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Eurasian Black Vulture Preventative Medicine Guidelines


Preshipment guidelines

  1. Signalment – age, sex, origin (specify if wild-caught; estimate age at capture), rearing (parent or hand), studbook number, and institution ISIS number
  2. Hard copy and/or disc of the complete medical record should be sent to the receiving institution and reviewed (prior to shipment) – including results from all prior diagnostic testing.

      Specific areas of interest include:

    • West Nile virus serologic status and/or vaccination status; housing history (inside versus outside)
    • Reproductive history
    • Avian tuberculosis status of the zoo of origin, especially in the vulture enclosure – completion of the Avian Mycobacteriosis risk assessment tool (can be found on the Lincoln Park Zoo website)
    • Conspecific or cagemate aggression history
    • Chronic medical problems, including osteoarthritis or pododermatitis
    • Current diet
    • Location and number of permanent identification (microchip)
  1. Permanent identification – microchip identification should be confirmed or placed before shipment.  The preferred location is subcutaneously, on dorsum, interscapularly to allow easy reading without restraint.  The superficial pectoral subcutaneous tissue is another acceptable area since easier to perform while one person is restraining the bird.
  1. Physical examination should include:
    • Plumage, skin, beak, choana, feet, and talon condition
    • Oral, ophthalmic, otic, and cloacal exams
    • Body condition and weight
    • Transcoelomic palpation
    • Uropygial gland exam
    • Cardiac and pulmonary auscultation
  1. Blood collection – the preferred collection site is the ulnar vein, but jugular vein is also acceptable although head needs to be appropriately restrained.
    • Complete blood count (CBC) – white blood cell (WBC) counts over 30,000/UL should be repeated in two weeks.  If still elevated, further diagnostic procedures should be considered.
    • Plasma (heparin) chemistry panel – minimally including aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), creatine phosphokinase (CPK), glucose, uric acid (UA), calcium, and phosphorus.
    • WNV serology: history of vaccination should accompany this result.
    • Bank plasma
  2. Fecal analysis

    - Parasite screen – direct and flotation (+/- sedimentation) for enteric parasites

          - One analysis if negative

      - Treat appropriately if positive, then repeat analysis at 7 and 14 days post-treatment

    - Cloacal culture – evaluate for aerobic bacteria and Salmonella species

    - Acid-fast screen – collected every 7 days for a total of 3 weeks – should be considered, especially if history of mycobacteriosis exists in the enclosure 

  1. Vaccinations – Cinereous vultures are susceptible to West Nile virus and two confirmed deaths have been reported.  The following protocol has been undertaken in this species without adverse effects to date:

        - 3 doses of equine WNV vaccine (Fort Dodge), at 2 weeks interval - 1ml IM in pectoral muscles.

        As possible, blood should be collected at each vaccination and submitted to Cornell* for serology testing.

        - If the bird seroconverts after the first vaccine series, annual boosters are considered sufficient.

        - If the bird does not seroconvert, another series of 2 doses of vaccine, at 2 weeks interval, should be performed the following years until seroconversion occurs.

        - Once seroconversion is observed before vaccination at the yearly booster, it can be considered to skip a year and vaccinate every other year


    * College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. P.O. Box 5786 Ithaca, N.Y. 14852-5786. Phone: 607-253-3900.  

    8) Radiographs – If radiographs require sedation, benefits need to outweigh the risks of anesthesia.  Radiographs should be considered if any abnormality is found on physical exam and/or blood work. 


Cinereous vultures are potentially destructive to their wings when confined within crates.  Mortality from stress and exertion after shipment has been reported.  Interior padding and sufficiently large crates are recommended to minimize such damage.  Fluid therapy at departure and/or upon arrival is also recommended for extremely agitated birds to prevent negative consequences such as capture myopathy.   

Mortality due to Aspergillosis has been observed in a recently transported vulture.  It should be considered to treat vultures with anti-fungals before and after shipment since they are susceptible to Aspergillosis during periods of stress.  Each case should be evaluated individually, with considerations for the length and method of transport, as well as the nervousness (personality) of the bird.


During a one-month quarantine, repetition of physical examination, blood collection (CBC, chem. panel), and fecal analysis (parasite and acid fast screen – at least 3 samples, at one week interval) are recommended. 

Preventive health


- Vaccination – West Nile virus (see preshipment guidelines).

- Twice yearly fecal examination (parasites) with appropriate treatment if needed.

- Yearly physical exam and blood collection – this can be coordinated with annual vaccination. 

Complete necropsy of all dead vultures should be performed (see necropsy guidelines by SSP Veterinary Advisor), and a copy of the gross necropsy and histopathology reports should be sent to the SSP Veterinary Advisor: Claude Lacasse, DVM, Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, Queensland 4519, Australia. 


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