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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation

This section provides a general indication of the COMMON conditions seen with UK Wildlife Casualties. It is NOT an all-encompassing overview of the diseases / conditions recorded in those species. Further diagnosis and treatment of disease may require the veterinary clinician to familiarise themselves with the diseases, agents and treatment protocols from external texts and other references, or to take further advice.

If mass mortality events are suspected, advice should be sought from organisations such as Environment Agency, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

Physical/Clinical Examination

Except when a life-threatening condition is present (e.g. haemorrhage, obstruction of breathing) a full physical examination should not be undertaken until the casualty animal has had a chance to rest quietly and its condition stabilise after transport. (B118.18.w18)
  • When examining a wildlife casualty animal, as with any animal, it is important to be systematic.
  • Bilateral structures should always be compared with one another for asymmetry.
  • Remember that "common things occur commonly"; in wildlife casualties trauma (physical damage) is a common reason for presentation.

PULSE, HEART & RESPIRATION

  • Heart rate may be measured by auscultation with a stethoscope.
  • The pulse rate and the heart rate should be the same if the heart is functioning correctly to pump blood around the body.
  • The heart/pulse rate is typically higher in smaller animals than in larger species, and higher in a bird of a given weight than a mammal of the same size.
  • The heart/pulse rate is likely to be elevated in wildlife casualties due to stress.
  • Respiratory rate is likely to be higher in restrained animals than in the same individual prior to restraint.
  • Most birds have a very rapid heart rate - detection of abnormalities may require electrocardiogram at 100cm/minute paper speed.
  • Short, faint inspiratory noise (breathing in) may be normal on auscultation with a stethoscope.
  • Excessive respiratory noise (breathing generally) may be associated with a problem affecting the upper respiratory tract (e.g. gapeworm (Gapeworm Infection), tracheal aspergillus granuloma (Aspergillosis)) or severe air sac disease (e.g. Aspergillosis, Chlamydiosis / Psittacosis, bacterial respiratory infection).

SKIN & FEATHERS:

  • Matted feathers (plumage) may indicate an underlying wound - this is not always directly under the matted area (B118.5.w5).
  • Wounds in birds which are heavily contaminated with feather debris may have been caused by air gun pellets and therefore require radiographic (x-ray) evaluation.
  • Careful examination for puncture wounds should be made in all casualties with a history of possible cat attack. In small garden birds (passerines) it is particularly common for bite wounds to be located on the bird's chest underneath the wings.
  • Check the skin around the neck and abdomen of all animals with a history of possible release from a snare or other ligature. Injuries may appear slight on presentation but wound breakdown caused by pressure necrosis can occur in the few days following snare removal and the casualty should be kept in care during this period. See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring.
  • Check for the presence of external parasites: mites, fleas, ticks, lice, fly eggs/maggots.
    • Large numbers of parasites such as lice may be indicative of general debility. See: Lice Infection.
    • When maggots are present on the surface they may also be present under the skin and deep into the animal. If fly eggs or developed maggots are found on the skin of the animal it is critically important to check all the orifices and wounds for maggots. It is particularly important to check carefully for fly eggs/maggots in the warmer months as this is when fly-strike is most likely to be seen. See: Myiasis (Fly strike).
  • Examine the plumage for "fret / stress marks", retained feather sheaths and white feathering which may indicate general debility.
  • Be sure to differentiate abnormal feather loss from the normal areas of skin that have no / few feathers present. The distribution of these featherless tracts varies between species, however they are bilaterally symmetrical in distribution.
  • Check for the evidence of an active "brood patch" (bald area with no feathers over the abdomen used for incubation) for casualties which present during the breeding season which may imply that the bird is currently brooding eggs or chicks. 
  • Assess the plumage to determine whether a bird is in moult. This may have implication for casualty management and release e.g. oiled seabird.
  • Always check the underside of the wings of waterfowl, particularly swans, which have a history of crash-landing or collisions with power cables for evidence of wounds, burns or charred plumage.

HEAD & NECK:

General:

  • Note any flesh wounds - punctures, lacerations, scalping. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
  • General pallor of the skin and mucous membranes may be seen with blood loss and anaemia.
  • Flaky white thickened skin and feather/hair loss on the face may indicate ringworm infection in birds See: Favus.
  • Note any masses which may be neoplastic.

