Post Mortem
Raptor Rehabilitation and Research

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Dr. Appel in his lab (Click to enlarge!)

This post-mortem on a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) was carried out by Dr. Franz Appel and me. She was one of a clutch of six birds I had taken over for hacking from my hackbox. A tree had been cut down and the nest with the Sparrowhawks was discovered beneath the branches. Unfortunately the birds had been put into a cardboard box for some days before they were transferred to my place. They were all very dirty and looked absolutely disgusting. But with the help of some warm water and a lot of kitchen towels one could soon recognize them as two female and four male Sparrowhawks.

The problem was that they had already gained enough strength and exercise in their cardboard box that they were almost too old for hacking. The weather was rather hot and after the necessary cleaning procedure I put the birds up into the hackbox. You can easily imagine what came next: They wanted to fly and started jumping and bating!! I was quite sure they would break their feathers and even hurt themselves. So I carefully opened the door of the hackbox from below (there's a rope attached and one needn't climb up and upset the birds). They came out immediately, but fortunately didn't fly off. I sprinkled them wet with the garden hose and they absolutely loved it, sitting in the sun and experiencing their new home. They accepted the hackbox as their home-base which was the last thing I would have expected.

Their first flights did not occur until the next morning, when all of them - one after the other - went over to some old apple trees in the neighbour's garden. I put their food into the hackbox and on top of it - they returned, making me very optimistic. To shorten this introduction: all went well, three and a half busy weeks of watching and keeping record followed.

Two days after her initial flight I discovered the female you can see in the photos, on the ground beneath the apple trees. She could not fly. All her movements were rather slow and suddenly she looked straight up into the sky, fell back and had a severe cramp attack, leaving her unconscious for some thirty seconds. I took her into my patients' aviary, fed her and kept an eye on her for some hours. The attacks came again and started whenever she was upset by me. I gave an oral dose of vitamin B complex to stabilize her nerval system and also some multi-vitamins to help her. It worked. After two days she seemed okay, but her wings never gained enough strength to lift her up. It was a weak flapping, like a butterfly. I soon found out that she was short of breath even after the slightest movement - aspergillosis! We tried everything possible, but the bird had died just before we decided to euthanize her. I put her into the deep freeze until we had time to do the post-mortem at Dr. Appel's place.

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Photos 1 and 2: The bird from the front and the back
Photos 3 and 4: Notice the faeces and the "sharp" brestbone.The mycotoxines had intoxicated all digestive organs making her lose weight rapidly.
Photos 5 and 6: Franz doing his job, working carefully to gain new knowledge and prove our diagnosis.
Photos 7 and 8: My "medical" English is not good enough to express what we found - on both abdominal sides, left and right from liver and heart and in the lungs of course, there were numerous yellowish, "cheese-coloured", blisters containing millions of spores of Aspergillus spec. We took some samples for the microscope, the number of spores leaving us speechless!
Photos 9 and 10: Franz investigating the trachea, taking samples. We are both sure that the bird had inhaled the fungus-spores during the time in the dirty cardboard box with all the droppings, wet pellets and food-remains.
P. Mortem
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