TECHNIQUE

Catching and Handling of Waders (Wildlife Casualty Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Handling and Transport which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description 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: Ardea cinerea - Grey heron, Botaurus stellaris - Great bittern, Platalea leucorodia - Eurasian spoonbill, Arenaria interpres - Ruddy turnstone, Bartramia longicauda - Upland sandpiper, Burhinus oedicnemus - Eurasian thick-knee (Stone curlew), Calidris alba - Sanderling, Calidris alpina - Dunlin, Calidris ferruginea - Curlew sandpiper, Calidris maritima - Purple sandpiper, Calidris minuta - Little stint, Calidris temminckii - Temminck's stint, Calidris canutus - Red knot, Calidris tenuirostris - Great knot, Charadrius dubius - Little ringed plover, Charadrius hiaticula - Common ringed plover, Crex crex - Corn crake, Eudromias morinellus - Eurasian dotterel, Fulica atra - Common coot - Common coot, Gallinago gallinago - Common snipe, Gallinula chloropus - Common moorhen, Haematopus ostralegus - Eurasian oystercatcher, Limosa lapponica - Bar-tailed godwit, Limosa limosa - Black-tailed godwit, Lymnocryptes minimus - Jack snipe, Numenius arquata - Eurasian curlew, Numenia phaeropus - Whimbrel, Phaloropus fulicaria - Red phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus - Red-necked phalarope, Philomachus pugnax - Ruff, Pluvialis apricaria - Eurasian golden plover, Pluvialis squatarola - Grey plover, Porzana porzana - Spotted crake, Rallus aquaticus - Water rail, Recurvirostra avosetta - Pied avocet, Scolopax rusticola - Eurasian woodcock, Tringa erythropus - Spotted redshank, Tringa glareola - Wood sandpiper, Tringa hypoleucos - Common sandpiper, Tringa nebularia - Common greenshank, Tringa ochropus - Green sandpiper, Tringa totanus - Common redshank, Vanellus vanellus - Northern lapwing.

These species are from the families Rallidae, Scolopacidae, Burhinidae, Charadriidae.

  • Waders are long-legged birds and are generally delicate, particularly the smaller species.
  • Extreme care is required when catching waders such as shorebirds with thin long legs. (B10.23.w27)
  • Long-legged birds should NOT be restrained or carried for more than a short time with the legs folded as this may result in permanent paralysis. (V.w5)
  • Legs of long-legged birds should be controlled quickly and carefully to reduce the chance of the bird injuring itself.
  • Many species of waders have long pointed bills and move with a rapid darting motion; piscivorous (fish-eating) species such as herons in particular are likely to stab at the eyes. These birds should be held well away from eyes and faces at all times and it may be advisable to wear protective goggles, particularly when handling the larger species such as herons.(D24, B118.18.w18)
  • Coots and moorhens will scratch with the feet as well as biting. (B118.18.w18, B151)

Catching and Handling:

  • Consider the dangers to the handler and the bird before starting the catching process.
  • Depending on the circumstances, catching by hand, using a hand-held net with a padded rim and small mesh, or throwing a cloth of an appropriate size and weight for the bird over the bird may be used for capture.
  • Hand-held nets may be used for catching species such as coots, moorhens and water rail, although catching on the water may be very difficult.
    • With smaller long-legged species in particular there is a risk when catching with a net of damaging the bird with the rim of the net (especially of leg damage).
    • If catching with a net, restrain the bird through the net, then carefully remove the net, keeping the head, wings and legs of the bird controlled at all times.
  • If dropping a cloth such as a towel over the bird, note which way the head is pointing and restrain the bird through the cloth.
  • If a bird is caught by hand, both hands should be used to catch and hold the bird.
  • Cover the head with a suitable cloth such as a towel if possible. This tends to quieten the bird and makes it more difficult for it to direct stabs at the handler (see the handler to stab at.)
  • Keep the wings of the bird restrained against its body.
  • Restrain the legs as soon as possible.
  • Hold the legs just above the hocks (joint half way down the leg).
  • Keep a finger between the legs to prevent the legs rubbing on one another.
  • Do not force the legs folded; individuals may prefer to be held with the legs extended backwards.
  • If the legs are folded they must not be kept folded for long periods as this may result in paralysis.
  • Keep your face away from the bird at all times.
  • With large species such as herons always restrain the head first, holding at the base of the skull, and make sure this is kept restrained at all times.