Bill / Mouth:

  • Bill of birds should be shiny and meet evenly when closed. Poor beak / bill condition may be caused by trauma, parasitic disease, inadequate nutrition, poor incubation conditions.
  • Note any external crusty lesions around the bill or cere of birds.
    • e.g. white and flaky with Cnemidocoptes mite infection, brown and crusty with avian pox infection (Avian Pox).
  • Nostrils should be clean and open; check for discharge, occlusion, rhinoliths (solid discharge ("plug") in the nasal apparatus). A small amount of transparent serous nasal discharge in waterfowl is a normal finding.
    • Note that some bird species do not have external nostrils e.g. Morus bassanus - Northern gannet.
  • Mouth should be opened and checked for plaques, discoloration or necrotic areas. Oral plaques are particularly common in birds of prey, pigeons and doves (Columbidae). A number of diseases can cause oral lesions including Trichomoniasis ("Canker", "Frounce"), candidiasis (see: Candidiasis in Waterfowl), Avian Pox and Capillariasis. Diagnosis of the condition requires examination of a direct wet smear and stained preparation of the lesion.
  • Always check underneath the tongue (frenulum) and the commissures of the mouth for evidence of fishing line, in all water birds but particularly waterfowl.
  • Check waterfowl for halitosis (foul breath) which can occur secondary to gastro-intestinal impaction caused by lead poisoning. See: Lead poisoning
  • Check the back of the throat for foreign bodies or parasites, e.g. capillaria adult worms are often seen in tawny owls. See: Capillariasis
  • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. See: Myiasis (Fly strike)

Eye & Periorbital Area:

  • Eyes should be shiny and and the iris round.
  • The eye may appear dull and sunken in dehydrated animals.
  • Note whether the shape and degree of protrusion of the eyeball is similar for the two eyes.
  • Matting of plumage around the eyes may indicate increased ocular discharge (epiphora) caused by irritation, trauma or infection.
  • Check for inflammation of the eyelids and conjunctiva, e.g. due to the presence of a foreign body.
  • Check for swelling (unilateral or bilateral) just above/below the eye in birds which may be caused by sinusitis, seen with e.g. various respiratory infections.
  • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. See: Myiasis (Fly strike)
  • Check for the presence of surface lesions. Corneal scratches and ulcers can be identified using fluorescein dye in and birds. 
  • Note any difference in size and in reaction to light between the pupils (anisocoria).
  • Parasites (leeches, eye fluke, eye worm) may be present. Leeches are most commonly found beneath the third eyelid of larger waterfowl. (See: Ocular nematode infection, Ocular fluke infection, Leech infection)
  • Complete ophthalmic examination may be carried out and should always be performed in casualty birds of prey where visual deficits caused by retinal pathology deficits may be an important reason for presentation:
    • This is particularly important in individuals known or thought to have been involved in a collision with a vehicle or a solid object when pecten haemorrhage (bleeding) commonly occurs.

Ear:

  • Problems are rarely noted in birds, but they should be checked for polyps, neoplastic lesions, infection and haemorrhage following concussive trauma.

Neck:

  • Palpate carefully for any generalised or localised swelling of the oesophagus. In waterfowl, fishing tackle and line within the oesophagus can trap any vegetation eaten leading to partial or complete obstruction of the food passage. These birds may also have halitosis, saliva drooling from their mouths and make repeated and laboured attempts to swallow. Anglers' hooks caught within the ingested vegetation may tear the oesophagus as the build up of vegetation forces the hook further down the neck. Careful passage of a lubricated stomach tube is useful to determine whether the swelling is located within the lumen of the oesophagus. If no obstruction to the passage of the stomach tube is detected beyond the distension of the neck, it is probable that the oesophagus has been torn and that food material has collected in the soft tissue of the neck causing a cellulitis. This type of condition would have a poor prognosis. See: Hook and Line Injuries in Waterfowl.
  • Palpate carefully for anglers' hooks which may be present within the oesophagus of waterfowl.
  • Palpate the crop of birds (not present as a structure distinguishable from the oesophagus in all species and absent in some groups including owls). Determine whether the bird has fed recently which is particularly important when dealing with fledglings and juvenile birds. Casualty birds of prey can present with "sour crop" where crop emptying is delayed, often as a consequence of general debility. The crop contents are typically soft/fluid and malodorous and urgent treatment with emptying of the rancid crop contents is required. Further examination of the oesophagus and crop by endoscopy may be needed - this may require general anaesthesia.
  • Localised or generalised emphysematous swelling may be seen with damage to the cervical air sac in birds.
  • Check carefully for hidden injuries due to e.g. snares (see: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring), as well as for the presence of lacerations and puncture wounds (see: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds).

