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The Case of the Egg-Obsessed Cockatiel

The Patient: Bonkers, a twelve-year-old cockatiel

Ailment: Chronic egg-laying

History: Bonkers, one of ten cockatiels owned by Upper East Side attorney Mary Anne Richmond, was nine when she began inexplicably and uncontrollably laying eggs. (Birds in captivity often don't lay eggs, for lack of good nesting space.) Bonkers was an "in-your-face kind of bird," says Richmond, yet she'd become exhausted by her productivity, and when she wasn't laying eggs, she was struggling to pass them. "She'd be lying in the corner of the cage," says Richmond. "She couldn't breathe, her eyes were closed, and she'd be really straining."

Diagnosis: After two months of hormone treatment, Bonkers wasn't feeling better. An ultrasound revealed a partially formed egg mass lodged inside the bird's ovaduct. "If they have an egg stuck inside and they lay another one two days later, that's going to get stuck, too," says veterinarian Laurie Hess, of the Animal Medical Center on the Upper East Side.

Treatment: Though cockatiel surgery is tricky, Hess recommended that Bonkers be spayed. "You can't take out the ovary, because it's adhered to the body wall and would cause too much blood loss," Hess says. "So you have to take out just the ovaduct and leave the ovary intact." Bonkers made it through the operation, but she still seemed to be in pain. "We did another ultrasound and saw fluid-filled lesions," Hess says. "We were worried there might be a cancerous mass on the ovary." Yet another surgery (poor Bonkers) revealed the cause of the bird's discomfort: a remaining piece of ovaduct that had become inflamed.

Post-op: Three years and more than $2,000 later, Bonkers is in good health, aside from thwarted maternal yearnings. Now, when one of Richmond's other birds lays an egg, "Bonkers tries to roll it away and put it underneath her," she says. "I thought maybe I'd give her an egg and let her sit on it and be happy."

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