Veterinary Viewpoints


Question# 1: I have a Green-winged Macaw that has a lump on its wing. I took it to the veterinarian and she said it was a feather cyst. She said that it needed surgery. Should I get a second opinion and is there any other way to remove it. Why did it just happen to that one feather?

S. Talbis, Arizona

Answer #1: Feather cysts are common in birds. Certain strains of canaries are very prone to them. The veterinarian you consulted advised you correctly. Surgical removal is appropriate. Isolated feather cysts can result from trauma to the follicle of the feather or the skin in the area of a feather follicle.

fames. M. Hams, DVM Oakland, CA

Answer #2: One of the most likely causes of "lumps" on a captive parrot's wing is indeed a feather cyst. Tumors, both benign and malignant, and abscesses also cause lumps and bumps (masses). It is important, therefore, that your veterinarian perform diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the mass. This can be done both


prior, during and after surgery. Techniques include palpation (feel the lump), aspirating the mass, cytology (looking at the mass's contents under a microscope), culture, and histopathology (fixing first before examining under a microscope). If it is indeed a feather cyst, surgery is the best way to remove the mass as it can involve rather invasive techniques where anesthesia and sterility are important. Removal of the mass is important because it can be painful or become infected.

The exact causes of feather cysts are unknown but often it is due to trauma to the father sheaths (feather chewing, wing flapping against hard objects, pulling out of quills). Sometimes this trauma only affects one feather follicle, hence one feather cyst occurs.

Kim L. Joyner, DVM, MPVM

Raleigh, NC

Answer # 3: Feather cysts can be a somewhat frequent occurrence in certain species of birds, including Greenwinged Macaws. They may occur within any feather follicle, but they seem to occur most commonly on the wings in macaws. Feather cysts are generally thought to he the result of trauma to the feather follicle or to the


growing feather shaft. What is thought to happen is, that during the growth of a feather inside the follicle, some sort of trauma occurs to one side of the growing feather or follicle. Instead of growing out straight as was intended, the developing feather grows abnormally and ends up in a circle or semicircle configuration within the follicle sheath. On the outside, what is seen is a lump, which sounds like what you have noticed.

The treatment of choice for a feather follicle cyst is complete surgical incision of the abnormal follicle. Once that feather follicle is removed, the problem can not reoccur as the entire follicle has been removed

A lump could also be a variety of types of growths on your bird. Surgical excision is recommended for many lumps on birds, and a biopsy, to determine what the lump is, should be performed.

Amy B. Worell, DVM, ABVP-Avian West Hills, CA

Question # 2: I have been ra1smg birds for years and have never had the dreaded sour crop. Unfortunately, this season, I have had one macaw, one cockatoo, and two Senegal babies that I was handraising develop the problem and die. I was going to take them to the veterinarian, but I tried baking soda and warm water first, then added mineral oil and turned one of them upside down and squeezed the crop empty. I don't think that I have changed a thing in my normal handfeeding routine. I have not had a dead baby in years. Please help and tell me what I did wrong. Why did this happen to me?

 M. Little, Kansas