Breeder Birds with a Pox History

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Q: I recently bought a pair of wild-caught Amazons. They both have some scarring on the beak, and one has a bit of a hazy gray coloration in its eye. I paid a reasonably low price for the pair. The previous owner said that they had a “pox” virus while they were in quarantine. He guaranteed that they were now in good health. I have since heard that birds that have had the pox will never breed successfully. Have you had any experience with this?

A: Yes. In fact, some of the very first pairs of blue-fronted Amazons that I set up for breeding were “pox” survivors. I, as well, heard the same disheartening comments. Fortunately, I did not listen to this advice. Some of these birds turned out to be my best producers. There is, however, a good reason why this rumor got started. We have noticed that birds that have had a very severe case of the pox will often take a much longer time to begin successful nesting than those that have had only a mild case or were never infected. That is to say, if the average pair of wild-caught blue fronts takes three years to begin reliable production, a pair that had a serious case of pox will often take five years to begin producing. It is understandable that someone who sees all of their “never-infected” pairs producing in years three and four, while their previously infected pairs have yet to lay the first egg, would become discouraged. Often, this results in the sale of the pairs that “won’t breed.” At this point, the seller is convinced that birds that have had the pox are not worth bothering with. They usually never find out that the birds eventually began producing. This is one case when holding onto a pair for another couple of years has a good chance of paying off.