DiseaseCommon SymptomsTreatment and Preventative Options
Aspergillosisearly: sudden "tameness"; unusually hard breathing after physical exertion, general exhaustion, extreme thirst; late: massive weight loss, eats less and less, sits fluffed on her perch with a dull eye, postmortem will show lungs coated with gray mold/dustPrevention is the key: keep a clean, dry mews, and avoid using wood shavings or other flooring in which mold could flourish. If the bird is diagnosed with Asper, Ancobon and amphotericin B have shown limited effectiveness, also Itraconazole
West Nile VirusWNV is an inflmmatory diease affecting the brain, so early symptoms include lethargy and malaise and general discombobulation; later symptoms will look something like a stroke.prevention: build your mews away from parts of your property that harbor mosquitoes, and think about putting mosquito screening on the outside of the bars if mosquitoes are likely to be problematic at your site. VACCINATE YOUR BIRD! Treatment protocols are still evolving, but some have had success with anti-inflammatories in addition to antivirals.
Frounce (trichomoniasis)early: bird might attempt to eat, but flick the food away, difficulty breathing (maybe accompanied by a whistling noise) ;middle: cheesy plaques and inflamed linings of the throat and mouth; late: deathprevention: If you hunt pigeons, don't feed your bird the head, neck, or crop, as those are the likeliest to harbor frounce organism; feed pigeons which have been frozen for thirty days minimum. treatment: Flagyl and Spartrix have proven effective
Hippoboscid (Flat) fliesYou'll see them on your bird, and probably one will run up your sleeves when you're trying to impress someonewhile showing off your hawkparakeet spray, poultry dust (sevin)
Internal parasitesmutes might have "rice" look, and the bits of rice might move. Unexplained weight loss, bird might have "dull eye"prevention: when you trap your bird, get your vet to do a fecal float to check for parasites. Treatment: ivermectin, usually
Feather licelice eat away the barbules of the feathers, beginning with the non-pigmented; bird's feathers will look "rough"parakeet spray, poultry dust (sevin)
Coccidiosisearly: lower energy, diarrhea and maybe flecks of blood in mutes; late stages: mutes turn black and foul smellingprevention! Keep a clean dry mews, watch out especially for buildup of mutes in hard to clean corners of shelf perches. treatment is first supportive: keep the bird hydrated! Then, the vet, the vet, the vet, where Baycox might be prescribed
Bumble Footearly: spot of redness and swelling on the foot; bird might be reluctant to put weight on affected foot. Late: swelling increases from localized to general swelling of foot, even with ulcerationPrevention: provide clean perches with appropriate surfaces and perch diameters to eliminate pressure points on raptor feet. A healthy diet of appropriate prey and vitamin supplements like vitahawk also helps to prevent foot problems and swelling (feeding lean beef is a known cause of foot swelling falcons). treatment: clean and disinfect affected area, possibly wrap to ease irritation and relieve pressure on foot when standing, more advanced cases might need to resort to surgery to remove infected tissue
Lead Poisoningearly: weight loss, malaise, green mutes (like, statue of liberty green)prevention: since lead poisoning is usually caused by ingestion of lead shot or bullet fragments, don't feed prey that has been shot with lead. Also, if you're a wing shooter, hunt with steel or bismuth or tungsten (or anything but lead!). Talk to your hunting friends about using lead-free ammunition. Treatment: a vet is going to prescribe chelating with EDTA and also fluid therapy with Ringer's solution, then physical therapy to recover neurological function
Stargazingusually affects younger birds; bird's head is "frozen" backwards, gazing at the skysince stargazing is caused by a vitamin D deficiency, prevention involves making sure your bird gets as much sunlight as it wants. treatment: sunlight exposure and vitamin D supplements
Broken BonesBird hits something, hard, and wing or leg is held funny; bird does not fly after collision...Take her to the vet for surgical intervention and then keep her quiet through the recovery period. Cheer her up by signing her cast with neon colored markers. It does take awhile, but hawks who have broken wings and legs have gone ont to become phenomenal game hawks, so don't despair!
Sour Cropbad breath, crop not "put over" over night, puffed feathers, "dull eye", foul smelling castingprevention: sour crop is often caused by overfeeding a bird who's condition has fallen too low, or by feeding rotten meat. For the former, if you accidentally let your bird's weight fall too low, don't try and make up the difference with one HUGE meal! Rather, feed many small bits of easily digestible food, like quail or rabbit or rat with skin and feathers and fur removed, and without big bones. And don't feed bad meat, duh. Other common causes of sour crop include antiobiotic treatments or obstructions. Treatment: early: pedialyte and supportive hydration to ease everything through. If the hawk vomits everything up, wait six hours before further feeding. a little bit of pepto-bismol has also sometimes helped. If bird does not respond to treatment within 8 hours, it's time to go to the vet for more aggressive treatment, including IV fluids and antibiotics
Apoplexyaccipiters, mostly cooper's hawks can suffer from somewhat mysterious "fits" that can kill them within minutes of onset.apoplexy can be caused by low blood sugar, thiamine deficiency, or calcium deficiency, all of which are caused by poor dietor low condition, so weight management is key. Be very, very careful when lowering hawk's weight, and feed good food at appropriate intervals. treatment: You have to be quick, but fits can respond to IMMEDIATE administration of sugar water, gatorade, or Nutri-Cal. And get to the vet ASAP.
Avian Herpesnot detectable, often fatalprevention: avoid contact with carrier species, like pigeons
HypothermiaBird is super puffy, uncontrollable shivering, followed by lethargy. Harris' hawks and aplomado falcons especially sensitive to cold.Prevention: a dry bird can usually handle extremely cold temps if out of the wind. So keep the bird dry! Harris' Hawks and aplomados do struggle in temps lower than 20 degrees, so heating your mews is probably wise if you keep either of those species. Treatment: Bring the bird to a warm place and also possibly administer lukewarm fluids orally (if you're out in the middle of nowhere, stuffing a Harris' hawk down your shirt is an option: I hear that's what they do in Kansas).
Electrocutionbird perched on power line pole suddenly zapped. Possibly the worst feeling in the world to see this happen. Usually fatal.prevention: talk to your power company about bird-safe pole tops. carefully survey your hunting fields if you have a bird that likes to perch on poles, and consider hunting somewhere else if the power lines look unsafe. Treatment: Get the bird to a vet, as the surface burns are only the beginning, and treatment will be a long haul.