||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 groups: Alcedo
atthis - Common kingfisher, Cuculus
canorus - Common cuckoo, Dendrocopus
minor - Lesser spotted woodpecker, Dendrocopus
major - Great spotted woodpecker, Jynx
torquilla - Eurasian wryneck, Picus
viridis - Eurasian green woodpecker.
These species are from the families Alcedinidae,
- Theses species are generally non-aggressive and mainly will not cause damage even if
they peck at the handler, although claws may give sharp scratches.
- Handling should be firm but gentle, with care taken not to put pressure on the bird's
body as this may prevent the bird's ribcage moving properly and interfere with
- It is important to remember that small garden birds may die from the stress of being
Catching and holding:
- These birds are most easily caught using a small net.
- A net with a padded rim should be used to reduce the risk of injury if the bird is
caught against the rim of the net.
- The bag of the net should be made of thin opaque material or fine mesh to reduce the
risk of entanglement.
- May be caught by throwing a lightweight cloth over the bird.
- May be caught by hand, depending on the circumstances.
- Small birds may be held in one hand, head pointing between the second and third fingers,
body and wings held with the thumb and other fingers and controlling the legs.
- Very small birds may also be held cupped in the hand.
- Handling should be firm but gentle.
- Avoid carrying in the hand for prolonged periods.
Restraint for Examination and Treatment:
- Small birds may be held in one hand, head pointing between the second and third
fingers, body and wings held with the thumb and other fingers and controlling
- Expansion of the ribcage must not be hindered at any time.
- The wings and legs should be released and examined one at a time.
- The activity and breathing pattern of the bird must be monitored continuously during
handling and examination.
- If the bird becomes too stressed the procedure must be stopped and the bird placed in a
quiet, warm, dimly lit environment to recover.
- Subdued lighting should be used if possible to calm the bird and facilitate handling.
- 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.