Finch Illness

When your Finch’s Neck is Twisted (Twirling Syndrome)

Someone brought me a bird last summer (shown in the video below) that was suffering from a twisted neck. In the poultry world this is called wry neck; the bird seems to have its head upside-down. As you watch it try to move around, you notice the movements are jerky. He may not be able to pick up food easily.

This bird is suffering from what we call twirling – so named because the bird turns in a mad spin trying to right himself. It’s the same thing as wry neck in chickens.

Note the bald spot on his head, where he’s rubbed it so much. It is easy to recognize twirling because if you’ve seen it once, you never forget. The following are some of the causes of twirling that I tried to fix.

The causes of twirling are not terribly clear. Parasites have been mentioned, so I quickly treated him (which I would have done anyway as a preventive, with a new bird coming in).

One particularly bad option is paramoxyvirus, or PMV. Because this is viral, it could be passed to the rest of the flock. So the first thing I did with my little bird was isolate him and treat for that – dosing enrofloxyn for 10 days. (I have since read that it should be given for 15 days. Unfortunately I can’t go back in time)

Sadly, that didn’t cure little bird. Trimethoprim sulfa is also suggested as a cure for twirling, so I tried that next. No change.

So I moved next to the possibility of a vitamin deficiency. Vitamins A and D3 are often the culprit when our birds are ill, so I made sure he had plenty of that. I gave him a multi-vitamin (Nekton-S) twice a week. I gave him small doses of iodine, since they’re rumored to sometimes be deficient in that. A point I don’t believe, but that’s a story for another time. He also gets calcium on a regular basis.

Somewhere in there I was making neem tea (neem leaves have great anti viral properties) and decided to give him that for a week. If there was a change, I sure didn’t see it.

There’s a theory floating around that Vitamin E + selenium will cure a twirler. I tried that; there was no change. And vitamin E is fat soluble, so I didn’t want to keep giving it to him.

Some people say they become twirlers after ingesting toxins. I couldn’t attribute this illness to toxins, since he was in a finch cage with 9 other finches and they’re all fine. The cage had not been  re-painted, nor had anything taken place to cause the illness.

Did the bird have a crash landing that caused him to twist his neck? Ah, if they could only talk! I asked the previous owner and he said it could be, but didn’t elaborate. I fail to determine this as the cause. I did massage his neck a little every day for a week, which he didn’t appreciate.

The only choice left would be some genetic disorder. That’s the way I’m leaning, anyway. We have ruled out nearly ever other possible angle. Little twisty bird is still here, popping his head up every time I walk near him to see what I’m doing.