Pigeon circovirus: Viruses Isolated

Pigeon circovirus has been recently identified in pigeons reared on farms in Manitoba. This virus is thought to depress the immune system of pigeons and can lead to a variety of health problems. The virus is mainly a concern in young birds. Infected pigeons can display a variety of disease signs which may or may not include weight loss, diarrhea, problems breathing, and difficulty flying. This circovirus may cause low mortality on its own but mortality can be up to 100% of the flock especially if the birds are infected with other viruses or bacteria at the same time. The virus was identified in birds submitted to the provincial government’s Veterinary Diagnostic Services Laboratory (VDS).

The Animal Health Laboratory in Ontario has also observed numerous cases in pigeons. The Ontario laboratory has seen almost a 100% increase in the number of pigeon submissions in the past year. Most of the submissions have been young racing birds less than six months old and Pigeon circovirus infection was confirmed or suspected in the majority of the cases. Mortality appears to have occurred when other viruses and bacteria infected the birds after their immune system had been weakened by the circovirus.

Pigeon circovirus is very difficult to eradicate from a pigeon flock and may even survive if the loft is depopulated and disinfected. The best protection for pigeon producers is to only introduce healthy birds into the flock or not introduce any birds at all. Unfortunately, the virus has been found even in apparently healthy, adult birds sampled in infected lofts and it is difficult to tell by eye if an individual bird is infected.

Another pigeon disease of concern, Pigeon paramyxovirus, has been isolated in pigeons submitted to laboratories in Manitoba and Ontario. In Ontario, a large increase in the number of submissions compared to previous years has been observed. Potential signs of the disease include depression and nervous symptoms. This virus, which is related to Newcastle Disease in chickens and turkeys, has been previously observed in wild and domestic pigeons in a number of parts of the world. The virus has been previously detected in wild and domestic pigeons in numerous parts of the world.

The Pigeon paramyxovirus is a concern for people who care for pigeons or poultry. The problems caused by infection in poultry may be relatively mild but may become more severe if the virus has had the opportunity to circulate in large, commercial flocks. The severity of the disease in poultry seems to vary depending on the strain of virus. Vaccination can provide some protection against this virus for chickens, turkeys and pigeons. People who have small or large poultry flocks should avoid contact with domestic or wild pigeons. People, straw, and equipment that have been exposed to pigeons are all potential sources of the disease. Screening on poultry barns should be properly maintained to stop wild pigeons from entering. Paramyxoviruses have also been found in wild Cormorants in Manitoba and so chlorination of surface drinking water supplies and other measures are important.

Other diseases than can travel between pigeons and poultry are intestinal parasites such as threadworms and roundworms. Fungal diseases such as Aspergillosis are also a concern.

Pigeon owners who are concerned about health problems in their flocks are encouraged to submit three or more live or freshly dead pigeons to their local veterinary clinic or the VDS. The birds submitted should be typical of the problem experienced in the loft. For information on submissions to VDS, please call 204-945-8220 in Winnipeg.


For more information, or if you suspect any animal health related concerns, please contact the Chief Veterinary Office or call 204-945-7663 in Winnipeg.