The Need for Closure: Getting a Necropsy

Photo by Dave Location: Saipan, MP Shown: Swainson Toucan "Meaka" 

Before I forget to add them, these articles are so important to read if you have a pet bird of any kind:

The last time we had a necropsy done on a bird, it was on our parakeet Lexi. They never found anything and it really scared me to not know the cause. When you know it isn't old age, the other options just tear you apart from the inside out. But in most cases, they DO find the cause. We haven't been so lucky... When we had the necropsy done on Fiji, our Swainson Toucan, they called and told us.  

"Well, we opened her up and everything looked good. Her lungs, heart, stomach... all looked good. There was a tiny part of the liver that looked unusual, so we sent it in and should hear back in 3 weeks. But we know nothing she had going on was contagious but your guess is as good as ours. What you thought of with the carbon monoxide was probably right, but that's hard to prove. The blood can be brighter red, but finding anything that will prove it is next to none. That's why so many homicides use it, it's so hard to prove. Next to that, it didn't have to be carbon monoxide, it could have just been fumes in general."

Article: How common is carbon monoxide poisoning? Toucans are just sensitive creatures, that the four hour load in period that happened with all our birds in the building (next to the other animals, I might add... horses, lions and elephants) was enough to take affect. We are just so lucky that none of the other birds had the same fate. Everything that week was working against us... from our trailer being broken down so our birds were in the building (too cold to keep them in aviaries outside, and since our trailer wasn't there, we had no other options) so normally they don't go into the building until after load in because they're either in the aviaries, or in the trailer, which was broken down and in another state at the time.  

Photo by Dave Location: Saipan, MP Shown: Swainson Toucan "Meaka"

Also, normally we aren't there for load in, but because we didn't have our own trailer... we were at the pace of the other animal people hauling our stuff. Because we were there for it, we had to get our animals into warmth which was the building... during load in of all the equipment... which consisted of semi trucks pulling in and unloading which wouldn't normally cause a problem except that the building people closed the doors behind the semi trucks... which also never happens under normal circumstances. Never are the doors closed behind the trucks, but they were this time, and that locked all the fumes inside for the period they were unloading. Our only peace of mind is that she never suffered. She simply fell asleep. Not even we understood how dependent we were on our own custom trailer and how our schedule worked with it. We'd never been present for a load in or load out... and these firsts were devastating. The only reasons we figured it was the fumes from the trucks was because Dave went inside the building for the load out process, and said it was insane! He felt sick just from walking through, and that was for a few seconds. Thankfully the lion trainer's wife told me she thought that might have been it, so when the aviaries were torn down I moved all the birds into our dressing room, far away from the animal compound and load out areas. So when they loaded out, the birds weren't there for it. I never walked through, but Dave said it made him 99.9% sure that's what it was. It hurt us to know it was so avoidable, yet so unpredictable for what things had been like for the last 10 months. Article: Determining the effects of carbon monoxide, and canaries. Article: Why it's hard to prove in a necropsy. Even though Fiji's necropsy couldn't prove anything... I found some joy in knowing her iron levels were good because iron storage disease is what most pet toucans die from, and I was glad to know we did a good job keeping her iron levels low and healthy through a low iron toucan pellet, lots of fruit, and distilled water. I'm also looking back at how we raised Fiji and realizing what I can do better, differently, and improve on, as well as continue what I already did well with any toucans I come into contact with in the future. We hope to get another toucan someday, probably not a Swainson's as it would be hard to make eye contact with it and not see Fiji.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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