and other pets.

As busybodies, these birds need plenty of stimulating toys. It may take some time to find your bird’s favorite toys. They can be somewhat finicky and stubborn about their things. Playtime also helps the bird wear down its beak, which helps keep it in good shape. Rotate branches and toys regularly as they become worn out.

Social and affectionate

Can mimic sounds, perform tricks, and dance

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Adrienne Kruzer, BS, RVT, LVT, has worked with a variety of animals for over 15 years, including birds of prey, reptiles, and small mammals.

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How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

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There are a few diseases that frighten people more than others when their name is spoken and psittacosis is, unfortunately, one of them. Also known as parrot fever or avian chlamydiosis, psittacosis is a zoonotic disease that can be found in many different kinds of pet birds, including macaws and parakeets, and is easily spread.

What Is Psittacosis?

Psittacosis is a disease that affects over 400 species of birds and some mammals. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci, Chlamydophila avium, or Chlamydophila gallinacea (but other bacterium are thought to also cause this disease) and is transmitted from bird to bird or bird to some mammals (including humans) by infected birds. C. psittaci is the bacterium that is typically seen in pet psittacines like parrots and is most commonly diagnosed.  

How Do Birds Get Psittacosis?

A bird does not have to have contact with another bird that has been infected with one of the types of bacterium that causes psittacosis in order to get it, but this is an easy way for them to get it. They can also come in contact with a person or item that has been in contact with an infected bird. Fomites on food and water bowls, airborne particles, feathers, feces, and other items that have been in contact with a bird with psittacosis can all infect healthy birds. Being in the same room with poor ventilation as an infected bird can also cause your pet bird to get it.

What Are the Symptoms of Psittacosis in Birds?

In birds, psittacosis causes a variety of symptoms but it can also go unnoticed and lay dormant inside a bird. Psittacosis infected birds are asymptomatic (show no symptoms) until they are stressed and then it causes puffy and swollen eyes (conjunctivitis), lethargy, anorexia, and weight loss, fluffed feathers, nasal discharge, and an enlarged liver.   It can also cause diarrhea and respiratory issues in some species of birds. Birds that are acutely infected from exposure to the bacterium (come in contact with an infected bird or item) will show symptoms after about three days. Carriers of the bacterium can become sick at any time.

What Are the Symptoms of Psittacosis in Mammals?

In mammals, psittacosis typically causes reproductive problems such as miscarriages and inflamed placentas and respiratory problems such as pneumonia, coughing, and an increased respiratory rate.   It has also been reported to cause similar eye issues as it does in birds, lameness, fever, and nasal discharge.

Psittacosis can be fatal in untreated animals that show symptoms but many are asymptomatic. A variety of the symptoms can also indicate other kinds of diseases, so it is hard to diagnose psittacosis by looking at symptoms alone.

How Can You Diagnose Psittacosis in Your Bird?

Since psittacosis symptoms can look like an array of other diseases in pet birds, special tests are needed to diagnose the presence of C. psittaci. Histology (looking at tissues under the microscope), the detection of nucleic acids and antigens, various serological tests, and cultures may be recommended by an avian vet to diagnose your bird with psittacosis. Sometimes more than one test is needed.

The bacterium can be detected in a number of places in your bird including the feces, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, excretions from the eyes, the choana, cloaca, and even the tissue that covers the heart called the pericardium. Birds that are experiencing symptoms of psittacosis are easier to diagnose than birds that are not showing any signs of the disease.   Sometimes multiple fecal samples must be tested in order to find the bacterium, especially in birds that are just carriers and not acutely ill.

What Bird Species Are Commonly Infected With Psittacosis?

The most commonly infected kinds of pet birds are those in the psittacine family (often referred to as parrots). These include macaws, budgerigars (parakeets), cockatiels, Amazon parrots, cockatoos, lories, African greys, lovebirds, and conures. Pet pigeons are also often infected with psittacosis as are pet ducks.   Hundreds of other species of birds are also susceptible to this disease including wild birds.

Is There a Treatment for Psittacosis?

