1989    We bought our first two cockatiels, Clyde and Rosco.  They seemed very happy and healthy.

1991    We bought a red-bellied parrot, Petie, and a Meyer's, Tony.  They seemed very happy and healthy.

1992    We took the two cockatiels in for their first checkups after learning that that is a good thing to do (we didn't know until then).  The vet did not check for Giardia.  (At that point in time I didn't even know what it was, much less to ask for a test to be done.)

August 1994    Petie, red-bellied, began picking her feathers out all of a sudden. We took her to the vet, the vet ran every test she thought necessary, the tests came back normal, the vet said it was probably behavioral, and put Petie on an antidepressant (Aventyl).  Four months passed as I watched Petie turn into a perch potato, lose her playfulness, cheerfulness, and happy attitude.  I even considered if she would be better off if I had her put down, as she was clearly miserable.

December 1994    One of our cockatiels began acting like he had fleas, not picking, but would look at his legs like something was biting him, sort of jumping, acting itchy, but not picking.  I took him to the vet, who looked at him and said he was fine.  A Giardia test was not run.

January 1995    At this point I felt something was wrong.  I decided to get a second opinion.  I first took my cockatiel in, the one who acted like he had fleas.  The vet said it was classic symptoms of Giardia.  He ran a fecal trichrome on both of our cockatiels, Rosco and his cagemate, Clyde, and they came back positive.  We then ran tests on Petie and Tony, and they came back negative.  We treated the four of them anyway, as Petie and Tony had been around the two cockattiels, so there was a chance they could have caught Giardia from them.  The four birds were put on metronidazole  for 10 days. Rosco quit acting like he had fleas and acting itchy, but  Petie still continued picking.  We put her on another course of metronidazole for 10 days.  During the second course of treatment she began picking to the point of bleeding, at which time I asked the vet to do a feather biopsy, which came back normal. It was only after completing the second course of metronidazole that she actually quit picking, and didn't pick for 4 years. Later on we realized that our Meyers did in fact have Giardia even with a negative fecal trichrome and was giving it back to Petie.

February 1997    I rescued a budgie, Danny, who tested positive for Giardia. We treated her with metronidazole.  She retested positive.  We retreated with metronidazole.  She remained Giardia-free for the rest of her life.

January 1999    Petie started picking again all of a sudden.  We had just recently moved from the suburbs, which was close to our vet, to the country, which was close to another avian vet, and  I requested metronidazole from the new vet. We put her on a round of metronidazole, only a weaker version than before. She still continued to pick.  The vet suggested it could be hormonal, and it was suggested to place her on ProFeda, but she continued to pick. 

May 1999  We bought three conures -- White-Eyed, Dusky, and Peach-Front -- and had all three tested for Giardia, two of whom tested positive. We treated all three because all three had been together.  They retested negative.

June 1999  Petie was still picking and I took her back to the vet who had first diagnosed and treated her, and he put her on a round of stronger metronidazole than she had been on back in January, which worked, and she hasn't picked since. During all this time Tony was not tested for Giardia, since Petie kept testing negative. I decided to test her anyway.   Tony very surprisingly tested positive.  She had shown no signs of having Giardia and was actually the "silent carrier" and seemingly the key to Petie's picking.

February 2000    We bought three budgies and tested all three for Giardia, two of whom tested positive.  We treated all three.  They went through treatment and retested negative.


Many birds have Giardia, and many don't show symptoms.  It is only through proper testing that we can hope to find out if they have it.  Sometimes birds will test negative and have Giardia or a Giardia-like organism.  I believe when a bird has been to a vet, has been thoroughly tested, all tests come back normal or negative, and there are no known reasons for the bird to be picking except to explain it as behavioral, treating the bird with metronidazole could help. As with any drug, there are potential side effects. We suggest discussing this with your avian vet and deciding if the possible risks of side effects outweigh the possible benefits of treatment.  In Petie's case, the benefits far outweighed the risks of side effects, Petie is again the happy bird she once was, and I would do it again without hesitation. According to Dr. Harrison, metronidazole is contraindicated for use in finches.  Treatment options should be discussed with your avian vet.