SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Nearly two dozen lovebirds found dead in a Scottsdale yard died from a disease known as parrot fever, Arizona wildlife officials said Wednesday.
Twenty of the feral birds were discovered by the homeowner and test results last week determined they had been infected with psittacosis (siht-ah-KOH’-sihs), according to Arizona Game and Fish.
Dr. Anne Justice-Allen, a Game and Fish veterinarian, told The Associated Press it was unusual to see the disease kill so many of them in the wild.
“It’s an isolated incident in that we haven’t had any other large or significant mortality events reported to us. However, the event this year is the second time it’s been reported to us in two years,” Justice-Allen said.
Justice-Allen said both instances occurred in the summer, but she wasn’t sure if that was just coincidental. Humans can become infected if they inhale the bacteria, which can be kicked up in dust from yard work, Justice-Allen said.
Within Arizona, lovebirds, which resemble parrots, are primarily seen in metropolitan Phoenix. Wildlife officials estimated a few years ago that there were about 2,500 but the population has likely grown, Justice-Allen said. The birds are often drawn to bird feeders, which were present in the Scottsdale yard. They aren’t native to the area.
“We have not seen any direct negative impact from them as far as limiting the morning dove population or affecting our native species,” Justice-Allen said. “…they’re entertaining. That’s probably about the biggest thing I can think of.”
Parrot fever is caused by bacteria that can be picked up through bird droppings or any sort of respiratory discharge from the beak. Some birds may carry the bacteria but don’t become ill.
A Mesa woman who encountered dead lovebirds and used a leaf blower to clean up droppings was later treated for a respiratory condition. Officials advise using a diluted bleach-water solution instead to reduce bacteria and keep dust from floating into the air.
The disease can be hard to diagnose in people. Symptoms include a nagging cough, achiness or eye infection.
Follow AP writer Terry Tang at http://twitter.com/ttangAP