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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Intro: I rehab the occasional pigeon (from a few days to 6 months), am based in England, have had birds of my own (not pigeons), have learned a lot in bird rehab in Florida.

Tada, a new mystery to solve!

25 days ago, I spotted a pigeon with a problem. It was flying very well but looked very thin; something was going on. Well, today I finally got her. She's alert, calm, focused on getting and conserving energy. I haven't examined her yet as she is clearly functional and letting her settle in a bit and observing her is key.

Observations, so far:

- Very thin.
- Appears to have been plucking feathers in the crop area (or feather problem).
- Has badly overgrown beak.
- Is pooping; all three components present.
- Is eating.
- Feet and wings functional.

It could well be that her only problem is malnutrition due to overgrown beak. (Overgrown beaks can point toward a liver problem in other bird species, but her nails look normal to me and beak overgrowth caused by liver issues tends to go with nail overgrowth in other bird species, so presumably also in pigeons.) Or she could have plastic or something else in her crop. Or something else. Will need to wait a day or so to see how normal or abnormal those droppings are. I have some meds, but am not giving her any (yet) and yeah, I can use an emory board to trim that beak down a bit and see what happens.

Photo below; sorry for the bad contrast, but I think the beak overgrowth is clear enough.
That photo did not show up, though, so here is the link instead:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Pj9h94Zn91BtESWrYGs2MT0tmpshEOrj/view?usp=sharing
 

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How is he doing now? I've read an overgrown beak can be a sign of vitamin A defficiency. It will be difficult to pick up seeds on the street, but in a deep dish much easier.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Hi Marina,

Doing fine. (Pooping fine, too.) If it's really only the bill that is causing the bird's problems, then I should see steady improvements soon.

Has no problem getting seeds out of a dish, indeed, but I too wondered about mineral and vitamin deficiencies and will see if I can give her a boost in that area (besides seed mix and hemp seeds). It must be hard to get at certain foods with that beak.

Update on the feathers: It's not a case of plucking, I think, but of the feathers breaking off. That too might point at nutritional deficiencies.

Will make a first attempt to file down that bill a little bit today. Will take a while to get it back into shape, but I don't want to cut and I don't want to stress the bird out too much. (Some birds find it really annoying to have their beaks filed.)

Will get her some grit and soil too.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Ha! Looks like it may be a worm problem!

(Dropping hanging from butt with a long string.)

If this is the cause, then everything else would follow from that. And that picture fits.

I know that treating a bad worm infestation can cause a blockage, so I am focusing on feeding the bird first (as that, apparently, can get things to move a bit, ha ha), treating the worms second. (Filing down the beak has to be done too, sure.)
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Have now taken a look at the ample droppings. (One was reddish, possibly as a result of worms that got dislodged? Or maybe it was because of something she ate before I caught her.) A few had thread-like things in and around them, yep. Looks like roundworm.

Have done first grinding of beak with emory board; s/he tolerates that well. (She may actually like it, in fact.) Will take many sessions to get that beak back in shape. She handles easily, could also (likely!) be a sign of how weak she is underneath it all.

Eats well and poops it all out too. After she ate around noon, I could see her crop filling and then slowly emptying as she has no feathers there. (I've changed her dishes around so that she can eat more easily, with that beak of hers, but she has no problem eating.)

Prefers to be outside, she's said. Yeah, well, don't we all! :p
("I feel much better now, thanks; I can go home now." "No, you can't. Sorry." "Okay.")

She's done a few stretches and at least one shake, so she is clearly getting a bit more relaxed now. Let's me change papers around her, too, without objecting. Sleeps fine.

Will keep feeding her well (I got vitamins too) and then start her on Harkers for worms. (Had to order it. Had some 1-in-3 but it's past expiry date.)

Bird will probably have to stay a while.

Okay, am gonna leave it at that unless something funny or unexpected happens.
 

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Hi, I have an overgrown beak pigeon, Pulcino.

When I rescued him he was a very skinny youngster, he was literally covered by parasites and had a really long upper beak...
I brought him to my vet. In his case, probably it's a malformation. Except of his beak issue, he is perfectly fine.

I have to trim and to file his beak each two weeks (three weeks maximum).

I know that overgrown beak in birds could have many causes: vitamins/nutritional deficiencies (lack of vit. A, folic acid, etc), disease, etc.

Anyway, if you need any advice, feel free to ask 😊.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Feathering questions. (worms dealt with, now getting her back in shape)

Oh, I had missed all these replies! Wonderful!

Here is an update. Plus, I have a feathering question, out of curiosity and for the purpose of planning.

