Posted by: Dragonfly | 2009/05/01

Strange death of a pigeon

Good moring CV,

I saw something very strange this morning:

I found my cat this with a young adult pigeon which she must have caught during the night. I took the bird away from her, as it didn’ t seem too injured. (I always take injured birds to a lady working with the wildlife fund in Pretoria) But then I noticed the pigeon bleeding from its cloaca. Unfortunately the bird died in my hands shortly after. However, after it died its crop was still moving slowly –  as if air was trapped in its crop or lungs and it’ s shifting around.

Its now almost an hour since it died, the bird is completely stiff and the crop is still moving. If it was air in the lungs or crop it would have settled by now, right? I know it’ s morbid, but I’ m interested to find out why this is happening. I won’ t go as far as doing a post mortem on the poor bird –  it’ s just that I’ ve ever seen this before. It sounds freaky, but its almost as if there is a parasite or something in his crop. Could this be?

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Our expert says:
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Dear Dragonfly

It looks like you and Jax sorted things out.

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Our users say:
Posted by: jax | 2009/05/02

- I can understand your reluctance to actually cut, it can be quite hard to do sometimes. But thanks for having a good feel around.
Quite possibly was one of those revolting grubs (they are waaayy up on my list of things I won' t touch!), and although not really supposed to be part of a pigeons diet, they do tend to eat allsorts of strange things. If he hadn' t died from injuries, having that munching around in his body would have been most unpleasant for him anyway...

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Posted by: Dragonfly | 2009/05/02

Hi Jax,

The movement stopped shortly after my post. I was so facinated, that I tried to open the crop, but I just couldn' t do it. I couldn' t get myself to make that cut - sorry. But I had a good feel and I think it might have been one of those big fat white cut worms. (snywurm).

Reply to Dragonfly
Posted by: Jax | 2009/05/01

Hi D,
- ok, that' s something I' ve never seen before either, and I treat about 800 pigeons a year personally! If it had happened for a short while after death, I' d agree on the air theory. Birds don' t have lungs per se, but they have a number of air sacs around the body, including in the neck/shoulders. If there had been enough internal damage to cause bleeding from the cloaca, there is also a good chance that an air sac would have been ruptured, and that a slow leak in this would result in air bubbles forming sub-cut. Generally though, this would cause a steady inflation that could then be drained by needle - you wouldn' t really be able to see movement.
We' ve seen a number of strange things in bird crops, including a pigeon with a sunflower plant that was over 4cm long growing happily in the crop, but causing a major blockage for the poor bird. And pigeons have often been seen to eat live insects in spite of being seed eaters as a rule.
If you still have the body available to you, I' d be really interested in the crop contents - doesn' t require a full ' autopsy' , but if you could get yourself to just open the crop, it would be fascinating to know if there was indeed anything strange in there....

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