Thankfully there is a treatment for psittacosis. About 50% of birds are said to die from this infection if left untreated, but antibiotics are usually successful in treating it. Since birds cannot safely take all the same kinds of antibiotics as other animals, they are typically prescribed doxycycline, an antibiotic in the tetracycline class of drugs, for 45 days to treat the disease. If your bird does not have C. psittaci, another type of antibiotic in the sulfonamide class may be successful as well, but this drug class does not have any effect on the most commonly diagnosed type of bacterium to cause psittacosis.

How Can You Prevent Psittacosis in Your Bird?

Certain kinds of disinfectants can kill the kinds of bacteria that cause psittacosis so cleanliness is important in preventing this disease.   If you attend a bird show make sure you wash your hands thoroughly between handling birds and before handling your own bird. Even items for sale at the bird show, like food dishes, cages, and toys, can harbor fomites from infected birds and should be washed before brought home to your bird.

Wild birds can also carry psittacosis. Baby birds that fall out of the nest, dead birds, and injured birds are all commonly handled by people and can carry psittacosis. If you handle any wild birds (especially seabirds) be sure to wash your hands prior to handling your pet bird.

If you plan on adopting or purchasing a new pet bird, be sure to quarantine the bird prior to introducing them to another pet bird. This will allow time for you to monitor them for any signs of psittacosis. Be sure to practice good hygiene during this quarantine period or wear disposable gloves and a mask, especially if the source of the bird is skeptical.

If you have multiple birds and one is diagnosed with psittacosis, you should isolate that bird from the others to minimize the risk of spreading the infection. Good ventilation, clean environments, and hand washing are all crucial to spreading the transmission of psittacosis at home.

How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

Smart, colorful, active, inquisitive and fast-moving parrot, these are some reasons why a Caique is called the acrobatic clown bird.

There are two similar types of Caiques, which can be taken as pet birds, the Black-Headed Caique -it is easy to acquire that amazing companion pet- and the White Bellied Caique. They are almost sharing the same physical appearance but with some different variations.

The Black-headed Caique has a black head, a yellow-orange neck, white belly, yellow legs, black beak, and a greenback, wings, and tail. Some of their wing feathers also have blue, add in grey feet and it’s no wonder that these little guys are sometimes called the “seven color parrot!”.

The White-bellied Caique has a yellow-orange head, white belly, a light colored beak, and a greenback, wings, and tail.

Caiques are high- energetic and medium-sized species, their typical weight 150g- 170g and they can live up to 30 years. They have stocky bodies and short, square tails with very bright colors (green, yellow).

Habitat and distribution:

Caiques are native to the Amazon Basin in South America. In the United States, they will cost half the price compared to their price in Australia because it has severed laws concerning the importation of Animals.

In the wild, the Caique’s food consists mainly of flours, seeds, and fruit. They are often observed in pairs and small flocks; they spend their time climbing, jumping rather than flying.

How to take care of a Caique

Diet: to ensure that your Caique stays healthy, you will need to feed him nutrients and vitamins, these are in green vegetables, selected fruit – as apples and oranges – and store-bought seed mixes which will cover all the bases for your Caique, for example, Avi-Cakes, Popcorn Nutri-Berries, and Tropical Fruit Nutri-Berries. Never give a Caique avocado, chocolate, or honey, as these may harm them.

Cleanliness of the Caique: Caique’s curious and vigorous nature makes him require basic care to be healthy pet. Caiques might be more susceptible to polyomavirus, which results in gastroenteritis and also affect the bird’s heart, liver, and kidney. So, try to:

  1. Avoid drafty, dark and cold places, and make good hygiene a priority.
  2. If not provided with a bathing dish since they like to bathe, be sure that they will make a mess of their drinking water.

Cage: As we mentioned earlier, Caiques like to hop all over the place, love to move about. That’s why you are required to provide your Caique with large, spacious cage with a lot of swings, perches, and some toys because they may suffer from being confined to a small cage.