Beak
I've been using an emory board on the bill and it's much closer to normal now. She's a wonderful bird and she understands what we're doing. I suspect that she even recognized herself in the mirror that I put in her cage as her bill must have stood out to her and was causing some frustration so she must have been aware of it. (After one of the first beak-filing sessions, the first thing she did was look in the mirror after I put her back into the cage.) I am hoping that it's not a problem and that she'll be able to keep it in shape herself. We do one filing session every day; how long it lasts is up to her.

Worms and general
It took a little while for the dewormer to arrive (Harkers, levamisole) but she's had that now. (completed two days ago) I have no reason to assume that there is still a problem of any kind, other than her bad condition as a result of the worms.

The deworming seems to have done the trick, yep. She's putting on some padding now (body) and she also has more energy/strength, a bit more spring to her step. She likes jumping and I notice that she jumps with more ease, like her muscles are in better shape now.

I've been adding some moulting tonic to some of her drinking water too.

She had no feather parasites, btw.

Feathers
She had lost a lot of feathers; they had all broken off. (A ring around her neck, most of her chest/belly, some under her wings.)

I am reluctant to let her go before she is fully feathered again and in the best shape possible.

What do you guys think?

  • Will her body likely wait until she would normally start to moult?
  • (Which would be when? September??) (UK south coast)
  • Or will she likely start growing new feathers sooner, as soon as her body feels it has enough nutrition for it?

If she has to go into a full molt, she may be here for a long time (close to a year in total) as I wouldn't want to release her into cold weather from indoors. I've had one for 6 months, before, but I found that one in October. On the other hand, if she has to stay that long - which means that I will have to let her fly indoors - I'd also be able to detect it if it turns out that there is some kind of other problem after all. But the worms so far explain everything.

For the record, she was still flying when I got her (but might not have kept flying for much longer).

PS
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could edit the title of a thread? :D
"Plucking" :rolleyes:

PPS
(Added later, after beak trimming)
She is now behaving RIDICULOUSLY tame (and she's also very communicative, btw).
So either she has been handled by humans before.
Or I am doing something really well.
Or I am doing something really well and she's now also realized "Holy cow, the worms are gone! So this woman is really helping me."

Seriously, she's hilarious. She's now behaving like she's been my pet bird for 10, 15, 20 years, LOL. I picked her up, this evening - just like that - and I decided to carry her around and she poked her head and neck into the air looking at everything and purring her occasional comments. I even had her upside down - supported - for a moment, without any protest from her, simply trusting me. She's also very sociable toward the birds outside, though, (vocal). They seem to be keeping an eye on her (and they may even have brought her here, who knows; word seems to get around among pigeons). That said, she definitely wants to be out there with the other birds, not in here.

Just two days or so after I got her, I had stumbled onto a video about Anna Breytenbach on YouTube and I've paid more attention to this bird, I suppose than to previous birds, realizing for example that she definitely did not want to hide and be covered, the way really ill birds usually do and need and also is often needed to keep a wild bird indoors calm and secure enough. She wants to see everything and likes having a lot of open space around her/in front of her. I've also explained to her what the reason is for keeping her in a cage - for her safety - and I had told her that I was waiting for the meds to arrive and that they would be in her drinking water, as well as what they were for. (I have learned before that birds have a shocking ability to understand us humans; Anna's explanations suddenly made that all click into place.)

For the first time, she ate almost all her veggies today - so I gave her a refill - and she also ate more of the rest.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Had a bath!

Yesterday, I decided to place a little bath in her cage and fill it with water.

This morning, I heard her plop into it from the small stack of bricks next to it. Testing it, I assume, as she stepped out of it.

At around noon, I discovered that she'd had a full bath. It was only a shallow dish into which I had poured water, a square one that fit perfectly in the corner next to the bricks. In spite of that, she had managed to get even part of her back soaked. :D She looked like a plucked chicken, poor thing.

She does have two small new feathers on her chest, btw, and she's dropped (not broken off) two feathers of around 11.5 cm.
 

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Sounds as if she is improving, that's good. I hope she will be ok when you release her and not go downhill again.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Hi,

Yeah, she's putting on padding and I can tell that she's stronger when I handle her.

BEAK
However... that upper mandible of hers seems to grow crazy fast. So I went back to my idea of possible liver involvement - she's fond of sunflower seeds, so I've cut those from her diet now - and ordered some milk thistle seeds.

Hard to know how fast a bill normally grows, as it's constantly worn down, but in her case, it seems abnormally fast to me. So I just searched the web on speed of beak growth.

Then I ran into avian keratin disorder (for which the theory seems to be that it's caused by a new virus - see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4958255/ and https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70197820).

I looked into the situation in the UK and I found this: https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/gbw/about/background/projects/bgbw/results/species

  • So at this point, I can't rule out that she has a virus and that the worm infection was secondary. This might complicate matters.
  • On the other hand, she clearly had been lacking nutritionally for quite some time (in view of the many feathers that broke off). Maybe the effect of that on her beak is still active and takes a while to wind down.

