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International Carduelan Society

Health and Care 

This page has been created to aid in discussion of all problems that bird breeders encounter.   Please feel free to submit a question or answer to any of the items listed below.

It is envisaged to automate the posting feature here, but until this can be completed (NT restriction), please e-mail your questions, answers and photographs.

Applications of antibiotics in various disease conditions

 Disease or Disease Agent          Antibiotic                                   Route
Myccoplasmosis                                 Erythromycin                                          Injection
                                                          Tetracyclines                                           Oral/Injection
                                                          Spectinomycin                                         Oral/Injection
                                                          Spiramycin                                              Oral/Injection
                                                          Tylosin                                                    Oral/Injection

Ornithosis, psittacosis  
                        Tetracyclines                                           Oral/Injection
                                                           Tylosin                                                    Oral/Injection
                                                           Spectinomycin                                         Injection
                                                           Doxycycline                                             Oral

E. coli septicemia                                 Spectinomycin or ampicillin                       Injection
                                                            Tetracyclines                                            Oral
                                                            Furazolidon                                              Oral
                                                            Sulfonamides                                            Oral

 Salmonellosis                                       Spectinomycin                                          Injection
                                                            Oxytetracycline                                         Oral/Injection
                                                            Furazolidone or Nitrofurazone                   Oral
                                                            Chloramphenicol                                       Oral/Injection
                                                            Sulfadimidine                                             Oral
                                                            Sulfadiazine + Trimethoprim                       Oral

Pasteurellosis                                         Spectinomycin                                           Oral/Injection
                                                             Sulfonamides                                             Oral

Erysipelas                                              Penicillins                                                   Oral/Injection
                                                             Tetracyclines                                              Oral
Streptococcal infections,                              
 staphylococcosis                                   Penicillins                                                   Oral/Injection
                                                              Furazolidone                                              Oral
                                                              Tetracyclines                                              Oral

Pseudomonas infections                         Gentamicin or Polymyxin                             Oral/Injection
                                                              Tobramycin                                                Oral/Injection

 Pseudotuberculosis                                 Tetracyclines                                              Oral/Injection

Candidiasis                                              Nystatin                                                      Oral

Aspergillosis                                            Amphotericin or miconazole                         Oral/Injection

Favus                                                       Griseofulvin or miconazole                           Topical

 Skin mycoses                                           Griseofulvin powder                                    Topical
                                                                 Miconazole powder                                    Topical

Septicemia                                                Spectinomycin and other 
                                                                 similarly acting antibiotics                             Injection

Urinary tract infection                                 Tetracyclines                                               Oral

Eye infection                                              Oxytetracycline aqueous drops                    Topical

Upper respiratory tract infection                  Spectinomycin + Lincomycin                        Oral
                                                                  Tetracyclines                                                Oral

Internal tract infection                                  Sulfadimidine                                                Oral  
                                                                   Sulfadiazine + Trimethoprim                         Oral
                                                                   Lincomycin                                                  Oral
                                                                   Chloramphenicol                                          Oral

Wound infection                                           Oxytetracycline                                           Topical
                                                                    Bacitracin spray powder                             Topical

  For more information on Avian  Diseases and   Medicine see Elisha W. Burr's book "Diseases of Cage Birds"  ISBN 0-8138-0362-4 TFH Publications                                                                                                                               
References: Elisha W. Burr's "Diseases of Cage Birds"

Other interesting site on diseases in Pigeons and Poultry but basically  the same as the diseases effecting finches:

Bird Diseases

A - Z Poultry Disease Index

Antibiotics European & Miscellaneous Pigeon Supply

UnderTheMicroscope.jpg (54417 bytes)
One of the "must have" very handy and inexpensive 55 page manual by Dr Danny Brown on
Microscope Use and Pathogen Identification in Birds and Reptiles available from the
ABK or the QFS


Question 1:

This bird has developed many black feathers in its plumage.  Is this a disorder or a mutation?
Submitted by: John Quatro    Date: 18/7/1998

SMagm1.jpg (50673 bytes)

