[Tweeters] how to store dead birds for necropsy

Devorah the Ornithologist birdologist at gmail.com
Wed Oct 2 11:54:15 PDT 2013

hi everyone,

i have some experience with diagnostic necropsies on dead birds so i can
provide some advice for how to prepare and store their bodies in
preparation for a necropsy.

if it is a small bird (like a swallow), place its body in a plastic ziplock
bag, along with relevant details (date, location, etc.) and store in a
refrigerator. do not freeze the body since the freeze-thaw cycle destroys
some of the tissues that might provide clues to the bird's death.
(freeze-thaw causes cells to explode.)

if the bird is large or well-insulated, like say, a snow goose, you must
lather the body completely in soap to remove the oils that insulate the
bird's body. after you've done this, rinse the bird in cold water, towel
dry and seal it into a plastic bag, along with relevant details (date,
location, etc.), store in the refrigeraor.

i suggest that all dead wild birds be double- or triple-bagged since no one
knows what they died from. since the sight of a dead bird languishing in
the refrigerator bothers some people (can't imagine why!), place the entire
double-(triple)bagged package into a paper bag.

the bird can be stored like this for hours or up to a 3 or so days.

transporting the bird's body will require a few "blue ice" packs, frozen.
one should be placed on the bottom a styrofoam box (you can probably get
one free at a local grocery store, hospital or medical clinic), then a few
paper towels, crumpled up, then the bagged bird's body, followed by a few
more crumpled up paper towels (these are to protect the bird's body from
freezing by contacting the blue ice packs), then another blue ice pack.
replace the lid, then "overnight" it via FedEx or UPS or transport it
yourself to the veterinary pathologist's office.

you can also request a veterinarian do the necropsy, or ask your
veterinarian to send the bird's body out to a state or private lab for a
necropsy and testing. this service costs somewhere between $50 and $250,
depending upon how extensive the work-up is.

i have no idea if your costs will be reimbursed if the federal shutdown
affects state pathology labs.

hope this helps.

Devorah Bennu, PhD
birdologist at gmail.com
The most valuable service you can perform is to think independently
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