WINGS AND/OR LEGS & FEET:

  • Palpate and manipulate wings and legs carefully for fractures or dislocations. (See: Impact Injury and Brachial Paralysis)
    • Check the whole length of each long bone.
    • Palpate and manipulate each joint.
    • Check for deviation, normal range of motion, crepitus ("crunching" sensation) and instability.
  • Wings should be examined one at a time, while the other wing is kept restrained with the body. The wing being examined should always be handled using the elbow and wrist (carpus) as anchor points; damage to the wing may occur if the handler restrains the wing only from its tip (metacarpal and phalanges) and the bird struggles and flaps.
  • With experience, gentle palpation of the clavicle and coracoid bones in the thoracic inlet of birds is possible. Manipulation of coracoid fractures should be undertaken with care as there is an associated risk of bone fragments damaging blood vessels leading to serious haemorrhage from the mouth (haemoptysis). If a fracture is suspected radiography should be used to establish the extent of the injury. (See: Impact Injury)
  • Legs should be palpated and manipulated one at a time, while the other legs is kept restrained, particularly in long-legged species.
  • Legs should also be held out together and compared for symmetry.
  • Care should be taken when examining the legs and feet of birds of prey to avoid "taloning" of the handler and the bird itself.
  • Inspect featherless areas for damage e.g. to scales. Check any leg rings are correctly fitting and there is no associated trauma.
  • Note any discoloured areas (pale and cold, reddened and swollen or dry and necrotic) which may indicate e.g. frostbite (Frostbite).
  • Inspect the plantar surface of feet for bumblefoot lesions (Bumblefoot), particularly in birds of prey and waterfowl.
  • Check for joint swellings indicative of articular gout (Gout), arthritis etc.
  • Check the area above the hock in waterfowl for evidence of entangled fishing line which commonly lodges here and can act as a tourniquet, reducing blood supply to the limb. See: Hook and Line Injuries in Waterfowl.

BODY:

  • Palpate body gently for any surface masses.
  • Check major muscle masses (e.g. pectoral muscles in birds) are symmetrical.
  • Check for evidence of possible air sac injury (air-filled swelling, palpable under the skin particularly in the neck region). See: Air Sac Injury
  • Examine abdomen for signs of generalised distension (e.g. ascites, obesity, haemorrhage) or localised masses (e.g. retained egg (see: Egg Binding in Waterfowl and Egg Peritonitis in Waterfowl), neoplasm (see: Neoplasia in Waterfowl), abscess etc.).
    • In a normal bird the gizzard may be palpable; in a normal mammal the kidneys may be palpable.
    • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) may be palpable and is an abnormal finding.
  • On abdominal palpation assess whether the abdomen/ gastro-intestinal system feels empty indicating that the casualty has not fed for some time prior to presentation.
  • Check around cloaca for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. See: Myiasis (Fly strike)

Radiography is particularly useful with small animals that are difficult to examine, and should often be used as a routine part of examination.

Examination of faeces, haematology and other clinical samples is also often an important part of diagnosis.

(B11.2.w16,B11.3.w10, B13.8.w20, B14, V.w5, V.w26)

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Bird of Prey Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Bird of Prey Considerations

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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, Falconidae, Strigidae, Tytonidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Road traffic accident: (See also: Impact Injury in Waterfowl)
    • Injuries may include wing fractures, leg fractures, head trauma, eye injuries (pecten haemorrhage).
  • Window-collision: 
    • Head trauma (concussion);
    • Sometimes coracoid fractures (characteristic abnormal wing posture may be seen with the wing held tip pointing upwards);
    • Particularly seen in sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus - Eurasian sparrowhawk).
    • Birds with suspected coracoid fractures should be handled carefully since bone ends may lacerate internal vessels leading to serious haemorrhage from the mouth.

    (V.w26)

  • Lacerations from being caught on barbed wire fences. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds.
    • Injuries are most common on the underside of the wing.
    • Prognosis varies with the severity of the wounds, whether the propatagial membrane and ligament is intact (leading edge of the wing which is important in flight), the degree of soft tissue contamination and desiccation at the site.
    • Birds may be found caught on barbed wire from which they must be carefully removed. In many cases where the bird is impaled on the wire and the feathers have become tightly wrapped around the wire it may be preferable to cut the wire and take it along with the bird into care. The wire can then be safely removed with the bird under general anaesthesia. 
    • The bird will typically struggle in an attempt to release itself and may cause damage to the feathers as they become wrapped around the wire and may also damage the muscles to the upper wing.

