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Roundworm Tapeworm Hairworm Threadworm – so many worms!

Birds and worms – What’s the difference between Roundworm, Tapeworm, Hairworm, Threadworm? 

Live in the intestine of a bird.  They are white and are normally 1 inch to 1½ inches long (3 cm to 4 cm), although they can be up to 4 inches (10 cm).  Roundworm are easily spotted if passed in your bird’s droppings.  Being a parasite, roundworm live and eat off their host, ie your pet bird!  Out in the air and away from the host they die and shrivel to a pink color.

Roundworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then passed from bird to bird as they come into contact with these infected droppings.

Signs of Roundworm
The bird eats a lot but loses weight due to the roundworm absorbing all the available nutrients.  It has slightly ruffled feathers and poor feather condition, picking or scratching at the stomach area, disinterested in its surroundings, messy vent, diarrhea or straining to pass droppings if infested heavily (a severe blockage can lead to death), and poor development in young birds.

Fine and threadlike living in the esophagus, crop or intestine.  There are many types ranging in length from ¼ inch to 2½ inches (1 cm to 6 cm).  Threadworm are also known as Hairworm.

Threadworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then passed from bird to bird as they come into contact with these infected droppings.

Signs of Threadworm
Loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, disinterested in its surroundings, vomiting, diarrhea with blood in it, death.

Affix to the wall of the intestine and vary in type and length, ranging from less than ¼ inch to 12 inches (1 cm to 30 cm).

Tapeworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then eaten by small insects such as snails and beetles.  Birds then eat the insects.  For this reason, tapeworm are more commonly found in insect eating birds, rather than seedeaters.

Signs of Tapeworm
Loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, droppings contain mucus or bits of tapeworm.

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Cockatiels and Budgies and Worms.

Cockatiels and budgies are vulnerable to worm-like internal parasites, with the most common being roundworm. 

Aviary birds are a lot more susceptible to worms than cockatiels and budgies housed indoors all the time.  This is due to wild birds perching on aviaries and their infected droppings landing on the aviary floor.  The floor harbours the parasite eggs and the aviary cockatiels, parakeets and budgies come into contact with these when they graze on the floor.

Indoor Pet Birds can still have worms

Be aware that indoor pet birds can still be infested with worms.  If you hang your cockatiel or budgie cage outside at all, wild birds will occasionally sit on top of the cage, with possible contamination from their droppings.  Your pet bird may have contracted worms from the aviary or pet store you obtained the bird from.  And, be careful when you introduce a new cockatiel or budgie to your existing bird as it may be a carrier of such disease.

Protection from worms

Hygiene is the key.  You must maintain a strict cleaning regime, with regular and thorough cleaning.  Aviary birds should be treated for worms on a regular basis.  An aviary with a natural environment – greenery and dirt floors – is prone to a build up of parasites, so requires more attention to cleanliness and regular worming of the birds.

Keep seed and water dishes free of droppings – do not place them under perching areas.

Also, be sure to have newly acquired birds treated for worms before you introduce them to your existing birds.

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Worms… Not the type that birds eat!

I recently took in a sick pigeon and had it wormed (or de-wormed) by our local bird rescue centre.  The resultant pile of dead roundworm on the cage floor within 12 hours was disgusting – no wonder this poor bird had been showing signs of illness.  These parasites had been absorbing all the available nutrients from the pigeon’s food intake for goodness knows how long!

This reminded me of many years ago when I took pity on three cockatiels in a pet shop who for weeks I saw squashed together in a cage the size of a shoe box!  I bought them and eventually found them a wonderful new home together in a large aviary.

Back to worms though… I had these three cockatiels for a couple of weeks before rehousing them and noticed that one out of the three was less active, slightly grumpy and fluffed up and ate lots more than the other two cockatiels, and also strained a little when passing droppings.

Wormed him, and within 24 hours this poor bird had passed 35 roundworm!!!!  Needless to say he perked up very quickly.

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Southern Hemisphere winter time, extra hungry birds around.

Feeding time for the wild birds in our backyard twice a day and so many birds visiting in these colder winter months.

A wild bird seed mix/budgie mix for the sparrows and spotted neck doves (malay spotted doves), and apple and orange pieces for the wax eyes (silvereyes), blackbirds, mynah birds.

Water dishes still available although not much bathing going on!

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Magpies and the cruelty of nature.

We feed the local pigeons and doves every day at our reserve.  For about 6 months we’ve had two magpies hanging around.  Meat eaters they are and I continually worry about their intentions.

Winter’s upon us and the magpies are of course hungrier than normal as they are eating some of the pigeon pellets in our seed mix, and ….

They are flying in at the pigeons, chasing some directly, and when they can they grab hold of a pigeon by its tail, feathers flying, and luckily so far the pigeons have been fast and strong enough to escape.

Horror of horrors last week though when from a distance we witnessed the two magpies chase a baby pigeon, bring it to the ground and one on either side of the pigeon, wing in each beak…. You can imagine the intention!  We rushed at them and thank goodness we scared them enough to release the baby bird.

Nature, yes, but very cruel to watch.

Consequently we now have a bag of small sticks beside us that we launch at the magpies when they come near us at feeding time!

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Barrabands – Superb Parrots

Barrabands are also known as superb parrots. I describe them as medium sized parakeets or small parrots. They are slightly bigger than cockatiels.

These birds have beautiful colours and can be found in the wild in New South Wales and Northern Victoria in Australia.

Male Barrabands: Bright lime green body, yellow face and red stripe around the neck.

Female Barrabands: Slightly duller green than the male with almost a blue-grey tinge. Small red patch on the throat, yellow-orange socks, underside of the tail is a beautiful yellow-orange-pink.