                        Occasionally, birds develop partly dark or totally black  plumage, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology this is because an abnormal amount of dark melanin pigmentation is produced.
Checkout these links below, on Melanistic and Leucistic Birds 

Melanistic and Leucistic Birds

Melanism and Leucism

Albino, Leucistic & Melanistic creatures

Question 2:

                   smagab3.jpg (68453 bytes)   stwoyrs2.jpg (55653 bytes) sesabi7.jpg (58744 bytes) Sodayrs.jpg (62610 bytes)
It looks as if these birds have some kind of intestinal Bacteria infection many a time Salmonella, Coli or Candida. Check out the links bellow

Digestive Disorders of Pet Birds

Bacterial Infections

Diseases in Poultry

Digestive Physiology of Birds

What Is the Proventriculus?

Question 3:

SRickets6.jpg (70274 bytes)
The young Red Siskin with bent feet has died from "Rickets". Could Rickets be cured at this stage, the bird looked perfectly healthy?

Malnourishment is often associated with rickets, the primary cause of rickets is a vitamin D, and calcium and phosphate deficiency. See the links below on Rickets:

 Metabolic Bone Disorder: Rickets

Poultry Podiatry

Question 4:

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Cardhem2.jpg (52478 bytes)

Feet disorders 
 There are many reasons why would a bird have sore toe or a foot, more often it's scaly feet, mosquito bite or a broken toe, check out the links below:   

Foot Problems
Avascular necrosis
Scaly Feet



This is the reason why not to give either wild or captive birds synthetic materials to use for nest building. This is a wild European Blackbird I caught after noticing at the feeder something was wrong with its feet. I managed to cut and pull all of the string out. I cleaned, washed, disinfected and applied some ointment on its feet and released the bird. If it survives the first couple of days then I believe its feet will gradually get back to normal despite losing the rear and the inner toe on one leg. 

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One of the wild doves at the bird feeder I noticed was limping had abnormally red feet. I suspected Gout but could be some kind of external skin infection. I washed the feet with liquid iodine then applied Lamisile Cream (Terbinafine Hydrochloride 10 mg/g) hoping it will do the trick.  Check this out:

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Question 5:

RSsMites1.jpg (36771 bytes) RSsMites7.jpg (34031 bytes)  

Scaly mites can also infest the area around the eyes or mandibles as in this bird.
This is caused by small mites and their continuous burrowing activities: side of the beak, head, skin of the eyelids, ventral region and feet are usually effected. The only birds in my aviaries that I had to treat occasionally were Chaffinches and Goldfinches, fortunately this is easily treated with various preparations like: Liquid Paraffin, dissolved Condys Crystals, any Mineral oil, etc. simply by brushing onto the effected area. Some more expensive medication like Ivomectin will also do the job. About three to four applications are necessary, one every three days.  I
soak their feet in warm water for about two minutes then wash their feet with soap, soak for another few minutes to soften the skin, pour some disinfectant then cut all the dead skin with small scissors, disinfect the feet again then apply Liquid Paraffin or Petroleum gel. If this condition is left untreated for to long it will cut off blood circulation resulting in loss of toes, or feet. By applying these ointments we only suffocate those burrowing mites who are on the bird but their environment also needs to be looked at. Perches, walls, food and water dishes, cages, floors etc. should also be cleaned and disinfected. If the birds are kept indoors, good air circulation is required.

Scaly Face Mites

Question 6:

scsb11.jpg (28679 bytes)

This bird has lost its upper and lower mandible. What do I do?

Submitted by: John Quatro     Date: 18/7/1998

Firstly see an Avian Veterinarian. The bird must have had some kind of nutritional deficiency together with fungal or bacterial infection. Chaffinches need lots of live food, if you can't supply live food why do you keep these birds? Give him good quality soft food and some live food, most likely he would not be able to feed on seeds, but I would talk to an Avian Veterinarian.


Question 7:

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I have this Lined Seedeater with a lump on its head (probably a tumor) could it be removed? Please can you help?  

For this it is best to see qualified avian veterinarian, see the links below.



