Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

First report of beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) in wild Red-fronted Parakeets (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae) in New Zealand

Luis Ortiz-Catedral A E , Kate McInnes B , Mark E. Hauber C D and Dianne H. Brunton A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Ecology and Conservation Lab, Institute of Natural Sciences, Massey University, Auckland Campus, Private Bag 102904, North Shore Mail Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.

B Department of Conservation, Conservation House (Whare Kaupapa Atawhai), 18–32 Manners Street, 6011 Wellington, New Zealand.

C School of Biological Sciences, 3a Symonds Street, Thomas Building, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand.

D Department of Psychology, Hunter College of the City University of New York, 695 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10065, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email: l.ortiz-catedral@massey.ac.nz

Emu 109(3) 244-247 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU09028
Submitted: 1 April 2009  Accepted: 13 July 2009   Published: 25 August 2009


Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a highly infectious and potentially fatal viral disease of parrots and their allies caused by the beak and feather disease virus (BFDV). Abnormal feather morphology and loss of feathers are common clinical symptoms of the disease. PBFD also damages the lymphoid tissue and affected birds may die as a result of secondary bacterial or fungal infections. The disease is therefore of concern for conservation biologists and wildlife managers, as it is immunosuppressive and can become an additional threatening factor among critically endangered psittacines. We conducted a PCR-based screening for BFDV in a wild population of the Red-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae) on Little Barrier Island, New Zealand, during a translocation of this species. Fifty-four parakeets were captured and feather samples collected for molecular screening. We detected BFDV DNA from 15 individuals, but only two showed external signs attributable to PBFD, namely abnormal feather morphology or colouration, loss of feathers and haemorrhagic feathers. Our survey represents the first positive identification of BFDV in wild New Zealand endemic psittacines and confirms the risk of spread of the virus between wild populations within this global hotspot of endemic psittacine diversity.

Additional keywords: PBFD, parrot, pathogen, translocation.


This research was completed with the logistical and financial support of the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Massey University, The University of Auckland, Motuihe Island Trust and National Council of Science from Mexico (CONACYT). We thank volunteers for assisting with collection of samples on Little Barrier Island. We also thank Jenny Cahill and Michelle Houston from the Equine Parentage and Animal Genetic Services Centre, Massey University, for their advice and help in processing the samples. This research was conducted under full approval of the New Zealand Department of Conservation (permits AK-15300-RES, AK-20666-FAU and AK-22857-FAU) and Massey University Animal Ethics Committee (protocols MUAEC 07/138 and 08/24).


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