What are some unknown flightless birds


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It happens again and again that a bird can suddenly no longer fly or is even unable to fly from birth. The possible causes for this are wide-ranging. If a bird that was previously able to fly no longer wants to fly for no apparent reason, then you should definitely consult a qualified veterinarian to get to the bottom of the cause. "My bird just doesn't want to fly, but otherwise it's lively, so I'm not worried." - Unfortunately, this is the view of many pet owners and the affected bird is not allowed to go to the vet, which can have fatal consequences. Birds do not voluntarily choose not to fly because, as the beings of the air, it is a fundamental need for them to move about while flying! Therefore one should not take flight inability or massive flight laziness lightly.

This chapter introduces you to a number of causes of congenital or sudden incapacity to fly. In addition to some obvious causes, it also reveals factors that may appear to be hidden from the human eye at first glance.

If a bird is very overweight, this condition can lead to an impairment of its ability to fly or even to its complete loss. The muscles of a very overweight bird are too weak to be able to lift up the superfluous fat deposits. Or the internal organs are attacked (fatty) by being overweight, which means that the exertion when flying is too great and the bird therefore instinctively avoids them in order not to suffer a fatal shock. If there is too much fat in the body, breathing is impaired because the lungs and air sacs have too little space. As a result, the oxygen supply can be too low under physical exertion - a circulatory collapse threatens.

An inability to fly caused by being overweight can mainly be remedied if the bird has "only" stored too much fat under the skin and does not suffer from severe fatty organism. If he loses weight, the desire to fly usually returns. However, starting a diet on your own is not advisable. If the diet of a bird with organ damage were changed without consultation, this could have fatal consequences. An overweight bird should therefore be examined by a specialist veterinarian who specializes in the treatment of birds. In consultation with the vet, you can change the bird's diet and get it back into shape with gentle flight training. You can find tips on the subject of healthy food in the nutrition section of this Internet project.

A tumor can also prevent a bird from flying. The extra weight of the growth can make him unable to swing himself into the air. A veterinarian can find out whether a tumor leads to the flight problems in an individual case.

Injuries to the wings and shoulders
When flying free or in a cage, a bird can injure its wings. Bruises, strains and, in the worst case, even broken bones can result. If a bird suddenly drops one of its wings and can no longer fly, you should take it to the veterinarian immediately so that he can determine what is wrong with your bird. A hernia that is not properly treated will not heal properly and the bird may be unable to fly for the rest of its life. Unfortunately, a number of injuries can no longer be treated. It can happen that a bird injures its shoulder joint and thus remains incapable of flight for its entire life, although it is quickly taken to the vet. However, you should not miss a visit to the doctor, because in the days after the occurrence of the injury, the bird suffers from pain, which doctors can take action.

Paralyzed wings
A severe lack of vitamins and nutrients or poisoning can lead to paralysis in the flight muscles, which, however, rarely occurs. Usually the legs of a bird are affected in such paralysis caused by deficiency states. In addition, a stroke-like illness can lead to paralysis, which then usually occurs on one side - the leg and wing of the same half of the body are affected, see photo on the right. Such paralysis renders a bird unable to fly and urgently needs medication from a doctor. In some cases, the symptoms can be alleviated to such an extent that the bird can at least flutter a little later. However, the majority of patients never fully recover and remain flight-handicapped. You can find more information about paralysis here.

Virus-related plumage disorders (French moulting and PBFD)
Pet birds can become infected with pathogens that damage their plumage and the immune system. Two diseases primarily affect budgies: PBFD and French moulting. They are both caused by viruses and have no cure. In both diseases it is typical that the large plumage fails, only in rare cases does it grow back over time. The bird shown on the right already fell ill with the French moult as a nestling. He missed the wing and tail feathers, which is why he was incapable of flight all his life. By examining a sample of blood or feathers, it is possible to determine whether a bird has contracted one of the two viral infections.

Plumage disorder
In very rare cases, a hormonally induced plumage growth disorder or a plumage disorder resulting from a lack of nutrients can be responsible for the fact that the affected animal is missing large parts of its plumage. As a young animal, the bird on the right had hardly any feathering on almost all of its body. As part of hormone therapy, his organism has been adjusted in such a way that at least the small plumage has grown back. However, wing and tail feathers have not formed. The clinical picture looks confusingly similar to that of the French moult or that of PBFD. No reliable diagnosis can be made without examining a blood or feather sample.

