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Avian Poopology 101


Photo Credit Mandy Robertson - Silvereye Nestlings


Welcome to Avian Poopology 101! This blog gives a brief overview to help get you started in the fascinating world of bird poop. Let's dive in and explore some of the main points about normal and abnormal bird droppings:

 

Bird droppings are a critical exterior indicator of a bird's health status, in conjunction with other clinical signs such as fluffed feathers, energy level, loss of appetite, weight loss, etc.

 

Droppings consist of three parts: faecal matter from the digestive system, white chalky material called urates produced by the kidneys, and clear liquid urine also produced by the kidneys. It is essential to know what normal healthy droppings look like for a bird so that changes signalling illness can be detected.

 

Colour:

 

Typical: The colour of bird droppings can vary depending on the bird's species, diet, and health. Generally, healthy bird poop ranges from various shades of mid to dark green, light to dark brown, and black. Urates should be white.

 Abnormal: Unusual colours such as bright green, mustard yellow, black, and red (e.g. blood) can indicate underlying health issues and require veterinary attention. (Bear in mind the bird's diet; red or purple fruits will change their colour).


Photo Credit Mandy Robertson - Juvenile Spotted Shag, this bird sadly did not survive


Consistency:

 

Typical: As mentioned earlier, bird droppings consist of three components: faeces (solid portion), urates (white or off-white portion), and urine (clear liquid). Most healthy bird droppings usually have a well-formed, tubular shape and maintain their structure. Seabirds are an exception and typically have wet and unformed poop.

Abnormal: Loose or watery droppings can indicate digestive problems, infections, or dietary issues. Extremely hard or dry droppings may signal dehydration or an inadequate diet.

 

Frequency:

 

Typical: Birds typically excrete faeces several times a day, with urates being passed less frequently.

 Abnormal: A sudden increase or decrease in the frequency of droppings can be a sign of illness or stress.


Photo Credit Mandy Robertson - Fledgling Sparrow, perfect poop


Odour:

 

Typical: Healthy bird droppings usually have a minimal or mildly pungent odour.

 Abnormal: Foul or unusually strong odours may indicate an infection or digestive disorder. (Stress can affect the smell of a bird's poop; kiwi are a classic example; keep this in mind when handling and examining).

 

Shape and Size:

 

Typical: Bird droppings generally have a tubular shape and maintain consistency. The size can vary depending on the bird's size and diet, e.g. rails that eat a lot of fibrous grasses and reeds typically have long cylindrical droppings, whilst penguins naturally have large splatters that go everywhere!

 Abnormal: The presence of mucus, blood, undigested food, or foreign objects in droppings can indicate health issues that require attention.



Photo Credit Mandy Robertson - Pukeko poop, grass and plant eater


Changes in Dropping Patterns:

 

Typical: Birds tend to have consistent patterns in their droppings, which can help monitor their health.

 Abnormal: Significant changes, such as a complete absence of droppings or a sudden increase in volume, should be investigated further.

 

Dietary Influences:

 

Typical: Diet plays a crucial role in bird droppings. The colour can be affected by the types of foods consumed, such as green vegetables or red or purple fruits.

 Abnormal: Abrupt changes in diet or the presence of undigested food in droppings may indicate digestive issues or malabsorption.



Photo Credit Mandy Robertson - Kereru poop, it had been eating berries


Please bear in mind that while these points provide a general overview, each bird species may have specific characteristics. It is essential to learn about the species you are caring for and consult an avian veterinarian or professional for a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis if you notice any abnormalities in the bird's droppings.

 

The article was written by

Mandy Robertson

For WReNNZ

 

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