Beak and feather disease at bird bath - what now?

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Samantha's picture
Beak and feather disease at bird bath - what now?

Hi everyone,

I just saw a very sad sight at my backyard bird bath: a sulphur-crested cockatoo that appeared to be severely affected with Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD). He was travelling solo.

PBFD is obviously contagious (being caused by a virus).

Is anyone here knowledgeable about how best to act in this situation? Does my bird bath need to be disinfected? If so, how?

Woko's picture

A sad sight indeed, Samantha. And you are to be commended for your concern.

Many of the photos I've seen of parrots & cockatoos with PBFD have been taken of birds at feeding stations. I've yet to see one involving a bird bath. That doesn't mean that the disease isn't passed on at bird baths but, anecdotally, it would seem feeding stations, at least, are not a good idea.

I've read that there's no cure for the disease & infected birds eventually die. But birds with PBFD need to be provided with good nutrition, perhaps the sort that can best be provided in a natural environment although I would have thought that these birds might pass the disease to other wild parrots & cockatoos.

You can read more at & even more at

Other Backyarders might have more or even alternative information.

Raven's picture

I would empty the bird bath and let it dry out in the sun after a good scrubbing with a coarse brush just as a precaution.

Woko's picture

Isn't PBFD passed from bird to bird rather than from bath to bird?

dwatsonbb's picture

See these information sheets woko, in particular and i quote from the1st, "It is one of the smallest and most resistant disease causing viruses and probably remains alive for many years in tree hollows and other nest sites".

It should also be noted that it is a "zoonosis", that is a disease which can be passed to humans, most often by inhaling dust from faeces in aviaries or cages. I have in my profession (Paramedic) encountered 2 cases of "avian psittacosis", which have presented as respiratory infections (exacerbation of asthma or emphysema), with chest infection or pnuemonia tpe symptoms. As I recall the 2 cases were caused by a bacteria (chlamydophila psittaci), and one was from pidgeons (used to be call pidgeon fanciers disease I think).

There appears to be 2 forms of psittacosis, viral (as in beak and feather disease), and bacterial (see second site),where it identifies "chlamydophila psittaci" as a gram negative bacteria.

My understaning is that the virus can be transmitted on feeding stations (I guess natural as well as artificial) and possibly bird baths possibly can be guilty.

Human reference site

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Woko's picture

Great information, Dale. Thanks. Raven's idea of cleaning the bird bath would seem to be a good one, particularly if a disinfectant is used as suggested on the second website you mention. 

Raven's picture

I would not use any chemical or distenfecant in washing out a bird bath, good scrubbing brush and left to dry in the sun, sun will kill off anything untowards.

Man made chemicals could leave a trace, even when the bath has dried out.  

Birds are sensitive to chemicals, good boiling water from the kettle and scrubbing brush and then dry in the sun, simple, safe and effective.

Woko's picture

When it's all boiled down I think your approach is the most beneficial, Raven. Avoid chemicals if at all possible.

NateWinston's picture

Great advice here. Surely it will work.

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