Leg Tumor Removal 

Lumps, Feather Cysts, Tumors

Lipomas (fatty cysts)

Avian Pox

Question 8:

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Lipoma cyst in young Hooded Siskin

Lipomas (fatty cysts)

Question 9:

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I had young birds with inflated side of the neck before but never as bad as this guy, he eventually died the same day I found him.

Check out the link about a week old pigeon with Ruptured Air Sack

Ruptured Air Sack

Question 10:

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One of my young Red Siskins  has died for no apparent reason its crop was still full. What could have caused it?

If it's not Bacterial Infection or exposure to cold environment it's probably Fungal infection. Young with fungal infection often die with full crop. Just by looking at the bird you should have some idea what it was but the best option is to see your Avian Vet.

Aspergillus infection of the digestive system of  young birds will result in nesting diarrhea of gummy consistency which often fouls the feathers and plugs the vent, the chicks are listless, feathers fluffed up, head drawn back and eyes closed. Aspergillosis will kill the young birds in the nest but not necessarily effect the parent birds. Young birds are often found dead with their crops full.

For more info check out the links below:


Aspergillosis 2

Mycoses and Mycotoxicoses Aspergillosis

Question 11:

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My bird has conjunctivitis what do I do?

Comment: I have a wild finch that appears to have some sort of conjunctivitis. It's vision is very limited. How can I help it? I have a cage ready to go...just in case I see it again. Thank you.

Some of the wild finches in the USA have been infected with some rare form of clamidia. Scientists have examined birds from all over the USA where the birds with this condition were being reported. Although they know what it is and how to treat it, what they do not know is where and how that many birds got infected. It is mainly House finches and an occasional Goldfinch. I think you should contact Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology they will be able to tell you exactly what to do if you see these birds again.


Eye Problems

Question 12:

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My bird is all fluffed up, I noticed a dark inflammation on the side of its tummy. Please help!

6 main causes of erosions in gizzard and proventriculus

Question 13:

SRSh6.jpg (53761 bytes)

  I left four young Siskins in a small cage one Sunday morning out in the sun , when I came back only three were in the cage, I found the head of the fourth about 2 feet away. I suspect a large black and white cat. I would like to catch him, What do I do?

Why do you want to catch the cat, or should I ask? Cat are sometimes good to have around the house, they control  mice population around the aviaries.
Submitted by:    Date:

Question 14:

RSbill.jpg (57514 bytes)

One of my birds has yellowish skin in the corner of its bill. Definitely not Canker 

See the Scaly Face photos above.


Oral Canker

Question 15:

Why are my birds always sick?

MouldyFruit1.jpg (58648 bytes)           Mould1.jpg (83272 bytes)
It only takes 6 hours if the conditions are right for mould to start growing on Fruit, 
Soft food and Sprouted seeds. 

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Sprouted seeds are only second to unclean water dish for spreading disease in 
Aviaries. This mould grew in only 48 hours. There is a golden rule we all must remember
and this is to never leave Soft food, fruit or sprouted seeds over night in Aviaries.

MouldySeeds.jpg (28656 bytes)
This is the seed I kept for planting, by zooming in with a camera I discovered they were moldy. Shouldn't be fed to birds!

Question 16:

RSFemlossFeather.jpg (61912 bytes)


My Red Siskins have molted or are molting (I am not sure). The males have lost all their head  feathers, some of them have swollen eyebrow (one side only) and the eye is totally closed. They look in a very bad condition, all the females are OK. What should I do and what should I give them?

This usually happens to birds kept indoors, I also occasionally see this in my birds. To treat this I take the bird outside and leave it in an outdoor aviary for about three months and it always clears up. I believe, it must be some kind of fungal skin infection or an allergy. I even at times wash the bird using medicated shampoo, dry it well before leaving it in an outdoor aviary. One think is for certain, they do benefit from good air circulation, exposure to a direct sunlight, sand bathe, clean water provided daily to bathe in etc. I am not aware of any other proven treatments for birds but there could be, it is best to consult your veterinarian. If it's mites that are causing it, you would know it, believe me! Another possibility is if the male is to aggressive or if kept with other birds that are nesting, the females will cause this to each other, often bolting out of the nest attacking any bird in the vicinity of their nest, flying away with beak full of feathers. 

