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Raptor Health Evaluation

October 3rd, 2011

Raptor Health Evaluation

*First, the Disclaimer:  This article is not a substitute for experienced medical advice in avian Biology, it is more of a qualified opinion based on biological study, common sense, research conducted through reading, personal experience, interviews with veterinarians, and by talking through raptor health situations with other experienced falconers. If you require medical care or treatment for your raptor, please consult this list of qualified avian veterinarians in the State of Michigan or google to find one near you.

Fecal Evaluation

After careful examination of your raptor immediately after trapping, you will have only a little insight into the bird’s overall health picture.  Physical examination of the feet, keel, and feathers will give you only half the picture of the health conditions of your freshly trapped raptor.  After you decide to keep your raptor, it is a good idea to get a fecal examination performed by your local veterinary clinic soon after capture.  They will look for microorganisms that are present and identify them as good / bad  and which ones require treatment.  Most raptors will pick up a normal flora / fauna from being in the wild and eating the little critters that carry around these microorganisms in small quantities. When transferred to another host, the little nasties can possibly cause havoc with the raptor’s system.  Fortunately there are some veterinary meds that will take care of them quickly.

In order to collect a fresh fecal sample, it’s easy to place some tin-foil or wax paper in the bottom of the giant hood for a day or two to catch the mutes before taking them to the vet.  Fold up the paper in plastic bag, label it and seal it.  Dried out mutes are difficult to get good readings from so make sure your sample hasn’t dried out.  If your bird is in the mews, identify a common ‘target’ area on the floor and tape your tin-foil / wax paper to the floor of the mews (if you can do such  thing).  If the substrate of your mews is sand, gravel, or other earthly composition, you may consider the giant hood in order to collect your sample.

Common Parasites:

  • Alaria (flatworms)
  • Candidiasis
  • Capillaria
  • Coccidocsis
  • Frounce or ‘Avian Trichomoniasis’
  • Mallophaga (chewing lice)
  • Ascaria (round worms)
  • Tapeworms

Health / Risk Assessment

Upon proper identification of a pathogenic microorganism, it’s important to assess the impact to your bird.  Observation of key symptoms in your raptor like diarrhea, weight loss, odd behavior, mute discoloration, or glossed over eyes.  You may not be able to identify ‘behavior’ issues in your newly trapped raptor if you are unfamiliar with it’s normal habits.  These are the first things you should look to when assessing health and condition of your raptor that could indicate a health issue.

Treatment

The treatment for the specific type of microorganism will be prescribed by your veterinary doctor.  It’s important to make note of the correct dosage.  Dosage for avian subjects can be quite specialized depending upon the treatment.  Not only are birds usually smaller that your common mammalian visitors to the Vet clinic (dogs, cats, bunnies, etc.) the tolerances of avian systems (respiratory, gastronomic, etc.) are much different as well. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions very carefully and exactly as prescribed.

Bottom Line

Most falconers I know personally take special care of their raptors.  It’s like being a champion race-horse owner; many will spare no expense when it comes to caring and maintaining the health of your raptor. Regular maintenance and care are essential for a happy, healthy raptor in your mews.  Fecal exams should be performed twice a year; once at the beginning of the Hunting season, and one at the end of the Hunting season.  This way, you assess any parasites when you capture your hawk from the wild and deal with treatment before it causes health issues.  A second check at the end of the season ensures that the bird did not contract anything from eating game it caught during the season.  Opinions on treatment for your raptor depend on health conditions, severity of infection, and personal experience and preference.  I’d prefer to be on the safe side of health issues when it pertains to my hunting partners.

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