Tail & Wing Butt Cysts

Budgerigar.co.uk recently received the following query from Jon Ashby (UK):

Jon AshbyI am interested to know more about feather cysts in budgerigars as I have a bird with a cyst on one wing butt. It is a 2008 bird.

This arose after a moult and I now see some of his tail feather follicles look rather swollen and resemble what can be described as an “ingrowing look”.

There are also a few “stumpy” feather tips protruding from these tail follicles. Should these be pulled out?

This problem has only started after full maturity – so my concern is, should I discard this bird from future breeding now, or persist with it as it is certainly fertile?

I am trying the Binks “Attack, Attack, Attack” principle, but I am frustrated by this recent setback.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Here are responses from Gerald Binks & Dr Rob Marshall:

GSB Replies

Let me give my opinion first of all, as the enthusiastic amateur on matters medical. I e-mailed Rob Marshall for his expertise and this can be seen below.

Gerald BinksI think this is an excellent question which bothers a great number of fanciers, myself included.

While common with aged pet birds, such cysts do appear in the areas described by Jon on a fairly frequent basis in the exhibition world.

It is sometimes associated with build up from a blocked feather follicle – which, if lanced with a sterilised scalpel, releases a cheesy-like mass that has accumulated around the follicle and the protruding stump of the feather, or feathers.

There may be a group of feathers or stumps involved, not just one.

This applies to both areas – namely where the primaries are seated and the tail follicles sited as well.

My problem personally with this type of cheesy cyst, is that, after clearing the mass, it returns.

There is some blood loss while clearing the mass, but not a great amount – but here comes the next problem!

It returns after the scalpel wound has recovered. (I should perhaps mention here, that I was trained in zoology at school and also learned a great deal while in the Royal Army Medical Corps medical centre under various doctors. So despite being an amateur, I do have some anatomical experience behind me.)

At this point, I’ll hand over to Dr Rob Marshall (…whose great book, The Budgerigar, should be on everyone’s bookshelf. I refer to it very frequently even after 65 years at this hobby!).

Dr Rob Marshall Replies

I often see a caseous (a sheath-like cyst) infection at the base of the tail that involves the follicles of the long feathers, specifically both areas where such long feathers grow. So that includes the zone from where the long primaries grow!

Dr Robert MarshallThis type of infection is nearly always associated with the preen gland in the case of the tail area.

In my mind it reflects an inherently (note that word) weak bird that is not preening itself adequately due to a lack of vitality – hence not all birds in a stud are affected, as in other variable diseases.

Lack of nutritional balance and other conditions that suppress immunity to this problem are often a cause.

That is an environmental change that is too moist, dusty or where there are fluctuating temperatures and humidity.

The use of Ivermectin, which many fanciers use for the clearance of mites, is a solution and has a propylene glycol base which is great for clearing up cheesy-type infections as described earlier.

Conclusion from GSB

This last observation from Rob Marshall caught my eye!

Reinhard MolkentinI knew that Reinhard Molkentin, one of the great thinking fanciers in the hobby, places a small drop of Ivermectin on the dorsal (top) side of the tiny area where the tail grows with a “00 brush” – when he rings each bird.

I called him and he states that they have a trolley which has all the food, rings and tools on it, but also a bottle of Ivermectin! As he and his son Holger go round on their daily routine, they put a drop of Ivermectin on the tail area of birds being ringed that day. That routine never changes.

Reinhard also added that this idea came from what happens with cattle – such as the small Dexter cattle that get ticks and worms, as well as other variant bugs. It is general practice with all the farmers to do this, obviously using larger doses.

So, as Dr Rob Marshall observes, Ivermectin can be very useful to have on hand.

Reinhard is adamant that for the past few years they have not had one case of cysts and they are breeding with 200 pairs per annum now.

This article should stimulate not only Jon Ashby, but us all in general.

Jon Ashby should therefore breed with a bird with cysts and seriously consider taking the combined advice of Dr Rob Marshall and Reinhard Molkentin.

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About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

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