  • +Covering their cage with a light cloth at night, nudging them to sleep and be silent.
  • +Avoid placing them together with birds of different another kind of birds. Violence can ensue.
  • +Make sure your Caique has plenty safe toys to play with.
  • +Watch your pet’s actions whenever it is out of the cage.

Caique’s sounds: Caiques can be a little bit noisy and have a good talent for mimicking sounds such as: alarms, sirens, beeps, and some animal sounds or even a few words can be heard because the like to show off. So, they often mixe different sounds.

How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrotsWe are often asked about vaccinating our parrots. And the answer is, well, maybe. We have limited vaccines and some have come and gone from the market — mostly gone. The only vaccine available is the polyomavirus vaccine. So what should we do?

Polyomavirus at one time was killing our parrots — mostly hand-reared chicks and sometimes adults, and often in large numbers. In budgies, the disease would affect the nestlings from 10-25 days of age, causing death acutely. Larger parrots are also susceptible to avian polyomavirus (APV) infection but usually do not have signs of disease. Some species are highly susceptible to disease, especially caiques, while others rarely if ever develop signs of disease.

APV-disease occurs at different ages in different species. In conures, death typically occurs in birds less than 6 weeks of age. Death in macaws and Eclectus parrots occur at about (8 weeks) weeks or younger. Most, possibly all, of the nestlings lost are being hand-fed when this happens. Infected chicks that are being hand-fed appear healthy, show very few premonitory signs, and then die suddenly. Chicks kept in the nest box, being fed by the parents, rarely develop disease; this fortunate outcome is due to the transfer of secretory antibody. When signs do occur, they precede death by up to 24 hours. Observant owners may notice delayed crop emptying, weakness, a generalized pallor, or bruising under the skin in the preceding hours before death. Yellow discoloration of the urates is another rare observation. Necropsy findings typically include generalized pallor with subcutaneous and subserosal hemorrhages and enlargement of the spleen and liver. Less commonly, ascites of abdominal fluid and/or pericardial effusion around the heart may be present.

Infection versus Disease

It has become evident that infection and disease are not synonymous, particularly with this virus. Many birds can be infected with the virus but rarely do adult birds develop disease. They develop sensitized B and T lymphocytes, as well as antibodies and an immune response that prevents disease from occurring and eliminates the viral infection. Those that do show disease often are immunosuppressed. The exception is caique species, where adult birds can develop disease. Whether disease will develop is dependent on the species of bird infected, the age of the bird infected, and whether that bird is immune-suppressed. Birds that are infected and do not develop disease still have virus replication within their bodies and shed virus in their droppings for a period of time. The length of time that virus shedding occurs, again, depends on the age of the bird at the time of infection and its species. Some hand-fed birds that are partially immune-competent will develop and recover from transient disease. These birds often retain the viral infection for prolonged periods of time and serve to transmit the infection to naïve individuals.

Birds that are infected but do not develop signs of disease will become viremic and may begin shedding virus through the cloaca and possibly oral mucosa. Rarely, viremia lasts for months. Fecal shedding lasts for up to 16 weeks, but again is much shorter in adult birds and nestlings that are infected at an older age.

Polyomavirus Vaccine

A commercial vaccine is available for polyomavirus. Some avian veterinarians recommend vaccination starting at 21 days of age and repeat the vaccine in two weeks. They then follow the recommendation that the parrot should receive the vaccine yearly. Some birds immunized with this vaccine will develop persistent swellings at the immunization site, which is usually the subcutaneous tissue over the caudal pectoral muscles. These lesions will take several weeks to a few months to regress completely. There are other times that these injection sites can lead to dermal tumors. The other problem with the vaccine is that, scientifically, administration of the vaccine in one study did not result in titers when given to young parrots that had not been previously exposed to the virus. Multiple blood samples were collected including 2 weeks after the second booster. None of the naïve individuals produced detectable antibody titers. Antibody was detected in a 1-year-old sun conure that survived a polyomavirus outbreak. This bird had detectable titers prior to vaccination that did not change throughout the study. Because none of the naive parrots produced any antibody titers, it was unknown if the vaccine could protect them if they were exposed to the virus.

