PBFD is a highly-contagious and usually fatal avian disease that causes beak and feather aberration. While it can affect all parrots species, the cockatoo seems to be targeted often, although this may not be an indicator of predisposition so much as location.
PBFD, as well as other devastating avian diseases, are very prolific in Australian wildlife. Since the pet industry in Australia is known to buy wild caught birds for resale, it brings wild bird diseases into the stores, which are then dispersed to the flocks of new owners. It is a very big problem which results in a higher instance of PBFD in Australian pets than in other countries.
As PBFD progresses, there is a loss of most, if not all, feathering in every area of the body, turning one the planet’s most stunning creatures into something nightmarish in appearance. Well, to non-bird people, that is – nothing can take away their beauty in the eyes of a bird lover.
I received a copy of the book: “Bubba And The Sweet Pea” from author Gladys Boutros who asked me to read it and share a review with you. In the introduction of the book, which had me in tears, she explains that her sulphur crested cockatoo, Bubba, was diagnosed with PBFD in his first year of life.
She watched her bird suffer not only from the physical aspects of this disease, but the emotional ones that came with changes in his appearance and his ability to cope with them.
In private conversation, she detailed some of Bubba’s changes in behavior that accompanied the progression of the disease. His behavior became a more subdued version of his former fully feathered self and it seemed to Gladys that he was aware that he no longer looked like the cockatoos outside in the yard. He was no longer vocal in his objections about their presence in HIS backyard but instead watched them with detachment.
I have always felt that cockatoos are more sensitive than other parrots, they seem to reach higher highs and lower lows. Many of their moods can be observed in their feather positioning as seen in the raised crest during times of excitement, or facial feathers that cover the beak with contentment – expressions that are uniquely cockatoo. One has to consider how the loss of the feathering that speaks so clearly for them might equate to a loss of the ability to communicate – that might feel very isolating. As anthropomorphic as this might sound, I believe there is merit to it.
However, Gladys emphasized that Bubba’s mood remained cheerful. Contrary to what his appearance would imply to the average observer, Bubba was a happy bird. PBFD did not hold him down and despite the assertion that birds with this disease should be “put out of their misery”, Bubba was full of a love for life.
Gladys’ story, which is beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated by Andras Balogh, tells of the once flamboyant cockatoo who suffers the loss of his feathers and embarks on a long journey to see the magical Uriah, a Great Eagle who possesses the ability to restore them. Along the way he meets new friends, whose selfless acts of kindness teach a bewildered Bubba that beauty comes from within.
Bubba And The Sweet Pea is a thought provoking story that makes a powerful statement to children who struggle with confidence and self-image and will send them to bed feeling better about themselves and more at peace with the world.
In real life, Bubba’s impact on the world can be a long lasting one. His fight against PBFD ended when he was only 4 ½ years old, but Gladys continues to fight on his behalf. 100% of the proceeds of Bubba And The Sweet Pea go to PBFD research. Click here to order this wonderful (and very reasonably priced) book for the children in your life.