    (V.w26)

  • Eye injuries (e.g. associated with collision injuries).
    • Check for pecten haemorrhage. (V.w26)
  • Shooting injuries (particularly Buteo buteo - Common buzzard and Falco peregrinus - Peregrine falcon).(B199)
    • These are usually associated with lead pellets rather than air gun pellets. X-rays should be taken to confirm diagnosis and labelled appropriately, as birds may be protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and prosecution may follow. 

    (V.w6, V.w26)

  • Injuries associated with falling down chimneys (e.g. Strix aluco - Tawny owl, Athene noctua - Little owl).
    • Assessment for dehydration should be made and rehydration electrolyte fluids administered when necessary by gavage tube. 
    • The eyes of these birds should be flushed with sterile saline to remove as much soot contamination as possible and the surface of the cornea should be examined for scratches using fluorescein dye. Anti-inflammatory and antibiotic ocular ointments may be indicated.

    (V.w26)

  • Illegal pole trap injuries (to legs). (B199)
  • Mobbed by corvids - crows, jays, magpies etc. (Corvidae). Affected birds typically have feather loss around the head and eyes.(V.w26)
  • Diseases:
    • Gapeworm Infection (B156.16.w16)
    • Trichomoniasis  ("frounce"). (V.w26)
    • Helminth infections;
    • Avian pox (B197.8.w8), usually dry form and self limiting.
    • Capillariasis
    • Aspergillosis (may be triggered by stress). (B156.16.w16)
    • Candidiasis: (Further information on candidiasis is available in Candidiasis in Waterfowl)
      • Caseous or necrotic material in the mouth or crop.
      • Affected individuals may vomit and may show respiratory signs.
      • Treat with itraconazole (10mg/kg oral syrup once daily for 7-10 days) or ketoconazole (5mg/kg oral twice daily for five days). (B156.16.w16)
    • Lead poisoning. (B156.16.w16) (Further information on lead poisoning is available in Lead Poisoning in Waterfowl)
    • Bumblefoot. (B156.16.w16)
      • This is rare in wild birds but may occur associated with pre-existing injury to one or both feet. (B197.8.w8)
      • May occur following self-inflicted talon injuries (B197.8.w8), which are most likely to occur during capture and handling if the feet are not restrained properly. (V.w6)
      • May occur in casualties being rehabilitated if incorrect perches are provided. (B197.8.w8)
    • Metabolic Bone Disease: 
      • Seen occasionally in wild common buzzards (Buteo buteo - Common buzzard). (V.w26)
      • Recognised as a major problem in hand-reared chicks fed an unbalanced, meat-only diet.
    • Louse flies (Hippoboscidae family) are common external parasites in buzzards (Buteo buteo - Common buzzard). (V.w26)
    • "Sour crop" may be seen in weak/diseased birds in which the crop does not empty properly and the contents putrefy.
  • Orphans and unsuccessful juveniles:
    • Generally present with hypothermia, dehydration and extreme weight loss. (J23.23.w2).
    • Starvation may be seen in sub-adult kestrels in the autumn.
  • Tawny owlets (Strix aluco - Tawny owl) normally leave the nest some considerable time before fledging and juveniles at or near ground level are commonly mistakenly identified as orphans. See: Hand-rearing of Birds of Prey

(B151, B156.16.w16, B197.8.w8, B199, D24, V.w6, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Crow, Jay, Magpie etc. Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Crow, Jay, Magpie etc. Considerations

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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.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Trauma from road traffic accidents, shot injuries. (See also: Impact Injury in Waterfowl). This can result in:
    • concussion (frequently occurs).
    • leg fractures.
    • wing fractures.
    • spinal trauma with bilateral limb paralysis.
  • Syngamus trachae infection (Gapeworm Infection).
  • Coccidiosis (Further information on coccidiosis is available in Coccidiosis in Waterfowl).
  • White feathering.
    • Juvenile corvids, particularly carrion crows, commonly present with patchy white plumage particularly affecting their flight and tail feathers. These birds often have a large number of “stress” or “fret” marks over the feathers that are points of weakness where these feathers may break.
    • In addition these birds often, but not invariably, present in poor body condition with high internal (coccidiosis and Syngamus trachae) and external parasite burdens (mites).
    • The aetiology of this condition is unknown although suggestions include nutritional deficiencies and agricultural chemical toxicity.
    • Some centres keep these birds until they pass through their next moult whilst others assess birds and euthanase severely affected individuals. 

