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Dirty Bird

Expert Question

My Question:
I have a dirty bird (hahaa!). He is an 11 yr old adopted Patagonian Conure named Luther. He stinks. I have two other pattis, and if you’ve ever been around this species much, you will find that they have a lovely scent that reminds one of sandalwood mixed with jasmine.

Luther’s scent is so strong that it’s overpowering in comparison. When I adopted him I took him straight to the vet. The vet was surprised to find that Luther is missing most of his choanal pappillae in his pharynx. He said that was indicative of chronic allergies. Luther does have occasional sinus problems & recently went through a course of antibiotics & nasal drops for it. His periorbital eye ring had become swollen and waxy appearing, he was irritable, and did a lot of valsalva maneuvers to pop his ears (appearing as yawning). The reason I mention the sinus problem is because I think they might be related to why he stinks so much. In short, his preening is almost nil. Maybe too much dander? He preens only his tail feathers & they are overpreened to the point that all the ends are frazzled. But the rest of him is fraught with sheaths that have remained on old pin feathers. He is allowing me to help him with removing them now; he’s good for about 30 minutes then loses his patience with me. I give him a good soaking bath two to three times a week to promote preening & he’s on a Zupreem Original (no color) pelleted diet supplemented with El Paso Nutriberries, dried alfalfa, broccoli, and spinach, and fresh fruits & veggies. He’s in a huge corner cage & I take him out daily to interact with him for about an hour.

Luther is an extremely vocal bird & I think a lot of his ‘hollering’ is because he doesn’t feel good. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Expert Answer

Hi Cynthia Jo,

    Thanks for the great question…these dirty birds are no joke ;>))  I love the the smell of conures, ‘toos, macaws, greys, all parrots!  First, I must commend you on adopting Luther, for feeding him an excellent diet, giving him frequent showers and taking him to an avian veterinarian.

    The missing choanal papillae could be caused from chronic allergies, infection, or poor diet (seeds). Sinus problems can be very difficult to resolve and may require further diagnostic testing to determine the cause and long-term treatment.  What does the odor smell like?  Garbage? Something dead? Spoiled fruit? How are Luther’s droppings-do they have an odor?  How was Luther’s sinus infection diagnosed-blood tests? Sinus flush/cytology? X-rays? How long was the course of treatment you gave Luther and did his symptoms competely resolve?  You may be correct in that a chronic infection can cause an odor.

    If Luther does not preen much, this can add to his “odor” problem. Bathing and preening him should help, so please continue that. One-on-one interaction is wonderful, too.  I would suggest delving a bit deeper into diagnostics to try to pinpoint Luther’s odor.  I hope you get to the bottom of things;>)

Ellen K. Cook, DVM
About Ellen K. Cook, DVM

Dr. Ellen K. Cook has been practicing small animal medicine since 1975. In 1998, she rescued Merlin, a six-year-old Moluccan cockatoo with many undesirable behaviours, and soon began focusing primarily on avian veterinary medicine and behavioral issues.

Dr. Cook is a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the International Association of Trainers and Educators, the Animal Behavior Management Alliance, and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorists.

She has published numerous articles over the years on avian veterinary and behavioural care, and serves as on online consultant for the World Parrot Trust. Dr. Cook has been teaching basic behavior classes to parrots and their caregivers since 2009, and is the founder of Parrots Anonymous, an organization dedicated to educating those who live with companion parrots.

To book a consultation with Dr. Cook, visit the Cicero Veterinary Clinic at