Restraint for Examination and Treatment:

  • May require two people, one to hold the birds, paying particular attention to restraint of the head and legs, while the second person performs the examination.
  • Hold the legs just above the hocks (joint half way down the leg).
  • Keep a finger between the legs to prevent the legs rubbing on one another.
  • Hold legs of long-legged birds extended out behind the bird. They may be gently restrained in loose flexion beneath the bird for short periods of examination only. 
  • Keep the bird away from anyone's face.
  • The wings and legs should be released to the examiner one at a time to permit examination.
  • Subdued lighting should be used if possible to calm diurnal birds and facilitate handling.
  • Covering the bird's head with a lightweight cloth may help to keep the bird calm during the examination, and makes it more difficult for the bird to direct stabs at the handler.
  • Prolonged examination and treatment may be best performed under general anaesthesia.

(B10.23.w27, B123, B151, B156.15.w15, D24, V.w5, V.w26)

General Anaesthesia (Generic "Bird" Information)

  • 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 anaesthesia.
    • 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.

(B11, B13.39.w16, B14, B197, V.w5, V.w6 V.w26)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Catch only if necessary.
  • Handling of wild animals should be minimised.
  • Consider design of accommodation and timing of treatments to minimise requirements for capture and handling.
  • Excessive chasing should be avoided as this is very stressful to the bird.(B118.5.w5)
  • Consider whether physical or chemical restraint is more appropriate.
Notes
  • Waders are long-legged birds and are generally delicate, particularly the smaller species.(D24, B123)
  • Handling in subdued light often quietens diurnal birds.(B118.5.w5, B123)
  • Always restrain the head as soon as possible.(D24)
  • Consider wearing protective laboratory goggles, particularly for larger species such as herons.(D24)
  • Even disabled birds may be quite mobile -e.g. still able to fly with an injured leg, or still able to run despite an injured wing.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Long-legged birds should NOT be restrained or carried for more than a short time with the legs folded as this may result in permanent paralysis. (V.w5)
  • Catching of species such as herons is very difficult if they are able to fly.(B151)
  • Extreme care is required when catching waders such as shorebirds with thin long legs.
  • With smaller long-legged species in particular there is a risk if catching with a net of damaging the bird with the rim of the net, especially of leg damage including fractures.
  • With smaller long-legged species in particular there is a risk of leg damage from excessive pressure while handling the bird.
  • Legs of long-legged birds should be controlled quickly and carefully to reduce the chance of the bird injuring itself.
  • Coots and moorhens will scratch with the feet as well as biting. (B118.18.w18, B151)
  • Many species of waders have long pointed bills and move with a rapid darting motion; piscivorous (fish-eating) species such as herons in particular are likely to stab at the eyes.(D24, B118.18.w18)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Towels and other cloths of varying sizes.
  • Small mesh or opaque material nets, with padded rim.
  • Laboratory goggles.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Experience is advantageous for catching and handling these species safely.
  • For the larger species in particular, inexperienced handlers should seek advice and assistance.
Cost/ Availability
  • Appropriate nets may be available from specialist suppliers, veterinary suppliers or some good pet stores; they may be expensive.
  • Nets may also be constructed from readily-available materials.
  • Protective goggles are widely available and not expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risks of zoonotic illness, must be considered.(Health 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; however an exception is made in the case of taking a disabled individual for care, rehabilitation and release. (W5.Jan01, D28, D31)
  • 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 these risks.
  • Health 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, B142.4.w4, B156.21.w21)
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties..
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman
References

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