A young Harris's hawk presented to the Tucson Wildlife Center after being found in someone's backyard near Mountain Vista Place in Oro Valley. The caller had mentioned that there was a lot of debris in the hawk's mouth and it was unable to move around easily.
The hawk was mild-moderately dehydrated when he came into the center so both oral and subcutaneous fluids were administered immediately. These were supplemented with vitamin B. On physical examination, the hawk was thin with a palpably sharp keel. No exterior wounds were observed. The hawk was alert and responsive. He had normal respiratory sounds and his heart was loud and clear. The hawk had a large amount of pin feathers and down still present. His vent was clean and void of debris. The oral cavity was filled with ropey saliva (indicative of dehydration) and whitish-yellow plaques.
|White oral plaques|
The presence of whitish-yellow plaques could indicate a number of different diseases commonly found in birds; hypovitaminosis A (low vitamin A), candidiasis, capillariasis, trichomoniasis, or less likely avian pox. We swabbed his esophagus and mouth and positively identified living trichomonas under a microscope. Trichomonas is a protozoan with flagella that reside primarily in the gastrointestinal tract. It is a parasite. It does not require an intermediate host or vector and are transmitted through either direct contact (bird to bird) or through ingestion of contaminated water (from bird baths, ponds, etc) or food (for birds of prey they may contract Trichomoniasis by eating prey species that are contaminated). Infected adults can also transmit the organism to their chicks during feeding. Depending on the species of Trichomonas, infections may be localized in the mouth, oropharynx, esophagus, crop and trachea, or the lungs and liver tissues may be invaded. Trichomonads can cause inflammation and white plaques (as seen above) on the mucosa. These plaques can accumulate and may become so severe that it may occlude the esophagus and trachea. It is particularly common in pigeons (infections are called canker) and raptors (infections are called frounce).
The hawk was put on medications to help treat the infection and placed in quarantine. Special care was required to ensure other birds being treated at the center not be exposed to any Trichomonad organisms. The hawk continues to receive subcutaneous fluids (supplemented with vitamin B complex) and oral feedings.
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