Pigeon rotavirus

In March 2019, rotavirus infection was confirmed in racing pigeons in Canterbury and Auckland.

What is pigeon rotavirus?

Pigeon rotavirus is an infectious disease affecting pigeons, which can result in deaths in lofts over a short period.  Clinical signs in affected birds include depression, vomiting, diarrhoea, regurgitation, and hunched postures.

Risk to New Zealand

This disease doesn't affect humans.

The risk to commercial poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys) is considered low.

Types of pigeons affected

The virus has the potential to affect all variants of the species Columba livia. This includes racing pigeons, fancy breeds, and feral rock pigeons (which are common in urban areas).

Biosecurity New Zealand is enhancing surveillance to determine whether the virus affects the New Zealand wood pigeon (kererū) or Chatham Island pigeon (parea). Even though they're both called pigeons, they're not the same species as rock pigeons, so the virus probably doesn't affect them.

What to do if you suspect pigeon rotavirus in your flock

Rotavirus infection in domestic pigeons is not classed as an unwanted or notifiable disease in New Zealand. It does not need to be reported to Biosecurity New Zealand. Owners of pigeons with clinical signs suggestive of rotavirus should talk to their vet for treatment and management advice.

Movements of pigeons

There are no regulated movement restrictions in place for pigeons within New Zealand.  The pigeon industry is advised to follow biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

Good biosecurity practices

The pigeon industry is taking precautions by enhancing biosecurity measures to limit the spread and impact of pigeon rotavirus. Pigeon owners should be extra vigilant and strengthen biosecurity measures.

  • Avoid mixing pigeons (for example, racing, shows, or sales) from affected to unaffected lofts. 

Pigeon fanciers whose lofts have been affected should maintain strict biosecurity measures, including (but not limited to) not selling, racing, or showing pigeons for up to 12 weeks, loft hygiene, and visitor restrictions to prevent disease spread. 

Pigeon fanciers in unaffected areas should maintain strict biosecurity measures, including (but not limited to): 

  • not introducing pigeons from affected lofts 
  • cleaning and disinfecting second-hand equipment
  • restricting visitors 
  • cleaning clothing and boots after contact with other pigeons to prevent the entry and spread of the disease.

What we are doing

Biosecurity New Zealand has prepared advice for pigeon owners and the public.

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