    (V.w26, B151)

  • "Orphans": e.g. juvenile crows and rooks which have fallen out of trees while able to wing flap but not to fly and which may require hand-rearing.
    • Corvus corone - Carrion crow may leave the nest but still be being fed by their parents. (B151)
    • Corvus frugilegus - Rook chicks may not be fed once on the ground and therefore may need to be hand-reared.(V.w27)

    See: Hand-rearing Crows, Jay, Magpie etc.

  • Juveniles with deformed legs (probably metabolic bone disease). (See also: Splay Leg in Waterfowl)
    • Deformity may be severe and therefore require euthanasia.
  • Corvus monedula - Eurasian jackdaw after falling down chimneys.
  • Mobbed by other corvids.
    • Typically have feather loss around the head and eyes.(V.w26)
  • Mite infestation is common. (B151, V.w26)
    • May be treated with ivermectin (Ivomec Pour-on, Merial Animal Health) dose suggested of 0.1ml per bird on the skin on the back of the neck.(B151)

(D24, B118.17.w17, B151)

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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Game Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Game Bird Considerations

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Alectoris rufa - Red-legged partridge, Chrysolophus pictus - Golden pheasant, Coturnix coturnix - Common quail, Lagopus lagopus - Willow ptarmigan, Lagopus mutus - Rock ptarmigan, Perdix perdix - Grey partridge, Phasianus colchicus - Common pheasant, Tetrao tetrix - Black grouse, Tetrao urogallus - Western capercaillie.

These species are from the families Phasianidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Trauma from road traffic accidents, shot injuries. (See also: Impact Injury in Waterfowl). This can result in:
    • concussion (frequently occurs).
    • leg fractures.
    • wing fractures.
    • spinal trauma with bilateral limb paralysis.
  • Gapeworm infection
  • Young pheasant "poults" that have been recently released onto shooting estates may be thin / emaciated due to changes in feeding regimes, or inability to find food; they may also have superficial injuries, such as scalping (See also: Scalping in Waterfowl) due to transport and recent accommodation in release pens. (V.w6)
  • In late winter / early Spring, emaciated adult birds may be seen as supplementary feeding is stopped at the end of the shooting season. (V.w6)

N.B. “Beak clipping” where the tip of the beak is removed is a management technique of farmed game birds and should not be mistaken as a result of trauma in the wild.(B151)

(D24, B151, B199, V.w6, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Garden Birds etc. (Small Passerines) Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Garden Birds etc. (Small Passerines) Considerations

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Cat bites. (See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds) Injuries may include:
    • Lacerations, particularly over the rump.
    • Puncture wounds, particularly common under the wings over the “chest” area.
    • Wing fractures.

    (V.w26)

  • Trauma from road traffic accidents. (See also: Impact Injury in Waterfowl). This can result in:
    • concussion (frequently occurs).
    • leg fractures.
    • wing fractures.
    • spinal trauma with bilateral limb paralysis.
  • Concussion after flying into windows.
  • Entanglement in e.g. fruit netting/string.(B151) See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
  • Gapeworm Infection (Syngamus trachae) (particularly common in fledgling blackbirds).
  • Cnemidocoptes mite infection of the feet in finches.
  • Idiopathic emphysema in nestlings.
  • (D24)
  • Fractures, particularly bill fractures in blackbirds and leg fractures in robins.(B151)

(D24, D48, B151, B199, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Grebe & Diver (Loon) Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Grebe & Diver (Loon) Considerations Gavia arctica - Arctic loon, Gavia immer - Common loon, Gavia stellata - Red-throated loon, Podiceps auritus - Horned grebe, Podiceps cristatus - Great crested grebe, Podiceps grisegena - Red-necked grebe, Podiceps nigricollis - Black-necked grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis - Little grebe.