Question 17:


            Psittacosis1.jpg (68224 bytes) Psittacosis2.jpg (60138 bytes)            
   Oriental Greenfinch with Psittacosis       Oriental Greenfinch 35 day later
      Painted_Bunting_Eye.jpg (145207 bytes) Painted_Bunting-Eye_2.jpg (107591 bytes)
Paited Bunting with Chlamydia infection
Note: the lump above the eye is pushing the lid upwards


Dear John ,

A friend of mine, who is also fond of Siskins gave me your address and I have seen your just fantastic page! Since I was a boy in my hometown in the State of Minas Gerais, interior of Brazil my hobby was bird keeping. I have always been fascinated by the Siskins and, in those days, I only knew the black hooded ones. In l974 I moved to Brasilia and here I had the chance of knowing other breeds, like the yarelli , the psaltria, the carduelis and others. For my surprise and mainly by watching your page, I know now that there are lots of Siskins I had never imagined they could exist. What is amazing to me is the fact that Australia and New Zealand are the only places in the world where there are no wild Siskins. So, how did you know of all these different species birds? I realize it might have been a real big job acquiring so many different kinds of Siskins, right? If you accidentally turn loose a pair of Siskins, for example a pair of Spinus magellanicus ictericus, would they survive and reproduce there in Australia?
Congratulation for your page! Best wishes from Venceslau/Planaltina-DF/Brasil

Submitted by: Venceslau Barbosa
Date:2 December 1998

 I have also kept birds since I was a kid, my passion was pigeons but somehow I got stumbled into keeping Carduelan species. I guess it was the variety of colors and the song that I was attracted to. It was only through reading books and research that I learned about the species and subspecies of Siskins and I can proudly say that before the "International Carduelan society" (1997) they were never listed in one book, and this is not only with Siskins,  there are many other species and subspecies of birds that people simply do not know about and some are just hanging in existence. I still haven't completed what I wanted to achieve and this is to have photos of all the Siskin species and subspecies published on the ICS web page. There's only a hand-full of photographs of subspecies that I need to accomplish this, which up to now were difficult to obtain. Here in Australia we only have about five species of Siskins, and strange as it may be breeders are not interested in Carduelan species as they are in the estrildids and even less in New Zealand but somehow we manage to maintain a few pure specimens in our country. 
The comment about: would the birds survive if been accidentally released; that depends on how many and on the species of birds. The birds will go through the same amount of stress as when the wild birds are caught for bird trade, often 5% or less will only survive before they reach the bird shops, the diet and the environment is completely different to what they are use to, and not to mention the predators and the territorial fights with the local birds. According to the book "Introduced birds of the World" most European finches were introduced into Australia and New Zealand but only some were able to establish, European Goldfinches and Greenfinches are trapped by thousands for supply to bird trade and export, Birds like Bullfinches have died out, the Australian climate is most certainly not suitable for them, migratory birds like Redpolls and Linnets have probably found their way to the Northern hemisphere. However, most of these birds have managed to establish in New Zealand where the climate is similar to the climate in Northern hemisphere. Intentionally releasing foreign birds into the wild is illegal and should never be done not only here in Australia but I believe in all countries of the world. Respecting native species and their environment is the way to go. Native species and their environment is every country's national treasure, we should all be proud of it and enjoy it while we still can.

Question 19:

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This young Hooded Siskin is a victim of a continues attack by a large European Greenfinch, with an abscess on its preening gland.

Preen Gland

Question 20:

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Swollen Joints could be an injury or caused by Paratyphoid

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Swollen joints

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After the swollen joints dry up (from the pus formed around the joints) the wing will drop a little, it will never go back to normal. If the both wings are effected the bird will probably never fly again.


Question 28:

14yearSiskin.jpg (59020 bytes)
14 year old Red Siskin -male

Veterinary Practice News

- ARS Develops Bovine TB Test for Birds



Coccidia of the world

What to you use to control coccidia ? The name of medicine and dosage?

