site is dedicated to a Lady Gouldian hen named Amelia. We had
thought she was a black-headed normal, but I've recently been
informed bySandy at Littlebirds:
Pages on the Gouldian Finch that she was actually a black-headed
blue-backed hen. Thank you, Sandy, for sharing that information
was rescued on the loose in downtown Chicago by a vacationing
couple on July 31, 2000. She was lying on the ground on the
verge of death. Wild crows were eyeing her as a potential supper.
When the couple attempted to catch her, she had a little flight
left in her but not much sense of direction, and she flew into
a wall, after which they were able to catch her and bring her
into the warmth.
couple contacted a finch breeder they found on the web, not
knowing he no longer lived in the area. He and Tom had been
coworkers and he knew we kept finches, so he gave the couple
Toms work number. Tom drove downtown to pick her up.
was NFSS closed banded in 1997, making her somewhere in the
vicinity of 3 years old. We kept her in a spare cage we had
for transporting and hospitalizing finches. She was in bad shape
and I didnt believe she would last through the night.
She suffered from symptoms that resembled a very severe case
is something of a mystery. There are many theories as to its
cause and conflicting reports about whether it is curable or
treatable. It is possible that there are many causes that produce
the same symptoms, some of which are treatable and others are
not. But anyone who has ever seen a bird presenting with these
symptoms know that it is one of the saddest conditions a bird
can be in.
could not lift her head up off the ground. She had no sense
of balance and she could not perch. For the most part, her head
hung upside down beneath her, and when she tried to fly, she
mostly flayed about on the floor. In spite of this disability,
when presented with food, she was able to stick her head in
the dish sidewise and husk seeds or eat veggies. In fact, among
Gouldians, she was the best eater I have ever had, trying anything
offered to her.
she made it through the night. I made an appointment with our
avian vet, took off from work, and brought her in. Turned out,
in addition to the Twirling, she had feather mites. A blood
test showed fat cells in her blood. The levels were not so high
as to be critical, but we were warned that this could be a sign
of liver problems (if I remember correctly).
doctor said the Twirling could be caused by many different things.
Some people believe Twirling is a genetic trait common to gouldians,
possibly caused by an inability to absorb vitamins and minerals
efficiently. If not given high enough levels of these nutrients,
the trait would express itself. The doctor said the Twirling
could be caused by a virus, possibly caught from an infected
pigeon she encountered in the wild, since pigeons seem to be
prone to this type of virus. He also said it could be caused
by an inner ear infection. The infection throws their equilibrium
system off and they have difficulty holding their head up.
was both dusted with Ivermectin and also given a shot of Ivermectin
to kill all stages of the mites. In an attempt to treat the
Twirling (as well as any other infections she may have had),
she was given an antibiotic injection and we were given a prescription
for Vetisulid (a broad-spectrum antibiotic) and Probios, a probiotic
to restore the gut flora diminished by the antibiotic. The total
cost of the visit and the medications came to $98.54.
night we had an awful time. We had given her water in a very
shallow dish (about 1/2 tall) and put it on the floor
of the cage where she could easily reach it, since she could
not perch to reach the food and water dishes that came with
the cage. She somehow fell in the water dish (possibly in a
bout of night-fright) and was flapping around madly. It looked
like she was having a very bad seizure, but it could have been
that she just fell in and was unable to get out again. I grabbed
her and dried her off with a towel and put her back in the cage
with an added source of heat from a ceramic heat lamp. I then
called Bird 911 (the after-hours bird and small-animal emergency
hotline), but was told that there was nothing more I could do
for her. To our relief, she survived the incident.
learned after that incident that Amelia was particularly prone
to night fright. Night fright occurs when a bird suddenly startles
badly in the middle of the night. They flutter about madly in
the dark and crash into the walls of the cage/aviary. To help
her through the night frights we left a dim light on all night
in her room.
several days we noticed no improvement in Amelia. But after
about two weeks of antibiotic treatment, things began to change.
It seemed to us that Amelia could do a better job of lifting
her head, at least for brief moments. Then she began to perch,
even though her head still hung upside down below her belly.
Gradually her head straightened out more and more so that it
was mostly erect except for occasional twitches. She began to
sleep with her head tucked under her wing like the other birds.
She began to fly from perch to perch.
we took her to the vet for her follow-up appointment, she was
a completely different bird. Even the vet was surprised at the
degree of her improvement. She was given a follow-up dose of
Ivermectin even though no signs of feather mites remained.
was now so much healthier that we knew we had to give her a
larger living quarters. The vet advised us against moving her
in with the other birds because she could still be carrying
a number of illnesses that lay dormant. So Tom went to work
on building her a flight. The final flight was a little more
than 4 ft long, 2.5 ft deep and 3 ft tall. She loved it. She
flew from perch to perch and peeped all day long.
believe Amelia was very happy for several months. Then one night
in November, we noticed a strange behavior change. She would
sit on the perch where she slept and make the hissing sound
that Gouldians make when they are angry or defending their territory.
We decided not to disturb her. In the morning, we found her
dead at the bottom of the flight.
believe she had finally succumbed to the liver problems the
vet had suggested she might have when he did the blood test.
I had noticed that her urates were slightly yellow and lately
she had been excreting lumpy droppings that looked like they
might have contained undigested millet from the millet spray.
In spite of this, her death hit us hard. We had hoped that she
could spend the rest of a long life in luxury and peace. She
had had a rough time and she deserved this much. But it wasnt
meant to be. I do believe that the four months she spent with
us were happy months for her. It just wasnt long enough.
SIDE NOTE ABOUT TWIRLING
have heard claims that Twirling is untreatable and that
advising people to treat a bird with Twirling is wrong
because it gives people false hope and guilts them into
spending a lot of money on a useless treatment. These
claims were made in spite of articles published to the
contrary (like this one on the NFSS website: http://www.nfss.org/Articles/Article/Disease/stargazing.html).
I believe there may be some causes of the symptoms described
as Twirling that may be untreatable. But antibiotics
did clear up the symptoms of Amelias Twirling. Perhaps
the underlying cause was treated, perhaps it was not.
Even though she eventually died, her symptoms never returned.
Perhaps the cause of her Twirling was the eventual cause
of her death, but I believe it was completely unrelated.
I dont have any answers.
I know this: every dime we spent was worth it. Even though
we only bought her four months of symptom-free existence,
I believe she was happy and she gave us so much in return.
I would not hesitate to try and treat another bird showing
these symptoms. If I could show you before and after shots
of Amelia, Im sure you would agree. Unfortunately,
when she was ill, we were more concerned with keeping
her alive than with documenting her progress. Instead,
we have only the after shots that you see
on this page.
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