These species are from the families Podicipedidae, Gaviidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Fishing line injuries. See: Hook and Line Injuries in Waterfowl
  • Birds which have landed in the wrong place (off water) and are unable to take off again.
  • Birds mistakenly thought to have injured legs. These species have legs placed far back on the body and therefore are normally unable to walk, or have difficulty in walking on land.
  • Oiling; severely oiled birds may need washing and rehabilitation. (See: Oiling in Waterfowl)

(B151, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Gull & Tern Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Gull & Tern Considerations

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Childonais niger - Black tern, Larus marinus - Great black-backed gull, Larus argentatus - Herring gull, Larus canus - Mew gull, Larus fuscus - Lesser black-backed gull, Larus ridibundus - Common black-headed gull, Larus melanocephalus - Mediterranean gull, Larus minutus - Little gull, Rissa tridactyla - Black-legged kittiwake, Stercorarius parasiticus - Parasitic jaeger, Stercorarius pomarinus - Pomarine jaeger, Sterna albifrons - Little tern, Sterna bengalensis - Lesser crested-tern, Sterna dougallii - Roseate tern, Sterna hirundo - Common tern, Sterna paradisaea - Arctic tern, Sterna sandvicensis - Sandwich tern, Catharacta skua - Great skua.

These species are from the family Laridae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Avian Botulism

    • Clinical signs include generalised flaccid paralysis.

    N.B. the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Environment Agency should be informed if large numbers of paralysed gulls or dying birds are found, giving the location and the number of birds involved.

  • Foreign bodies such as sea fishing tackle. See: Hook and Line Injuries in Waterfowl
  • Shot gun pellet injuries.
  • Oiling; oiled seagulls which are able to fly and feed will often survive without intervention. Severely oiled birds may need washing and rehabilitation. (Further information is available in Oiling in Waterfowl).
  • Fractured wings from impact with e.g. wires.(B199)
  • Alphachlorolose poisoning.(B199)
  • Angel wing in juvenile herring gull.(V.w26)
  • Larus argentatus - Herring gull chicks commonly fall from their nest and present in seaside areas.

(D24, D29, B199, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Miscellaneous Bird Considerations (Kingfisher, Cuckoo, Woodpeckers, Wrynecks)
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Miscellaneous Bird Considerations (Kingfisher, Cuckoo, Woodpeckers, Wrynecks) 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, Cuculidae, Picidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Cat bites.
  • Head trauma e.g. concussion or bill damage.
    • Commonly seen after birds have flown into windows.

(B151, V.w26)

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Pigeon & Dove Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Pigeon & Dove Considerations

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Columba livia - Rock pigeon, Columba oenas - Stock pigeon, Columba palumbas - Common wood-pigeon, Streptopelia turtur - European turtle-dove, Streptopelia decaocto - Eurasian collared-dove.

These species are from the family Columbidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Trichomoniasis ("Canker"). 
    • Caseous oral lesions are seen. 
    • Examination of a fresh saline mounted preparation for diagnosis. 
    • Prophylaxis or treatment as required with Carnidazole (Spartrix, Harkers).
    • (B151, V.w26)
  • Coccidiosis. (Further information on coccidiosis is available in Coccidiosis in Waterfowl).
    • Particularly common in wood pigeons. 
    • Clinical signs typically include emaciation and watery diarrhoea. (V.w26)
  • Capillariasis.
  • Cat bites (especially collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto - Eurasian collared-dove)).
  • Trauma from road traffic accidents, shot injuries or collisions with windows. (See also: Impact Injury in Waterfowl). This can result in:
    • concussion (frequently occurs).
    • leg fractures.
    • wing fractures.
    • spinal trauma with bilateral limb paralysis.

    Particularly common in wood pigeons (Columba palumbas - Common wood-pigeon). Fractured coracoid and clavicle common. (V.w26)

  • Exhaustion - racing pigeons.
  • Ruptured crop.
    • This may occur following blunt trauma or a predator attack.
    • The crop and skin must each be sutured carefully and separately.
  • Juvenile collared doves: a syndrome has been noted of unknown origin involving poor feather condition/growth and extremely poor bone mineralisation.Cartilaginous and easily deformed beak and keel, bowed tibiotarsi, retained feather sheaths and “stress/ fret” marks on the primary feathers are commonly seen as part of this syndrome.(B151, V.w26)
  • Chlamydiosis/Psittacosis

(B151, D24, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Seabird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Seabird Considerations

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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).