There are many medication that will control Coccidia, every company has their own formula but one of the latest and probably the best is the Baycox. Dosage is 2ml/L of water , usually it is two to three day
treatment or until cleared.


Comment: One of the birds is constantly turning its head up. Is it possible to cure birds with this symptoms?

This sounds like the symptoms breeders refer to as twirling. I can only voice my opinion from my experience mainly through reading and keeping birds. In 95% of cases twirling is an infection of the vestibular organ in the inner ear in some cases it is fungal  and in some bacterial infection but it also could be viral, parasitic or toxic. Tumors or lesions of some kind or a good nock on the head could also have the same symptoms. Although Veterinarians and some Aviculturists claim that there is a cure for twirling,  it is easier to lose the sick birds (especially finches) then actually curing them. Veterinary Science is improving daily and hopefully soon quick and accurate diagnosis will be possible. Over 20 year period I had three birds with twirling symptoms, I tried everything possible but every time the bird died. In my opinion if the birds were given proper care, environment and diet head twisting would be unheard-off. Never ever keep too many birds in a cage or an Aviary. 
What is too many? --- More then one breeding pair or more than four young, if kept in a cage.

                                                      HOSPITAL CAGE

It is important that all heated hospital cages have good air circulation, I find that a cheap computer fans that are available from about $4 each at any computer market are perfect for this job. Air should never be pumped into the cage, air should be sucked out of the cage and two small 25mm (1 inch) square fans are just about the right size for a 700mm x 300mm x 600mm hospital box. 
Check this out  -

An interesting comment by Richard Serrano, I am sorry if my French translation is not 100% accurate but here it is:
There's a disease known as the "Disease of the Ostriches", the symptoms are: the bird turns its head continuously out of control or it drops its head between its legs and eventually dies. In French language it is called "Encephalomalacie", the birds must have eaten large amount of rancid seeds, and the only thing that can save some birds effected is by tripling the normal dose of the Vitamin "E". The Vitamin drops should be given at least every two hours, some soft food like egg and biscuit should be offered and some fresh clean seeds, the birds should be kept worm at about 28 Deg. C.
I saved more than 50% of imported birds which were kept in cages for long period of time, but this disease is very rare if the food given is clean and changed regularly and their cages are kept clean.

                                        Let's call them "Laurel and Hardy" 

   Lh3.jpg (68158 bytes) Lh8.jpg (63325 bytes)
Photos taken on the 12/12/02, the chicks are  about 10 days old, hatched one day apart.

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Trimming an overgrown upper mandible 




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EGoldfM1.jpg (18250 bytes)
A little bit of TLC and 'look at me now' (About 6 months later)

European Goldfinch with overgrown bill, both the upper and lower mandibles are 
evenly overgrown and had to be trimmed on regular basis. In most cases it is either the upper or the lower mandible that need trimming. Birds in this condition cannot feed properly and often die from starvation. I found this bird in a bird-shop, it was in poor condition. This bird (male) recoverd well and now it looks like a normal Euro. Goldfinch.
(No it is not C.c parapanisi)


Egg binding

The most common cause of egg binding is lack of calcium in the diet. When I walked into an aviary in which I kept a pair of Hooded Siskins, I saw the female sitting on the perch breathing heavily. The first thought was that it must have had some nasty infection from eating something bad, like paint, lead etc. I looked at the abdomen, it was swollen, I wasn't suspecting egg binding, so I refilled the water dish to which I added "Triple C". I gave the birds three drops directly into the beak and walked out. I returned in about an hour and the bird wasn't much better so I gave her another couple of drops of medicated water thinking 'this bird is a goner'. The following morning I found the bird perfectly normal, flying from perch to perch, assuming 'whatever it was the medicine must have done the trick'. As I was walking out of the aviary I saw something white on the floor that looked like an egg, I picked it up and yes that was a soft shelled egg that I haven seen for quite some time in my aviaries.

