||This page has been prepared for the "UK
Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the
needs of the following species: Accipiter
gentilis - Northern goshawk, Accipiter
nisus - Eurasian sparrowhawk, Aquila
chrysaetos - Golden eagle, Buteo
buteo - Common buzzard, Buteo
lagopus - Rough-legged buzzard, Circus
aeruginosus - Western marsh harrier, Circus
cyaneus - Northern harrier, Circus
pygargus - Montagu's harrier, Haliaeetus
albicilla - White-tailed eagle, Milvus
milvus - Red kite, Pernis
apivorus - European honey buzzard, Pandion
haliaetus - Osprey, Falco
columbarius - Merlin, Falco
peregrinus - Peregrine falcon, Falco
subbuteo - Hobby, Falco
tinnunculus - Common kestrel, Athene
noctua - Little owl, Strix
aluco - Tawny owl, Asio
otus - Long-eared owl, Asio
flammeus - Short-eared owl, Nyctea
scandiaca - Snowy owl, Tyto
alba - Barn owl.
These species are from the families Accipitridae,
- When catching and handling birds of prey it is important to remember that the
talons are the most dangerous part of the bird. Some species (particularly
fish-eating eagles, hawks and owls) also bite and the fish-eating eagles also strike with
- Birds of prey may bite and should always be held well away from anyone's
face, hands or arms.
- Care must be taken that the bird does not injure itself with its talons, particularly
piercing one foot with the talons of the other foot; this may lead to bumblefoot infection
which would jeopardise successful release following rehabilitation.
- Some species may lie down and "play dead" when cornered, but rouse very
rapidly and attempt to escape or strike out when disturbed.
- Damage to or loss of feathers must be avoided as a bird of prey with
damaged feathers may not be released until they have been replaced (i.e. until the next
moult or following feather repair by imping (a technique used by falconers to repair
flight feathers by attaching a replacement feather shaft (usually a moulted feather) into
the feather base)). (B156.16.w16)
Catching and initial restraint:
- If the bird is lying "playing dead", it may be useful to start
by placing a lightweight piece of material over the head to prevent the bird seeing the
approach of the handler; be aware the bird may be more reactive than is apparent. (D24)
- If a bird is in a defensive posture on its back, a piece of cloth such as
a towel may be dangled such that the bird grasps this; the legs may then be grasped by the
handler while the talons are safely engaged on the cloth.(B123)
- May be wrapped in a towel or coat to reduce the risk of further injury during
Restraint for examination and treatment:
- Requires one person to hold the bird, a second person to conduct the examination. (B118.16.w16)
- Subdued lighting should be used if possible to calm the bird and facilitate handling.(B118.16.w16,
- Most individuals will be quieter if their head is kept covered; this is particularly
useful for nervous species. (B118.16.w16)
- A towel may be dropped over the bird, which is then approached from above and behind and
held as described above; the towel assists in keeping the wings restrained.
- Covering the head is useful for all species and particularly for nervous
species such as sparrowhawks, goshawks and ospreys.
- A falconry hood may be used if one of the correct size is available;
- Alternatively the head may be covered with a cloth.
- Keep the head covered except when the head is being examined.
- Occasionally a bird will be more upset if a hood is used.
- Press the bird gently in ventral recumbency (i.e. abdomen downwards) into a padded
surface such as a cushion, Vetbed or sacking.
- May also be held upright or in lateral recumbency.
- One wing or one leg at a time may be released by the handler for examination.
- Prolonged examination and treatment may be best performed under general anaesthesia.
B156.16.w16, D18, D24,
General Anaesthesia (Generic
- A variety of techniques have been used for induction and maintenance of general
anaesthesia in birds including injectable anaesthetics such as ketamine, propofol, saffan,
medetomidine, etc and gaseous anaesthetics such as halothane and isoflurane. Further
information regarding the use of different anaesthetic agents is available as described
for use in waterfowl. See:
- Isoflurane is currently considered to be the anaesthetic agent of choice for induction
and maintenance of general anaesthesia in birds in most circumstances and species.
- Induction of general anaesthesia with a gaseous agent can be achieved using a face mask
or induction chamber.
- Use of an anaesthetic chamber for induction may be preferable with small birds
because it avoids the stress involved with manual restraint during mask induction.
- The walls of the anaesthetic chamber should preferably be made of a transparent or
translucent material that facilitates easy monitoring of the patient during induction and
transfer to an anaesthetic mask or intubation at the appropriate depth of general
- In the majority of cases, intubation of birds is recommended during the maintenance of
general anaesthesia. However, for very small birds and / or very short procedures
intubation may not be appropriate. Clinical judgement should be used to determine whether
intubation is appropriate for the size of species, procedure and likely duration of
general anaesthesia required.
- The majority of birds have simple solid cartilaginous rings within the trachea. As a
consequence, the use of cuffed endotracheal tubes is not generally recommended because of
the potential risk of the cuff exerting local pressure which could damage the trachea and
lead to secondary tissue necrosis. The use of a non-cuffed endotracheal tubes is generally
recommended. However in specific circumstances where the risks of gastrointestinal
contents reflux (e.g. flushing of the gizzard to remove particulate lead material in
waterfowl) may be particularly high, partial inflation of a cuffed tube may be practised
with great care.
- The need for fluid therapy by an appropriate route should be considered during general
anaesthesia, particularly in birds which may be dehydrated. Clinical judgement, based on
general principles, must be used regarding the route, volume and type of fluids required.
- Consideration should be given to prevent hypothermia. The ambient temperature of the
room should be comfortably warm (20oC - 25oC)
and external heat sources may be appropriate (e.g. heat mats etc.), particularly for
longer anaesthetics and collapsed animals. Care must be taken not to overheat the animal
or cause burns.
- There must be good ventilation in any room used for gaseous anaesthesia. In normal
circumstances an anaesthetic gas scavenging system should be in place, particularly when
masks and chambers are used. Exposure to anaesthetic gases can pose a risk to the
operating staff, either through toxic effects of the gas or inadvertent self-anaesthesia
of the veterinary and nursing staff.
- Further information, with particular reference to
waterfowl, and including emergency procedures, is available in: Treatment
and Care - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint.