Toxic fumes and Plumes
Steffen Reichle, Bolivia
Toxic fumes from industrial activity are often fatal. Birds in general are highly susceptible to aerosolized toxicants, and psittacines often roost in or near such areas. Entire roosts or hundreds of birds may be affected or killed. Plumes can drift for vast distances.
Plumes of smoke from wildfires, trash dumps, agricultural fires, or even large structure fires may create toxic plumes with devastating effect on avifauna.
Birds will present with severe respiratory distress, sometime seizure and vomiting, and they will need urgent veterinary care.Birds will present with severe respiratory distress, sometime seizure and vomiting, and they will need urgent veterinary care.
What to Expect
The effect of toxic exposure depends entirely on the nature of the toxins. Some have multiple effects.
respiratory distress from chemical burns or primary toxicant
respiratory and integumental injury from carrier substances
primary neurological toxins can lead to fall injuries, seizures, paralysis, disorientation, drowning, inability to drink or feed
apparently uninjured birds may exhibit extreme docility, extreme aggression, or extreme vocalizations
What to Do
TAKE EXTREME CAUTION AND ASSUME ALL BIRDS ARE AN EXPOSURE RISK TO YOURSELF. USE APPROPRIATE PPE WHERE POSSIBLE, AND IF THE TOXICANT HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED
Capture and contain injured birds
keep them in a warm, dry, safe and secure environment
unconscious birds should be left alone
do not force water or food in conscious birds
in conscious and aware birds, warm water can be gently dropped along the tomia (edges of upper and lower beak) to encourage normal licking and swallowing
once water is accepted, warm sugar water (1:4 sugar to warm water) can be alternated
do not offer free-access water until they are able to regain normal posture
offer food only after they are hydrated
contact appropriate rescue if/when possible
minimal handling and refrain from :staring at them all the time"
visual or audible contact with other birds is desirable
ambulant and non-aggressive birds may do better in small groups (5 or less)
Decontamination should only be attempted by trained personnel.
severe respiratory injury and neurological impact generally do not lead to good outcomes
many birds will die instantly on contact
expect a high mortality rate on birds that are found down on the ground and docile