Pink Feather Flamingo Syndrome

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    Jennifer Hoover


    My name is Jennifer Hoover and I am a 4th year vet student in Missouri that works with Raptors and Waterfowls. In my local park we have a pair of mated mute swans that are beloved members of the community. I believe the female has pink feather flamingo syndrome as her head and neck have a brown/pink discoloration that has been worsening. Originally she was found on land, away from her mate. We briefly took her in, radiographs and blood work were normal. She was released a few hours later and has been on the water, eating and acting normally for the most part. On especially rainy days or evenings it appears she gets water-logged due to her water coat proofing being disrupted but is usually back on the water within 24 hours. I have read an article on bathing with fairy soap, or here in the US dawn dish soap. My question is, would you recommended bathing her since the discoloration (over a week) is worsening but she is still eating and drinking normally? and if so, I imagine we should take her into our facility and give her time to dry off and create a new water-proof barrier as opposed to washing her out in her environment. Do you have any suggestions for monitoring, treatment, husbandry, and length of time we should have her at our facility? Thank you

    #206387 Reply
    Swan Expert

    Hi Jennifer

    We were the original team that collaborated with His Majesty’s Swan Marker, Mr. David Barber, His Majesty’s Swan Warden, Dr. Christopher Perrins and Wendy Hermon,Swan Support in England regarding Pink Feather Syndrome. Through DNA Sequencing, we were able to show the cause is bacterial in nature, affects the uropygial oil (preen) gland and washing with Dawn Dish Soap (U.S.), Fairy Liquid (U.K), will help alleviate the problem in difficult cases. You will need to capture the affected swan and its mate, bathe them in Dawn Dish Soap and rinse thoroughly. We suggest you treat both swans not only to prevent the possible spread of the condition, but also to prevent depression in the swans from being separated as treatment may take up to 2 weeks.

    Towel dry and use blow dryer to help with feather drying after bathing the swans. Place the swans in a safe dry area to preen and finish drying their feathers as the bacterial load can affect waterproofing of the feathers leading to a potential case of pneumonia or drowning. Repeat the washing every several days (usually up to 2 weeks) and monitor to see that the condition is improving and the swans are totally dried before releasing back to pond. Usually, 2 days after bathing, thoroughly drying and preening by the birds is sufficient to replace the natural oils from the preen gland allowing the return of the birds to the pond.

    In England, the swans are susceptible to lead poisoning which makes the Pink Feather Syndrome even more difficult to treat.

    We were also the first researchers to research and establish normal hematological parameters for swans. Should you need this information for further bloodwork to help eliminate possible infections, please contact us at and we can send you the information. We hope this information is of benefit. Please do not hesitate to contact us if further assistance is needed. The Regal Swan

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