Respiratory diseases
If the airways of a bird are attacked by pathogens such as bacteria or by parasites (e.g. air sac mites), the oxygen supply to the body is no longer fully guaranteed. A bird that cannot breathe freely instinctively avoids any exertion in order not to get into distress (falls, etc.). As a result, birds suffering from respiratory disease often stop flying.

Inability to fly due to incoordination
A severe head injury, for example a concussion or a disease of the central nervous system as well as an inflammation in the brain can lead to disorders of movement coordination. Many affected birds are unable to move in the air because they can no longer perform the movements required for this. The earlier the animals are professionally treated, the higher the chances of an almost complete recovery.

Bone misalignments in the spine area
In very rare cases, congenital malpositions of the bones in the area of ​​the spine are a reason for an inability to fly. The backbone of the bird shown on the right was - most likely from birth - so crooked that the wings drooped and it could not fly. Such misalignments of the bones and joints can easily be seen on x-rays. Unfortunately, such bone deformities cannot be treated, and affected birds remain incapable of flight for their entire life.

Bone misalignments due to a lack of nutrients
If a young bird suffers a prolonged period of starvation during the growth phase or if it is supplied with food by its parents whose nutrient content is too low, its bones cannot harden sufficiently. They give in under the slightest load, even if it is just a warm mother bird lying on her chicks. This disease, in which a lack of vitamin D and calcium causes the bones to bend, is called rickets (or osteomalacia, if adult birds develop it). In young birds, rickets mainly affects the legs, but the spine can also become deformed as a result, which leads to a lifelong inability to fly.

Exclusively caged
It happens again and again that birds are not let out of the cage by their owners. Be it because the animals' gnawing drive goes against the grain or because they have "no time" to supervise the free-flying animals. The reasons given in such cases are varied. The result of being kept in cages for a long time is unpleasant: Affected animals suffer from enormous atrophy of the flight muscles and, after consulting the attending vet, they first have to be carefully accustomed to flying again. Caution, there is initially a high risk of accidents for the inexperienced "flyers"!

Old age
Some very old birds no longer have enough strength to fly. In the case of budgies, however, the inability to fly due to old age usually does not occur before the age of 14. A bird that is six or seven years old and suddenly unable to fly is almost certainly suffering from a serious illness rather than old age. In his case, to argue that he is already old and therefore probably can no longer fly would be grossly negligent. The photo in this paragraph shows a female budgie who is over 16 years old and who was no longer able to fly due to her advanced age.

"Fear of flying"
If a bird suffers a serious accident during free flight that causes it great pain, it can happen that after the physical wounds have healed, it will no longer want to fly. Fear of another accident blocks him and he no longer wants to go into what he sees as a dangerous situation. Fear of flying is extremely rare among birds, however, so you should definitely have a vet check whether all physical injuries that have resulted from an accident have actually healed completely before prematurely justifying the inability to fly with a phobia.

What you should definitely not do
Again and again, bird keepers are advised to train the feathered patient with regard to a flightless bird. You should throw him in the air, then he would use his wings and thus train the muscles. From pet dealers to breeders to veterinarians, there are always contemporaries who have this "good tip" ready. But one should definitely not heed it.

It is irresponsible to throw a bird in the air that does not fly for reasons unknown to make it fly! The disease may be so severe that the bird cannot fly. As a result, he cannot slow down the fall and hits the ground at high speed, which can cause serious internal injuries and broken bones. If, after consultation with an ornithological veterinarian, you want to get a bird to practice its flight skills, then you should only let it fall from a low height over a soft surface (for example a bed or a large pillow). It is important to remember that in this situation the bird will most likely be afraid. You should therefore treat the animal with care. The important thing is to build self-confidence and not undermine it by frightening the bird to death because it keeps falling. He does not know that he is hitting a soft surface and is therefore frightened. Flight training is therefore a very delicate matter.

Living with flightless birds
In the "Handicapped Birds" section you will find a number of chapters that describe how flightless birds can have a good life despite their physical limitations.