Is the bird staying away from the flock? Is it limping? Is a wing dragging? Is it lying down? Is it actively competing for food or is it staying on the fringes of the flock half trying to get at food or not going after it at all? Is it looking at food but not trying to pick it up? Are the feathers under the lower beak and on the cheeks puffed out. Is the bird breathing with it's mouth open a little bit? Is there any sign of swelling around the mouth. Are both eyes open? Is there redness or swelling in the eyes? Is there wetness that can be seen by the nares? Is the bird picking up food but it is falling out of its mouth? Are all the feathers puffed up? Is the bird weak? Is the bird still on the ground when the flock flies away? Is it just sitting at the base of a tree or some other object? Is the bird standing under a parked car? Is there a visible injury? When the bird comes down to eat, does it land lying down? There are reasons
for all of these symptoms and you can never take anything for granted.
To capture a bird that can still fly is not easy. I throw bird seed and watch the flock as they eat. If there is a bird that does not act normally for any of the reasons written above, I will try go come up behind it and when it's head is down grabbing seed or otherwise looking away, I will make a grab for it. I'm not always sucessfull but I try. The chances are that if you see a bird that is in trouble, if you don't get it right then and there, you may not see it again or otherwise not have an opportunity to get it.
The actual Physical Examination
When a bird is in your hands,
it is absolutely vital to look at everything from head to foot.
Looking in the mouth, at the eyes, the lids, the nares is so obvious and there is so much to be said about it. There is so much that can be wrong in those areas. These are the first things to look at. Is the beak(s) curved and could it have been from an impact injury? Is the beak overgrown or scissored? Is the beak cracked? Is the tissue that lines the inside lower beak attached to the beak? Is there swelling under the chin? Sometimes canker gets in under the tongue and you don't know unless you feel a swelling. Sometimes a bacterial infection gets under the tongue and moves into the jaw? Is the tongue discolored? That could be a chemical burn or infection.
Look at the insides of the cheeks. Sometimes an object like a feather shaft penetrates into the cheek and causes a painful abscess. Is there a yellow area in the cheek? The sinuses can generate infection that can travel into the cheek area.
Is there any matting of feathers or pus by the ears? Even though the eyes may look good, is there matting around the feathers asurrounding the eyes? It could be a skin infection there. Other parts of the body can indicate what is wrong and they have to be looked at very closely.
Aside from obvious injuries, look for the not so obvious. If thebird is limping, is there a swelling on the bottom of the foot? That could be a bumble foot and that is serious. Do you see any swelling in the leg joints? Is there any whitish material under the skin anywhere on the legs? It could be gout. It could be an infection. Is there string on the toes and/or legs. That has to be taken care of immediately and an entire section, "String Removal" is devoted to that problem, and NYCPRC's "Foot Squad" try to actively locate, capture and de thread them.
Is there an unusual feeling to any of the body feathers? I had a bird that was very weak and I felt a straight line of feathers running along the right rear side of the bird that felt very odd. It was a huge abcess in the skin that was running horizontally and affecting the follicles as it travelled. Antibiotics and then pulling out the affected feathers saved the bird. If I had not felt those feathers, antibiotics alone would not have saved the bird. That abscess source had to be removed to allow drainage.
Look for any swellings on the body and wings. A swelling on the winds could be paratyphoid (salmonella). If it is an injury, you may see some blood on the underside of the wing at the point where it meets the body. If you part the feathers, you may get more that you bargained for. You may see an opening large enough to view bone and many times, that bone has been shattered or broken. A little blood on the feathers may not tell the entire story.
Look at the cloacal area. See if it is herniated. That is called a prolapsed cloaca and if you can't afford the surgery to repair it, the bird has to be put down. Look for canker in that area. Sometimes canker bypasses the mouth and crop and sets up shop in that area.
Look to see that droppings are not clogging the cloaca. If that is allowed to remain, the backup will cause toxins to kill the bird.
That comes from a number of sources; bad hygiene, kidney problems or digestive system problems. Look at the oil gland. Is it clogged?
Do you see any skin growth on the edge of the wing that looks like a mushroom? That is cancer. Is there a skin growth coming up from the shoulder. That is probably cancer. Is there any tumor on the beak. It could be cancer or benign. I don't think I covered all of it but the bottom line is take nothing for granted and look at every part of the bird's body.
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