Reproductive Regulation in Birds

Photo: Baby cockatiel

Though this baby cockatiel is absolutely adorable, excessive egg-laying in captive parrots can be life-threatening! Common signs that a bird has egg binding include abdominal straining, wagging of the tail, distended abdomen, and weakness.

When it comes to pets, birds were reported to be the 3rd most popular household pet by the AVMA in 2012. Unfortunately, many captive birds are not exposed to natural light cycles. Female birds rely on a decrease in daylength to signify that they should stop laying eggs. Due to the artificial light utilized by humans living in the household, many birds perceive the daylength as long year-round. Another influential factor for pet birds is the bond they share with their favorite human(s), which can encourage the natural desire to socialize and, in some instances, can promote reproductive activity.

Excess reproductive activity contributes to several common and sometimes life-threatening problems in birds, including egg binding, egg yolk coelomitis and cloacal prolapse. Attempts at relieving these conditions start with adjustment of the bird's physical and social environment. However, these adjustments may not lead to resolution. The CZAR lab investigates the use of deslorelin, a contraceptive hormone, in management of the reproductive behaviors of birds.

Deslorelin is a sustained-release, hormonal implant that leads to suppression of the hormones that encourage reproductive activity. Strength and duration of effect needed for effective use of deslorelin varies widely between veterinary species, which has lead CZAR researchers to conduct studies to determine the appropriate dose and duration needed to successfully use deslorelin implants in birds.