Liverpool University Budgerigar Ailment Research (LUBARP)

The research project into budgerigar ailments, sponsored by the Lancashire, Cheshire and North Wales including the Isle of Man Budgerigar Society, was started in 1984 and lasted for 8 years. From 1992 there will be some change of emphasis so this seems a good time to look back at what has been achieved.

The project starts each year in February and prior to this discussions are held to decide the topic for the year. The aim is to pick a topic of interest to the fancy, which stands a reasonable chance of being completed in the year, and taking into account the limited time that I can devote to research and the constraints imposed by the finance available. The latter two are particularly important and mean that a number of topics of great interest to the fancy, such as French moult, cannot be investigated.

1984-5: Going Light
The topic chosen for 1984-5 was ‘going light.’ Many diseases of cage birds make them lose weight and ‘go light.’ 

1985-6: Vomiting Budgies
1985-6 was the year of vomiting budgies. Birds actually being sick or or trying to vomit were noticed by a number of fanciers as being a common problem. 

1986-7: Diarrhoea
After this success with a disease at the top end of the digestive system, in 1986-7 attention was turned to the other end to look at why some birds developed diarrhoea.

 

1987-88: Reproduction
In 1987/88 attention was turned to reproduction and in particular why exhibition budgies had (and still have) such an abysmal breeding record when compared with almost all other breeds of cage birds and poultry. 

1988-89: Causes of Death of Exhibition Budgerigars
In 1988-89 it was decided to find out exactly what the causes of death of exhibition budgerigars are. 

1990-91: Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Poisoning
I had noticed when talking to fanciers that many used a great variety of mineral and vitamin supplements and it was not unusual for 2, 3, or even more of these to be used in one stud. 
1990-91: Clagged Vents
In 1990-1 it was decided that we would investigate the condition of clagged vents in which large amounts of droppings accumulate around the vent. 

1991-92: Eye Diseases
The last project, undertaken in 1991-2, was an investigation of eye problems in budgerigars.

Also in 1990-91 the University purchased some very expensive equipment for doing blood chemistry on the normal domestic species that we deal with and this had the capability to do chemistry on minute amounts of blood. This equipment was used to find out the normal levels of a number of substances in normal budgerigar blood and, following this, to use it as a method for locating the problem in sick birds. It has proved its worth in the diagnosis of liver and kidney diseases and also in cases of diabetes.

Conclusion

Due to the lack of support by the fancy for the last 2 projects, and also as we could not think of projects which would appeal and be practical for 1992-3 at least we were offering a free treatment and advisory service to members of the LCNWBS; other fanciers are to use this service but a charge was made for any work done.

While the above describes briefly some of the “official” projects, a lot of other work has also been carried out. Quite early on in the project it became clear that there was a need for a diagnostic service using samples, live birds or post-mortem examinations and at least as much time has been spent on this as on the “official” research. Many interesting diseases have been seen and even now new ones are cropping up. Small projects have been carried out on three of the most serious diseases; psittacosis, budgerigar fledgling disease and megabacteriosis.

In brief psittacosis is treatable and there is certainly no need for fanciers to put down infected studs. The other two diseases are not currently treatable but we now know enough about them to advise as to what to do and what to expect.

There have been other benefits to come out of the project. The first of these is that the veterinary students at Liverpool University now get some lectures on budgerigar diseases and a certain amount of hands-on experience. Second we are now able to offer to veterinary surgeons in practice, an advisory service for budgerigar problems and this is quite popular. Third, it became obvious very early in project that fanciers were having difficulty in locating vets with experience of cage birds and their diseases. As a result of this a list was drawn up of vets working in this field, and it has proved very popular indeed and has now been amalgamated with one produced by a commercial company (Vetrepharm) so that fanciers should always be able to find somebody in their area who can assist with problems.

Last but not least there is no point in doing this type of research and clinical work unless the findings are made available to the fancy and I am most grateful to Cage and Aviary Birds, The Budgerigar and the News Report of the LCNWBS for publishing articles based on the work I have done; articles are also published in various veterinary magazines from time to time to keep the profession aware of what has been going on.

While the “official” projects have been stopped, for a year in the first instance, I do very much hope that the mutual assistance which has been of such benefit to all parties, the fancy, the research committee, and myself will continue and flourish for many years to come.

Original text Copyright 1992, Dr John R Baker.

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