||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: Corvus
monedula - Eurasian jackdaw, Corvus
frugilegus - Rook, Corvus
corax - Common raven, Corvus
corone - Carrion crow, Garrulus
glandarius - Eurasian jay, Pica
pica - Black-billed magpie, Pyrrhocorax
pyrrhocorax - Red-billed chough.
These species are from the families Corvidae.
- Corvids have a strong peck/bite and should always be held well away from anyone's
face, hands and arms.
- Corvid talons are very strong and can inflict both scratches and crushing injuries.
Catching and Handling:
- Catching may require the use of a large net with a long handle even for casualty birds
which are unable to fly since they are frequently still fast-moving and agile.
- A net with a padded rim is preferred.
- The bag of the net should be deep and of thin opaque material or small mesh to minimise
the risk of entanglement.
- Weak or injured corvids may be caught by first throwing a towel or similar cloth over
- Once in the net or towel, the bird should be grasped across the shoulders with the
thumbs of the handler facing upwards/dorsally, restraining the wings so that they cannot
- The fingers can then be repositioned to restrain the legs between the third and fourth
fingers of each hand. The legs should be controlled in this way as soon as possible.
Restraint for examination and treatment:
- May require two people, one to hold the bird, paying particular attention to restraint
of the head/bill and talons, whilst the second person performs the examination.
- Subdued lighting should be used if possible to calm the bird and facilitate handling.
- Covering the bird's head with a lightweight cloth may help to keep the bird calm during
- The wings and legs should be released to the examiner one at a time to permit
- The bill may be kept closed during handling (to prevent pecking) by use of an elastic
band or piece of tape around the end of the bill. It is important to remember that corvids
normally regurgitate pellets of undigested material and that weak birds may regurgitate
fluid. If the bill is to be held closed it is essential that:
- The nostrils must not be covered as this will interfere with breathing.
- The bird must be under continuous supervision whilst the bill is being kept closed.
- At some point during the examination the mouth should be opened and examined thoroughly.
- The band or tape is removed before leaving the bird unmonitored.
- Prolonged examination and treatment may be best performed under general anaesthesia.
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.