For these reasons, other avian veterinarians have chosen not to vaccinate parrots for polyomavirus. While there are other infectious diseases out there that affect our feathered companions and can cause serious harm, effective vaccines have not been produced to date to keep them from getting diseases these organisms cause.

Importance of Annual Vet-Checks

But that does not mean that because we don’t have reliable vaccines for our parrots we should not take them to our avian veterinarians for yearly exams. All companion birds, just like our dogs and cats, need to get checked out with a yearly examination. Many companion birds can have low-grade infections, and if the immune system becomes depressed, can develop serious signs of illness quickly. For this reason, many avian veterinarians will perform Gram stains of the choanal slit in the oral cavity of the patient along with a fecal Gram stain. This will help them to determine if there are infections in the bird, which attempts to mask signs of disease.

Depending on the age and the health status of a particular avian patient, we might also take X-rays, measure their blood pressure, do cardiac ultrasounds, and/or take blood for various tests. All of these processes, along with reviewing the husbandry of the avian patient, is designed to keep them as healthy as possible. We want them to all lead long and healthy, enjoyable lives!

Pionites melanocephala & Pionites leucogaster

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How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

Caiques have been called clowns of the bird world for good reason — the clown is a truly appropriate metaphor for this high-energy, medium-sized mischief maker. You haven’t seen playful until you’ve seen a caique in action.

Caique Food

  • Caiques like to play on the backs and an excited caique might hop
  • Two species of caiques are commonly kept as pets: the black-headed caique (Pionites melanocephala) and the white-bellied caique (Pionites leucogaster)
  • Diet & Nutrition: Parrot food

How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrotsWell known as the clown of companion birds, caiques are loved by bird fanciers for their outgoing nature and ability to make people laugh with their playful antics. The proper way to pronounce caique is “kai-eke” — don’t ask for a “cake” at the bird shop, or they might point you to the nearest bakery!

If the African grey parrot is the intellectual of the bird community, and the macaw is the show-off, then the caique is the clown. Caiques have been called clowns more often than Barnum and Bailey have had shows in three rings, and for good reason-the clown is a truly appropriate metaphor for this medium-sized mischief maker.

Two species of caiques are commonly kept as pets: the black-headed caique (Pionites melanocephala) and the white-bellied caique (Pionites leucogaster). The yellow-thighed caique, a subspecies of the white-bellied, is also kept as a pet, though it is less common in the pet trade. The black-headed and the white-bellied caique have a similar appearance, with a few obvious distinctions. They both are about 9 to 10 inches long, and their color composition is relatively simple, with “sections” of the bird in green, orange, yellow, and white.

How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrotsThe black-headed caique has, obviously, a black head and black beak, while the white-bellied has, you guessed it, a white belly (so does the black-headed, incidentally), horn-colored beak, and a bright orange and yellow head. The caique is a stocky bird, surprisingly heavy for its size, as most new owners will point out.

Native Region / Natural Habitat

How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

Caiques are native to South America.

Care & Feeding

Though the caique is a medium-sized bird, it needs a large environment. This energetic bird will suffer greatly from being confined to a small cage. Think about building a small aviary if you can, or at least provide your caique with the largest housing you can afford. Make sure that the bar-spacing is appropriate for a bird of its size and that there’s a grating on the bottom of the cage. This playful bird will discover the weaknesses in its cage in no time, so be sure that the cage is of quality construction, such as those made from stainless steel.

As with most parrots, caiques thrive on a pelleted-base diet that is supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables. Nutri-Berries are an especially good food for caiques because they offer fun foraging and balanced nutrition.

By: Chewy Editorial Published: February 9, 2015 Updated: January 21, 2021

How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

Do Birds Need Vaccines?

Caiques, like this black-headed caique, can be susceptible to polyomavirus, but they don’t need always need to be vaccinated.

The recent measles outbreak in Disneyland has started a national discussion about vaccines and a parent’s right to choose. The pet world is no stranger to this debate, but unlike the numerous vaccines for cats and dogs, parrots really only have one: the Polyomavirus vaccine. (A brief description of polyomavirus can be found here.)

