The commitment of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) to its Exotic Bird Health Program is exemplified by the current construction of a $3.2 million Aviary. This new aviary has been designed specifically to house a diverse mixture of exotic birds. Located on a wooded site near the College, the building is an exemplary facility. We can house multiple species from large macaws to small songbirds. It contains state-of-the art isolation facilities for infectious disease research; quarantine facilities for housing newly arrived birds; a small clinic, bird ward, and laboratory as well as offices and teaching facilities. This new building was completed in July 2014. The construction of the building was financed from general college funds. As a result, other college activities must go unsupported. We would greatly appreciate donations to support the construction of this important new building. Naming opportunities are still available as well.
Irrespective of your opinions about keeping exotic birds in captivity, it is clear that if kept they must be housed in an appropriate environment, with a high quality of life and in the best of health. Birds must be safely housed in cages of an appropriate size. They must be provided with environmental enrichment appropriate to their great intelligence and they must always be treated with regard to their environmental and emotional needs. Thus we house our birds in the largest possible cages, we provide them with abundant environmental enrichment and we actively train our birds to accept appropriate handling and veterinary care.
We use some birds for teaching. As a College of Veterinary Medicine, we have a responsibility to teach our students how to catch, hold and treat birds in an appropriate manner. We thus have a policy of training all our birds using positive reinforcement to step up onto an offered hand, and to learn that a white coat and stethoscope are not something to fear.
We investigate naturally occurring infectious diseases of exotic birds. In most cases, we have access to sick birds as a result of our close integration with the Exotic Animal Clinic in the Small Animal Hospital. Thus we rarely have occasion to infect birds experimentally. We can study the diagnosis, treatment and epidemiology of naturally occurring infectious diseases such as Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD) in birds admitted to our Exotic Animal Clinic.
Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus)
This is a species of small green parakeet originating in South America. It has been introduced into the United States where it has escaped and prospered. Large flocks are present in many US cities. Monk parakeets are however pests. They like to build their enormous stick nests on electric poles and transformers. On occasion they cause electrical malfunctions and as a consequence are unpopular with power companies. Power companies must therefore pull down the nests and young birds are left homeless. We have arranged with local power companies to accept these young birds and as a result have a large colony of healthy monk parakeets. We use these birds for studies on avian behavior and nutrition.
Parrot bornavirus (PaBV) is the causal agent of Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD). Unfortunately, PDD is not uncommon and we see many cases of the disease in our Exotic Animal Clinic. While our major focus is directed towards seeking solutions to the terrible problems caused by PaBV and PDD, new University Regulations mean that we are no longer able to accept donations of naturally-infected birds for further study.