Toe Tapping In Eclectus

In early May, Gizzy developed the toe-tapping and clutching syndrome that is so often seen in Eclectus parrots. This was the second time he had shown these symptoms; a year ago he had developed them too. He also began scratching with his beak the back of his feet, to the point of excoriating them, leaving them raw and bleeding. He was weak in stepping up, and at times his feathers were fluffed. He was lethargic.His diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables in the morning. In the evening, he was given a small amount of a special “parrot mix” which we bought from a nearby feed mill. This parrot mix consists of dried pumpkin seeds, alfalfa pellets, barley, rolled corn, dried red peppers, and various other seeds (no millet or sunflower seeds). No vitamin supplement is used in his diet.

When Gizzy developed these symptoms, we promptly took him to our avian vet, Dr. Jolynn Chapell in Loveland, Colorado. She diagnosed his symptoms as caused by a calcium deficiency, just as she did a year ago. A chemical test was performed which confirmed his calcium level was low.

Dr. Chapell prescribed calcium gluconate to be added to Gizzy’s water cup each time we gave him fresh water (twice a day), aloe vera to be applied to the backs of his feet where he had scratched them raw, and a daily dose of echinacea to improve his immune system.

She also suggested that I buy a cuttlebone and put shavings of it into his food bowl after this treatment was over to make sure that he gets enough calcium in his diet.

It took about two weeks for Gizzy to improve. I am happy to say now that he is fine. I have gone to our local pet store and purchased Kaytee Original pellets to give him in the evening rather than the parrot mix I was formerly feeding him. I also put cuttlebone shavings into his food bowl along with the pellets. (For those of you who may suspect the quality of the parrot mix from the feed mill, our macaw, Rex, continues to enjoy the parrot mix, eats it with gusto, and is well and hearty.)

I did purchase Harrison’s pellets from Dr. Chappell, but they are expensive and can be purchased only from avian vets. Dr. Chappell is thirty-five miles away from where I live, and it would be much more convenient if I could purchase Harrison’s (my preference) from our local pet store.

Gizzy now eats fresh vegetables and fruit in the morning and in the evening has Kaytee pellets (Original). His symptoms have completely disappeared, his energy has returned, and he is back to his sweet self. Even his feather color has improved to a brighter green.

I have submitted this article to suggest that the toe-tapping symptoms we have been attributing to vitamin overdose may well be owing to calcium deficiency instead. I believe, based on our experience, that Dr. Chappell was right and that the proper treatment was to increase the amount of calcium in Gizzy’s diet. For those of you whose eclectuses develop this behavior, suggest to your vet that he or she check calcium levels along with other chemical deficiencies.