But, as it turns out, your parrot might not even need it.

“Birds only need the [polyomavirus vaccine] in certain circumstances,” said Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice), owner and medical director of Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, N.Y. “Polyoma is a virus that we used to see a lot more of, but really the only [parrots] that tend to need it in my opinion ?and I would bet in many avian veterinarians’ opinions are ones that are breeders or they’e going to be in pet stores around a lot of other birds.

That’s something that Larry Nemetz, DVM, owner of The BIRD Clinic in Orange, Calif., agreed with.

He said that he sometimes have people coming into his clinic, asking for the vaccine, but he always recommends testing first. “How do you know bird isn’t already sick?” he said, “Birds, like people, can carry diseases all the time. And if a bird already has polyoma, the vaccine won’t work.”

Who Needs To Be Vaccinated?

Younger birds, macaws and caiques are some of the birds that are the most susceptible to polyoma, according to Nemetz. But, again, that doesn? necessarily mean you need to vaccinate your bird.

Hess says vaccinate, “If [your bird] going to be exposed to a lot of birds regularly who have unknown health benefits.” But if your bird is sitting in your house, she said, “it’s not like they’e going to get polyoma.”

Basically: If you’e going to board your bird, vaccinate. After you test your bird for polyoma, of course. (And if the facility your bird is going to board at doesn’t recommend polyoma vaccines or even testing, run!)

History Of Bird Vaccines

Vaccines were used more back when birds were still being imported into the United States, Nemetz said. However, veterinarians no longer need to vaccinate for two main reasons: birds stopped being imported when the Wild Bird Importation Act of 1992 passed in the United Stats, along with the diseases being eradicated.

Which doesn’t mean diseases don’t still pop up now and then, according to Nemetz. “We used to vaccinate against canary pox, but unfortunately the vaccine is no longer produced,” he said. Every summer in California, he sees cases of canary pox in canaries.

Posted by: Chewy Editorial

Featured Image: Via Bukef/Shutterstock

We are often asked about vaccinating our Parrots. And the answer is, well, maybe. We have limited vaccines and some have come and gone from the market — mostly gone. The only vaccine available is the polyomavirus vaccine. So what should we do?

Polyomavirus at one time was killing our Parrots — mostly hand-reared chicks and sometimes adults, and often in large numbers. In Budgies, the disease would affect the nestlings from 10-25 days of age, causing death acutely.

Larger Parrots are also susceptible to avian polyomavirus (APV) infection but usually do not have signs of disease. Some species are highly susceptible to disease, especially Caiques, while others rarely if ever develop signs of disease.

How to treat polyomavirus in caique parrots

APV-disease occurs at different ages in different species. In Conures, death typically occurs in birds less than 6 weeks of age. Death in Macaws and Eclectus Parrots occur at about (8 weeks) weeks or younger. Most, possibly all, of the nestlings lost are being hand-fed when this happens. Infected chicks that are being hand-fed appear healthy, show very few premonitory signs, and then die suddenly.

Chicks kept in the nest box, being fed by the parents, rarely develop disease; this fortunate outcome is due to the transfer of secretory antibody. When signs do occur, they precede death by up to 24 hours. Observant owners may notice delayed crop emptying, weakness, a generalized pallor, or bruising under the skin in the preceding hours before
death.

Yellow discoloration of the urates is another rare observation. Necropsy findings typically include generalized pallor with subcutaneous and subserosal hemorrhages and enlargement of the spleen and liver. Less commonly, ascites of abdominal fluid and/or pericardial effusion around the heart may be present.

Infection versus Disease
It has become evident that infection and disease are not synonymous, particularly with this virus. Many birds can be infected with the virus but rarely do adult birds develop disease.

They develop sensitized B and T lymphocytes, as well as antibodies and an immune response that prevents disease from occurring and eliminates the viral infection. Those that do show disease often are immunosuppressed.