My treatment was; I refilled the water dish to which I added Calcivet, I also added few drops of Cod-liver oil to the seed mix as well as adding some egg shell and new chunk of Cuttlefish bone.
Green food like the seeding Grasses and Lettuce are provided daily. The bird fully recovered resuming laying a clutch of four eggs. 
 Inability to pass an egg can be very serious, without treatment egg binding can result in a very painful death .

SoftEgg1.jpg (15673 bytes)SoftEgg2.jpg (14749 bytes)SoftEgg4.jpg (15037 bytes)SmallEeg1.jpg (18362 bytes)SmallEeg6.jpg (14820 bytes)

Soft shell egg in comparison to a normal egg. One of my Red Siskin hens laid a very small egg (about 10 mm) Normal size egg is about 17 - 18 mm long. It is always the first egg of the season and in one case the egg was fertile and the young hatched. (The other two eggs are Himalayan Greenfinch & a Red Siskins egg)  

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Hooded Siskin's cone or pear shaped egg 

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Hooded Siskin hen laid large egg 21mm x 16mm

Normal eggs are 17mm x 13mm and young Red Siskin laid very small unsymmetrical egg.



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The first two weeks

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Now he spends all day foraging for insects and playing with his tennis ball. 
Feeding an orphan bird like this Australian Magpie can be demanding and very tedious job. This young bird could not fly when I found him, was repeatedly been attacked by both parents while begging for food. I think they must have had a new clutch of young in the nearby tree.


  Toxic Cocktail
I do not normally mix medication or vitamins and I do not remember of anything similar happening to me. On the 17/Jul/04 I decided to add some vitamins with some electrolyte in drinking water and by the time I walked out to get some green lettuce some of the birds were already staggering holding onto the wire. I thought that was strange but I walked out again to wash and refill the dishes with sprouted seeds,  within less than 5 minutes  I had 8 birds dead on the floor. I realized immediately that I must have poisoned the birds so I quickly emptied the water dishes and removed the lettuce leafs.  I called the Veterinarian and he also suspected some kind of poisoning.  Whatever it was it done the job well. All of the birds were in perfect health prior to this incident. My local Pharmacist thinks it's the overdosing with Electrolytes that caused it, if anyone has a thought or a comment about this please let me know!
I stopped using the vitamins and the electrolytes supplements and I haven't had a problem since.
1Birds_lost_17-07-04.jpg (96039 bytes)
I am sure that many finch breeders might have poisoned their birds unknowingly just like I did, meaning well. I first noticed this several years ago with young in the nest dying every time I mixed vitamins and electrolytes in water. 



YStarFinchFace1.jpg (34211 bytes) YStarFinch1.jpg (34783 bytes)
Young Grass finch, with face disfigured and crossed mandibles, and a normal Grass finch.
It is not clear what caused it, if it's proven to be genetic then the parents should be separated. If it
happens again and if it's proven that one of the parents did this then that bird should be replaced. Then again, it could have been accidental at hatching, an insect or another aviary bird could have done it, etc. This bird died soon after fledging.



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Sometimes cotton wool results in this, when the parents are too quick in starting another nest and are carrying both the nesting material and the food for the young in their beaks. This guy is lucky I was able to (very carefully) pull out every bit of it from deep inside its stomach. White-winged Wrens are worth their weight in gold!
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A kit like this is always handy


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This is another orphan (Noisy Mynah) I found on the floor after a very windy day. This guy will be ready to release in a day or so!


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Over weight Madagascar Weaver Male


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Blue-faced Parrotfinch female after laying continuously for 2 years 
ended up with this, probably hernia. I moved the bird into a holding aviary, she eventually
recovered. First photo taken on the 20/Aug/12, second on 25/Aug/12 the third
on the 15/Sep/12 and the last on the 16/Mar/13


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Male Red-backed Wren fighting through the wire with the White-winged Wren 
 ended up losing part of its rear toe, he recovered and produce 4 young the 
same year he was hatched.


OldHSiskins2-5May12.jpg (53746 bytes)
Very old Hooded Siskin, blind 

Cataracts in Birds



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