It appears that the quick grows forward too, with a growing mandible, and that grinding the bill down makes the quick retract. What I'll do is work on her bill twice a day and see where that gets us. (Yeah, emory board. I don't want to cut into the quick by accident.)

(Looks like she'll either be here for a long time or forever, Marina. She's not releasable at the moment. Flies okay but would have trouble feeding herself and she has to make so many feathers to replace the ones that broke off.)
 

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It will be a shame to release her when there's a chance the overgrowing will happen again. You will know what is best for her. Lucky pigeon to have been found by you.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Oh, she's quite cool and she's popular. Various pigeons seem to know her, seem to be keeping an eye on her. She coos at all of them, too. :D (She coos at me too.)

This evening, after our session, I had an idea. I have a small stack of 2 x 3 bricks in the cage. I put some sunflower seeds on top of the bricks. Sure enough, she hopped over from a wooden perch (manzanita) and because she really wants them, she'll even peck up to 4 times if she wants one that keeps getting away. That is going to help too. I'll do this every time after I file her beak down a little bit.

(It may actually be out of alignment, by the way.)

When I look at this, then I see that clipping is quicker, but filing works just as well.
http://www.pigeon-aid.org.uk/pa/html/overgrown_beak.php
She came in with the beak looking like on the left and it's now more or less like on the right.

The good thing about having a pigeon stay longer is that you find out if there is still something going on, such as in the digestive system or, in this case, with the beak.

PS
I forgot to explain that the growth is clear if I don't do a daily beak session so there is no wear on the beak. If I skip two days, the beak becomes visibly longer.

PPS
I also forgot how much longer her bill was when I got her! I've uploaded some pics (album). I think she'll be fine in the end. One measure of how much better she is doing is feather preening.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Just another update, no problems

She continues to improve in strength in terms of 1) pushing back when I grab her when she is not in the mood or wants to go somewhere else and 2) appearing to be livelier.

Also, no hesitation in letting me know she doesn't like something, but some of it - ya have to laugh - is a matter of principle as it comes after the "intrusion" (adding food very close to her), saying "this is MY cage, just so you know". One of my parrots used to do that too, but that one had a great sense of humor. (Do pigeons have a sense of humor? Haven't seen it in them yet. This one may become the first.)

Today, I also noticed that her posture is beginning to change. Good!

In view of how much energy flying costs, it's amazing that she still managed to do that. No wonder she had to sacrifice so many of her small feathers, poor thing.

I found a wheat-free seed mix that she likes plus she's decided that she likes milk thistle seeds. Good! Funny; most pigeons love hemp seeds and she eats them but is totally not crazy about them. She is the first bird of any species that I've known who actually likes milk thistle seeds. So she may have noticed that they are benefiting her.

She's a very intelligent bird, which helps tremendously.

Filing her beak down twice a day with an emery board was too much and I only did that for two days. She made clear that she wasn't liking it, that it really was too much. She understands what it is about (and she also seems to have decided all by herself not to eat too much around that time of the day because she fills up afterwards). She is usually very patient about it. When she's had enough, I stop.

She still has trouble with larger items because of her beak, but her eating ability is much better now. I put a lot of her seeds on the bricks now because it helps with her beak and allows me to observe how she eats.

By the way, I think she was also quite happy that preening became easier for her.

She coos and mutters quite a bit, also when she's eating. :cool: I see her trying to grind her beak in the evening. She seems quite content, not frustrated, which is good, but she does want to be out there, of course. She exercises her wings regularly. (When she's been here longer she can probably fly around in the room in which her cage is. Have done that with another rehab pigeon.)

At this point, I think it's probably best not to release her before she's got her plumage back, which will take some time (ideally, I'd like to see her molt). By then, her beak will probably be back in shape too; so will be able to assess if it stays functional. If it turns out to be too cold then so that the temperature difference might be too harsh, she can either stay through the winter or stay, period. Whatever she wants.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Yes of course; I am curious too. (Also, because then it might be that virus. A pity I don't have any camera that does good closeups so that I could show you well what the beak looks like now. That said, she seems very happy with the progress we've made.) So let's first get it back to the point that she can grind her bill normally (because she wants to do that). There could always suddenly be some other issue that manifests, too; who knows. Is hard to tell whether there could still be a remaining issue after all - say, with liver - while she's still in the middle of recovery.

Is starting to make new "fluff" in the bald areas now, you know the pieces of fluff that cover the body. I take that as a good sign.

Have meanwhile spotted another bird with a problem. Looks thin and is yellowish as if either she's fallen into something (grease?) or has serious liver problem.
 
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