The exception is Caique species, where adult birds can develop disease. Whether disease will develop is dependent on the species of bird infected, the age of the bird infected, and whether that bird is immune-suppressed.

Birds that are infected and do not develop disease still have virus replication within their bodies and shed virus in their droppings for a period of time. The length of time that virus shedding occurs, again, depends on the age of the bird at the time of infection and its species. Some hand-fed birds that are partially immune-competent will develop and recover from transient disease.

These birds often retain the viral infection for prolonged periods of time and serve to transmit the infection to naïve individuals.

Birds that are infected but do not develop signs of disease will become viremic and may begin shedding virus through the cloaca and possibly oral mucosa. Rarely, viremia lasts for months. Fecal shedding lasts for up to 16 weeks, but again is much shorter in adult birds and nestlings that are infected at an older age.

Polyomavirus Vaccine
A commercial vaccine is available for polyomavirus. Some avian veterinarians recommend vaccination starting at 21 days of age and repeat the vaccine in two weeks.

They then follow the recommendation that the Parrot should receive the vaccine yearly.
Some birds immunized with this vaccine will develop persistent swellings at the immunization site, which is usually the subcutaneous tissue over the caudal pectoral muscles. These lesions will take several weeks to a few months to regress completely.

There are other times that these injection sites can lead to dermal tumours. The other problem with the vaccine is that, scientifically, administration of the vaccine in one study did not result in titers when given to young Parrots that had not been previously exposed to the virus. Multiple blood samples were collected including 2 weeks after the second booster.

None of the naïve individuals produced detectable antibody titers. Antibody was detected in a 1-year-old Sun Conure that survived a polyomavirus outbreak. This bird had detectable titers prior to vaccination that did not change throughout the study.

Because none of the naive Parrots produced any antibody titers, it was unknown if the vaccine could protect them if they were exposed to the virus.

For these reasons, other avian veterinarians have chosen not to vaccinate Parrots for polyomavirus. While there are other infectious diseases out there that affect our feathered companions and can cause serious harm, effective vaccines have not been produced to date to keep them from getting diseases these organisms cause.
Importance of Annual Vet-Checks

But that does not mean that because we don’t have reliable vaccines for our Pots we should not take them to our avian veterinarians for yearly exams. All companion birds, just like our dogs and cats, need to get checked out with a yearly examination.

Many companion birds can have low-grade infections, and if the immune system becomes depressed, can develop serious signs of illness quickly. For this reason, many avian veterinarians will perform Gram stains of the choanal slit in the oral cavity of the patient along with a fecal gram stain. This will help them to determine if there are infections in the bird, which attempts to mask signs of disease.

Depending on the age and the health status of a particular avian patient, we might also take X-rays, measure their blood pressure, do cardiac ultrasounds, and/or take blood for various tests. All of these processes, along with reviewing the husbandry of the avian patient, is designed to keep them as healthy as possible. We want them to all lead long and healthy, enjoyable lives!

For supplements to keep your Parrot healthy please click here.

Find the nearest avian vet to you here.

This was originally published on Lafeber’s blog in 2015.

Guest writer Christine Eicher has done a profile on the Comical Caiques to add to our bird profiles.

The Caique is a small, colorful and playful parrot native to Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador rainforests and savannahs. The Black Headed Caique is found on the northern side of the Amazon River and the White Bellied Caique lives on the southern side. Caiques are known to inhabit the canopy of the rainforest and nest in tree cavities, but have also been spotted along smaller streams and waterways.

The two species bred in the United States are the Black Headed Caique, the White Bellied Caique as well as the White Bellied subspecies the Green Thighed Caique. The subspecies is very rare and is currently not offered for sale. If you wish to see a picture of the Green Thighed Caique please visit The P Patch

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Caiques average 9 inches in height. The Black Headed weigh in from 130 to 160 grams and the White Bellied averages 140 to 180 grams. Although Caiques are not known for their speaking abilities, some have been reported to have quite an amazing vocabulary. We have one Caique on the [email protected] e-list, Miss Jazzy B who is quite a prolific vocalizer and has in her repertoire the following phrases:
Ok ok ok ok, Give me a kiss, Maurice and Betsy. She also whistles Merry Xmas, When the Caissons Go Rolling On, the Andy of Mayberry theme song, Take Me Out To the Ballgame and Winchester Cathedral. This entertaining little girl also loves to shake hands upon making your acquaintance. It appears that Caiques also laugh within context and thoroughly enjoy whistling contact calls.

