Birds are amazing creatures. In and around the area, our Greenacres avian veterinarian has watched wild birds in Wellington, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach and Royal Palm Beach, and beyond. By going out and watching wild birds, we learn more about your pet birds- the more we learn, the more we can find information to share with you so you can provide better care for our companion birds in your homes.
Here is a short video that Dr. Rolfe created about an interesting behavior that some birds do.
Not all Passerines have this ingenious method of keeping the nest clean. The fecal sac is excreted waste (from the digestive and urinary tracts) that is enclosed in a membrane that the chicks secrete in the cloaca. The cloaca is a pocket that has the digestive tract ending but also the ends of the urinary system and reproductive system are here as well. A parent anticipates that a fecal sac may be excreted and catches it while it is being eliminated and carries it away so predators don’t pick up the nest by the smell, and bacteria/insects have limited material to grow upon.
If you can catch the appearance of the fecal sac you can see the dark part (which comes from the digestive tract so the material is fecal matter) and the white part is from the kidneys.
But Shared with All Birds
The term for the white part is “urates” and this material is due to the way the birds’ bodies break down various wastes for elimination. This material while it is circulating in the body is called uric acid.
A mammal’s body creates urea as the waste method; the kidneys secrete the urea which has to be dissolved in liquid (“urine”) whereas the urates crystallize out of liquid. If a mammal’s kidneys aren’t working well, they cannot remove the urea from the bloodstream very well. If a bird’s kidneys aren’t working well, they cannot remove the uric acid from the bloodstream either. These waste products can cause a great deal of havoc in the body when they raise up in the case of kidneys that aren’t functioning properly.
In fact, one of the ways veterinarians evaluate the bird’s kidney function is by measuring uric acid levels in the blood, similarly to how mammal kidney function is checked by measuring urea (as well as several other waste products in mammals). Uric acid can crystalize out in the body tissues if it elevates enough due to the kidneys not function; this is called gout and can be seen as little white nodules near or in joints. These deposits can be very painful in the joints so one potential symptom of kidney problems in birds is difficulty moving around or limping.
If you have questions or have a pet bird, including parrots and Passerines (such as a canary or finch), please feel free to contact us at 561-964-2121.