Phylogenetic analyses of the highly genetically diverse but antigenically conserved, single-stranded circular, DNA genome of the avian circovirus, beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) from cockatoo species throughout Australia demonstrated a high mutation rate for BFDV (orders of magnitude fall in the range of 10(-4) substitutions/site/year) along with strong support for recombination indicating active cross-species transmission in various subpopulations. Multiple variants of BFDV were demonstrated with at least 30 genotypic variants identified within nine individual birds, with one containing up to 7 variants. Single genetic variants were detected in feathers from 2 birds but splenic tissue provided further variants. The rich BFDV genetic diversity points to Australasia as the most likely geographical origin of this virus and supports flexible host switching. We propose this as evidence of Order-wide host generalism in the Psittaciformes characterised by high mutability that is buffered by frequent recombination and slow replication strategy.