Caiques are friendly, playful, intelligent and inquisitive. They enjoy interacting with their humans and love peek-a-boo type games, hand wrestling, and finger tag. A favorite mode of transportation is hitching a ride on their human�s head. These affectionate little parrots can often be seen laying on their backs playing with their foot toys or foot wrestling with toys allowed to dangle within their grasp. Caiques are fearless and can often be found hanging upside down while swaying to and fro or trying to intimidate parrots 2, 4 or 6 times their size. Flying is not a Caiques� forte due to their stocky little bodies, however, they are known for their hopping and dancing prowess. Some natives of South America so prize the Caiques� dancing ability that they will pay top dollar for one who will twirl, hop and dance to the rhythm of their clapping hands.

Because Caiques are so active and playful, they need the largest cage possible. You can never have too large a cage for these energetic little clowns; they will use every square inch of their apartment. According to Shady Pines Aviary, bar spacing should not exceed one inch. These colorful little clowns love to wrestle and tackle their toys. If their toys are hung from the top of the cage, Caiques will grab one toy in each foot and do battle with the best of them. Because they are so inquisitive and intelligent, toys need to be rotated often to keep boredom from setting in. I think a Caique�s motto is �you can never have too many toys at any given time�.

All Caiques love fruit. Their favorites include all berries, grapes, all melons, papaya, mango, apples, all kinds of citrus and citrus peels, kiwi, fresh and dried figs, peach, plum, apricot, raisins and just about anything else you can think of. Caiques also enjoy fresh or very lightly steamed veggies, raw okra, fresh sweet red bell peppers, fresh or dehydrated or frozen corn and peas, halved cherry tomatoes, raw celery pieces, cooked red beets, steamed carrots, steamed or baked sweet potatoes, asparagus, raw or steamed green beans, and any summer or cooked winter squash. If you really want to give them a healthy treat, try giving them miniature steamed pumpkins. Raw, unsalted pecans and walnuts will make your Caique purr. They really do purr when eating a favorite food. Caiques also enjoy homemade sprouts. The Sprout People offer an excellent all organic sprout mix for small and medium parrots. The site is also a warehouse of sprout nutrition information and easy, simple instructions for each type of sprouting seed or mix. Chunky salsa or vegetarian spaghetti sauce over pasta is another all time favorite. They also enjoy an occasional organic peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Ezekiel or sprouted bread. Contrary to popular belief, a well rounded tablespoon of a high quality seed mix containing black striped sunflower seeds should be fed everyday. As with any parrot, Caiques are never to be fed avocado, chocolate, or any beverage that contains caffeine. When possible, please feed only organically produced foods, fruits and vegetables and wash them well before feeding.

As with all parrots, Caiques need a yearly wellness check by a certified avian vet. Unlike most other parrots, Caiques remain susceptible to Polyoma virus through out their entire life and will need to be vaccinated yearly by your avian vet. For more information on the Polyoma virus and how Caiques are affected by this killer disease please go to Jaxon for a personal experience with this disease and also an article by Dr. Rich for a veterinarian�s experience.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a highly sociable, entertaining, intelligent, playful feathered companion with whom you are willing to devote lots of attention to for the next 30 years, then the Comical Caique would certainly be one to consider. Only fully weaned, Polyoma vaccinated chicks should ever considered.

An excellent site for more detailed information is: The Caique Site and for a wonderful story read Spikey Le Bec: The Celebrity Caique by Sally Blanchard

Thank you Christine – you’ve made these birds come alive to everyone who did not know them before. Please visit Caiques Are People Too for even more pictures and information on these birds and where you can join a mailing list devoted to the Caiques.