A BIRD WITH A STRANGE TALE OR TAIL?
By Randy Witzel
Followup by K.J. Wheelbarger
This story all begins with a deal that I made with a guy from Prince Edward Island. (For those of you who do not know where Price Edward Island (PEI) is, it is the smallest Province in Canada on the east coast). I sold this guy (who's name is Skip Beck) a pair of Cameos and a Silver Pied male. He was also looking for a mature White male. I did not have one for sale. So I got one from another local breeder. I then sent it along the rest of the order. The birds arrived alright and for a few months I thought that everything was okay.
Then later in a phone call with Skip he informed me that the White male was growing an unusual tail. He described the tail by saying that each feather was wrapped in a wax like coating. He told me that the bird was growing a normal length tail, and that the bird was healthy. He wondered if I had ever seen anything like this and did I know what is going on?
Well, needless to say, that I had never heard of, or seen this before. After many stupid questions, I finally thought that I at least knew what the bird looked like, but I still had no idea what was wrong with it. I told him to leave it with me and that I would do some asking around. I was hoping to make a few phone calls and find someone else who has had anunusual tail growth like this, (on a bird of course) so they could tell me what was going on. After many inquiries I still found no one that has ever had this happen to them..
Awhile later in a phone call with Skip he told me that he had spoken to someone who told him that he has had birds like this. He said that the bird will grow it's entire tail like this and then one day you will go into the pen and the bird will have shed all of the coating. The tail at this point will be perfect because of its protective armor.
The last time I spoke to my customer this shedding had still not happened. Hopefully time will tell the rest of this story and the bird will be alright. In the meantime if anyone has had this happen to them I would appreciate if they would print a follow up story about their experience.
Response to 'abnormal' tail article:
In response to the owner of the white peacock with 'abnormal ' tail coverts in the last issue, I would like to help explain the apparent oddity. Feathers begin growth from under the skin in a blood rich 'quill'. As new material is added from the base the older material is forced out of it's protective sheath and the flakes of keratin (the same substance hair, horn and nails are made of) sloughs away and the feather unfolds and is preened into shape. In the case of birds (particularly peafowl) with very many long feathers all growing at once, the lack of attention to feather maintenance simply allows the long train feathers to get too long too fast and the barbs and barbules remain encased in their protective sheath. The white male in the last issue is simply a lazy bird who has not (or cannot) maintain himself Birds which are debeaked severely or are ill may not be able to keep themselves in good condition. This is a harmless situation but may be an indicator to a real problem - why is the bird not preening himself? If the bird is healthy, exposed to a good sand bath and some rain, spring sunshine, and a comfortable perch (where many a peacock enjoys combing out their long tail coverts) the problem should go away on its own. The unpreened feathers are the result of an environmental / behavioral problem not a physical one.
This article originally appeared in the February 1999 Issue of The UPA Newsletter. The followup appeared in the April 1999 issue of the same. Reproduction elsewhere in any form without prior consent from the UPA is strictly prohibited. © 1999 The United Peafowl Association. All rights reserved.