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GRANADA HILLS : Bird Auction Raising Money to Fight Disease

The 40 parrots and other birds to be auctioned off in Sherman Oaks today are squawking for more than crackers.

Proceeds from the bird sales will go to help find a vaccine for a deadly virus that afflicts 5% to 10% of household parrots in the United States. Psittacine beak and feather disease can cause feather loss and beak infections that eventually lead to death.

“It’s like a death sentence hanging over the birds,” said Kathleen, a 47-year-old biologist from Granada Hills who is a member of the West Valley Bird Society, sponsor of the auction.

Like the 175 other members of the society, Kathleen, who asked that her last name not be used, worries that her birds will contract the disease. She keeps 50 birds in a back-yard aviary.

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Organizers say several species of exotic parrots and a variety of bird supplies and bird-related artwork will be auctioned at the event. An African Grey and 4-month-old brilliant yellow, orange and green Sun Conure, a species native to the area near the mouth of the Amazon River, are the two most valuable birds that will be auctioned. Each are worth more than $500.

Money from the auction will be donated to the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where Branson Ritchie and a team of researchers have spent $250,000 in the last seven years identifying the virus that causes the disease and creating a diagnostic test for it.

“People who raise parrots and people who buy them from pet stores should be aware of the disease,” Ritchie said. He said the disease is transmitted through feather dust and is easily passed from one bird to another, either by human contact or through the air.

Some of the money raised at the auction will go to support the conservation efforts of the American Federation of Aviculture. The auction begins at 11 a.m.

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