These species are from the families Laridae, Phalacrocoracidae, Procellariidae, Sulidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Oiling. (Further information is available in Oiling in Waterfowl)
  • Windblown birds may be found inland - shearwaters, petrels, gannets, little auks and fulmars. Recently-fledged juveniles blown inland by storms commonly require rehydration and feeding prior to release at suitable coastal sites.(B197.15.w15)
  • Birds accidentally landing on flat ground may be unable to re-launch. These birds can often be released immediately from a suitable elevated site.(B197.15.w15)
  • Newly-fledged petrels and shearwaters confused by artificial lights into heading inshore rather than out to sea after emergence from their burrows. These birds may be released at dusk from suitable sites away from artificial lights. (B197.15.w15)
  • Entanglement of fishing tackle or other debris.(B197.15.w15)
  • Ingestion of fishing tackle or other debris.(B197.15.w15)
  • Gunshot wounds.(B197.15.w15)
  • Injuries from predators.(B197.15.w15)
  • Lacerations from e.g. boat propellers, jet skis.(B197.15.w15)

(D24, D29, B151, B199)

Other important diseases:

  • Keel Lesions in birds kept off water during treatment.
    • These lesions are particularly likely to develop in emaciated birds with a prominent keel.
  • Aspergillosis
    • Treatment is rarely successful once clinical signs are apparent. (B197.15.w15)
  • Puffinosis in Puffinus puffinus - Manx shearwater. (B197.15.w15)

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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Swift, Nightjar, Swallow & Martin Considerations Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Swift, Nightjar, Swallow & Martin Considerations Apus apus - Common swift, Caprimulgus europaeus - Eurasian nightjar, Delichon urbica - Northern house-martin, Hirundo rustica - Barn swallow, Riparia riparia - Sand martin.

These species are from the families Apodidae, Hirundindae, Caprimulgidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Exhaustion and falling to ground after migration. Such birds may benefit from fluids and emergency feeding overnight before release.
  • Nestlings following dislodging of nest.
  • Fractured wings (occasional).
  • Cat bites. (See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds) Injuries may include:
    • Lacerations, particularly over the rump.
    • Puncture wounds, particularly common under the wings over the “chest” area.
    • Wing fractures.

Apus apus - Common swift

  • Swifts found on the ground is in need of assistance as it will be unable to take off again from this position and is vulnerable to predation and to mobbing by other birds.
  • Swifts are unsuitable for long-term captivity. Euthanasia may be the most humane option for swifts with injuries precluding a rapid release (e.g. complicated fractures).(B151)
  • Swifts are commonly parasitised by Crataerina pallida - louse fly.
    • The presence of more than one or two of these is unusual. 
    • The parasites may be physically removed. 

(D24, B151, V.w5)

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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Wader Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Wader Considerations 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.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Trauma - road traffic accidents or flying into overhead wires.
  • Fishing line injuries/entanglement.
  • Entanglement in netting around garden ponds (particularly fish-eating species such as herons).
  • Starvation and emaciation after a prolonged cold spell.
    • N.B. herons normally have a prominent keel and therefore always feel somewhat emaciated on physical examination.

(D24, B151, B199, V.w26)

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Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Waterfowl Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Waterfowl Considerations

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Aix galericulata - Mandarin duck; Anas acuta - Northern pintail, Anas clypeata - Northern shoveler, Anas crecca - Common teal, Anas penelope - Eurasian wigeon, Anas platyrhynchos - Mallard, Anas strepera - Gadwall, Anas querquedula - Garganey, Anser albifrons - Greater white-fronted goose, Anser anser - Greylag goose, Anser brachyrhynchus - Pink-footed goose, Anser erythropus - Lesser white-fronted goose, Anser fabalis - Bean goose, Aythya ferina - Common pochard, Aythya fuligula - Tufted duck, Aythya marila - Greater scaup, Branta bernicla - Brent goose, Branta canadensis - Canada goose, Branta leucopsis - Barnacle goose, Bucephala clangula - Common goldeneye, Clangula hyemalis - Long-tailed duck, Cygnus columbianus - Tundra swan, Cygnus cygnus - Whooper swan, Cygnus olor - Mute swan, Melanitta fusca- White-winged scoter, Melanitta nigra - Black scoter, Mergellus albellus - Smew, Mergus merganser - Common merganser, Mergus serrator - Red-breasted merganser, Oxyura jamaicensis - Ruddy duck, Somateria mollissima - Common eider, Tadorna tadorna - Common shelduck.

These species are from the family Anatidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

(B118.18.w18, B151, B199, D24, D29, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

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UK Contact Organisations and Published Guidelines for Further Reading (Electronic Library)

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Authors & Referees

Author Debra Bourne
Referees Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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