Gulf Coast Parrots in Peril from Buffalo Gnat

George Sommers has written the following in the Boston Birds and Fish Examiner Long Island:

As if Hurricane Katrina and catastrophic flooding weren’t enough, the Gulf Coast faces yet another Biblical-type plague in the form of buffalo gnats, a species of black flies. The pests thrive in moist environments, which the flooding provided in spades.

While generally not much more than an annoying nuisance to humans, the issue is currently of great concern to pet bird owners, particularly those whose feathered friends live in an outdoor aviary and/or spend a lot of outdoor time. “These gnats have a very toxic bite and we have had a number of deaths associated with the bites. Please let everyone know that this is a very serious problem for outdoor aviaries and will cause serious problems to birds – even deaths,” says Dr. Thomas Tully, avian DVM and Prof. of Zoological Medicine at Louisiana State University.

In fact, widespread injuries and fatalities have been reported in area poultry, characterized by sores and blood appearing under the feathers.

Sandy Sawyer, a worker at the Humane Society in New Iberia, LA was shocked to discover hundreds of insects feeding off the skin of her scarlet macaw, Harley; some so bloated with blood that they literally exploded when touched. The bird thankfully survived the ordeal but was weak for two days.

“Birds that are affected will appear depressed and especially with macaws will have swollen red face patches where there are no feathers,” adds Dr. Tully.

Director of Iberia Parish Mosquito Control Herff Jones said, “The gnats are too small to be killed by insecticide.” He recommends using Sevin Dust get rid of the pests. Obviously, observe all precautions and consult your avian veterinarian about how to use it safely around outdoor birds. Screening is also an effective deterrent.

After the crisis with her macaw, Sawyer has been housing her poultry indoors in the evening, adding, “I’ve been talking to everyone till I’m blue in the face and nobody remembers gnats sucking blood before.”

The problem has not yet, and hopefully will not effect New England, but please keep any of your bird owning friends down South posted.

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