||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: Alle
alle - Dovekie (Little auk), Alca
torda - Razorbill, Cepphus
grylle - Black guillemot, Fratercula
arctica - Atlantic puffin, Fulmarus
glacialis - Northern fulmar, Hydrobates
pelagicus - European storm-petrel , Morus
bassanus - Northern gannet, Oceanodroma
leucorhoa - Leach's storm-petrel, Phalacrocorax
carbo - Great cormorant, Phalacocorax
aristotelis - European Shag, Puffinus
griseus - Sooty shearwater, Puffinus
puffinus - Manx shearwater, Uria
aalge - Common murre (Common guillemot).
species are from the families Laridae,
- Piscivorous (fish-eating) species with long pointed bills commonly spear at the eyes.
Gannets, shags and cormorants pose a particular risk and should only be handled by
- Some species such as cormorants and puffins can give a crushing
and twisting bite with the bill.
- Always take care to avoid injury from the bill by ensuring adequate restraint of the
- Do not underestimate the strength of these birds or their ability to lunge forwards to
strike with the bill even when the head is being held.
- Protective goggles should be worn when handling these birds.
- The sharp claws of these birds may cause significant injuries to handlers.
- Several species (e.g. Morus
bassanus - Northern gannet) do not have any external nostrils. The bill of these
species must never be taped closed as this will prevent breathing. Even in the species
with external nostrils, taping the bill closed risks regurgitation and inhalation.
Catching and Handling:
- Attempting to catch these species on the water, where they can dive, is likely to be
extremely difficult and frustrating.
- If near water, approach from the water side of the bird to reduce the risk of the bird
escaping into the water.
- Avoid prolonged chasing which may exhaust and excessively stress the bird being caught.
- Large, long-handled nets or lasso nets may be used.(B188)
- A large sheet, towel or similar cloth may be thrown over the bird, particularly over the
- In some circumstances such as in a small enclosed area, these birds may be caught by
hand using two people: one person distracting the bird from the front, a second then
grabbing just behind the head to control the head and bill. (B118.18.w18.)
- Control the head first and make sure this is controlled at all times. (D24)
- Immediately after the head is held, control the body. (D9)
- If caught with a net or cloth, ensure the head and body are under control
before the net/cloth is removed.
- These birds may be easier to carry wrapped in a towel; the body may then
easily be held under one arm while the other hand controls the head.
- May be useful to have one person holding the body and wings while a
second person controls the head. (B169.43.w43)
- If handing from one person to another, ensure the head is transferred
first and is under control, then transfer control of the body.
Restraint for examination and treatment:
- Require at least one person to hold the bird, paying particular attention to restraint
of the head and neck, and another to conduct the examination or give treatment.
- The wings and legs should be released to the examiner one at a time to permit
- 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
- If the bill is taped or held closed a careful watch is required in case the bird starts
- Species without external nostrils must not have the bill taped closed. If taping
is considered necessary, a spacer such as a plastic syringe case must be placed inside the
bill sideways to ensure that the bill remains partially open and allows air flow.
- Any bird with the bill taped closed must not be left unattended.
- If the bill has been taped closed during examination it is important to ensure that the
mouth is checked thoroughly during the examination.
- 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.
|Legal and Ethical Considerations
- Risks to human health, both physical and risks of zoonotic illness, must be considered.
and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974)
- Subject to certain exceptions (e.g. birds listed in Schedule 2, outside their close
season), it is an offence under the Wildlife
and Countryside Act 1981 Section 1 to "take" (i.e.
capture) any bird from the wild in the UK and special penalties apply for birds listed
under Schedule 1 (including Oceanodroma
leucorhoa - Leach's storm-petrel); however an exception is made in the case
of taking a disabled individual for care, rehabilitation and release. (W5.Jan01,
- Sea shores are potentially hazardous environments. The risks to human health and safety
must be remembered: these include sharp rocks, water and the external environment, which
may lead to physical injury, drowning, hypothermia or (less commonly in the UK)
hyperthermia/sunstroke. All personnel who may work in such conditions must be given
adequate training to ensure that they are aware of the risks and know how to minimise
and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 applies to protect any employees of a
wildlife hospital, as well as volunteers at the hospital and visitors. Appropriate safety
procedures must be provided to take into account any special risks involved with persons
working with non-domesticated species (J35.147.w1,
- See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.