A Guide to Avian Necropsy

Key Points

  • Review the patient’s clinical history and perform an external exam
  • Thoroughly soak plumage in cold, soapy water or alcohol to promote cooling and reduce the risk of autolysis, while also minimizing airborne feather dander.
  • Place the bird in dorsal recumbency and remove the ventral abdominal wall and sternal plate as one piece.
  • After removing the keel, inspect the coelomic cavity.
  • To expose the spleen, which is located dorsal to the proventriculus, grasp the ventriculus or gizzard and move the gastrointestinal tract to the right side of the bird.
  • To begin the “pluck”, retract the tongue to expose the choana, then bluntly dissect along the esophagus until the crop is separated from the subcutis.
  • Gently peel off the lungs from the underlying spine, by bluntly dissecting through fascia and reflecting the lungs from between the ribs with a scalpel handle.
  • The kidneys appear as red-brown, lobulated structures that conform to a depression within the synsacrum.
  • Remove the kidneys to expose the complete sciatic or lumbosacral plexus and the sciatic or ischiatic nerve.

The postmortem examination is a valuable part of the diagnostic work-up. Shared by a veterinary pathologist with a special interest in birds, this guide to avian necropsy provides comprehensive instructions for the avian postmortem exam. This article offers step-by-step guidance on avian necropsy with a variety of photographs and video clips that illustrate useful clinical techniques and normal avian anatomy. Feel confident in your knowledge of avian anatomy? You can also “Test Yourself” by identifying the structures shown in four separate images . . .


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