What is Angel Wing?
Usually associated with water fowl birds such as ducks, geese and swans, this condition is attributed to an unhealthy diet of rich protein and carbohydrates. Birds in local parks that are fed bread on a consistent basis which causes accelerating the growth of the bird, may experience rapid wing development that outgrows proper bone support. Even just a few days of eating bread can cause irreparable damage. An adult bird with angel wing deformity cannot be treated, it will remain deformed and unable to fly while young birds, if treated early, have a much better chance of overcoming the condition.
Angel wings in birds is a deformity in the last joint on one or both wings. The result is that the wings twist unnaturally outwards rather than lying flat as they should.
Symptoms of Angel Wing in Birds
- The wing looks mangled and sticks up up and away from the body
- The wing joint twists during a rapid growing stage with the bone unable to hold it, causing twisting and deformity
- The wing no longer lies flat and smoot
- Male birds seem to be more prone to this condition than females
- Although it looks odd, it is not painful to the bird
- It can occur with one wing or both
Angel Wing in birds is also known as:
- Airplane wing
- Rotating wing
- Flipped wing
- Tilt wing
- Spear wing
Causes of Angel Wing in Birds
- The cause is attributed to a diet high in carbohydrates and proteins
- Waterfowl diet consists mostly of grass so a rich diet is unnatural to their system
- Popcorn and other human food given to wild or domesticated young birds produce this condition
- An adult bird with this condition is unable to be treated, there is no cure and they will be unable to fly
- If you find a wild bird in this condition, let the local wildlife authorities know as they can capture it and protect it at a wildlife park or farm
- Left on its own, the bird is unprotected
- The unnaturally rich diet causes fast growth in young birds causing the wing deformity
- Feeding waterfowl such as ducks high quantities of bread are a cause
- It develops as a deformity of the wing growth where the young bird grows quicker than their wing bones
- This weight of the growing flight feathers stress the developing muscles that move the wing bone causing twisting and slipping
- Young birds can be treated if caught and treated in the early stages
Diagnosis of Angel Wing in Birds
If you notice your pet duck or other young waterfowl friends developing feathers or the wing tip stick up from its normal position, this will alert you to the formation of this condition. Caught early enough on in your young bird’s life, it can be treated with veterinary advice and may involve taping of the feathers to support the growing bones. If this condition is in an adult bird, it will remain so as the growth is set and cannot be reversed. Although your pet bird may look a bit odd or different from the flock, it is not a condition that causes pain. It does mean that your bird will be unable to fly so cannot escape predators that may try to attack. This may mean ensuring your bird has a protective place it can escape into if a cat is stalking it or a dog chases it.
Birds in the wild do not usually suffer this condition unless like the ducks in a local park they are subject to families feeding them bread in the mistaken belief that they are doing a good thing. While it is nice to interact with the wild animals, letting them forage for their food is far kinder than providing rich calorie laden bread that can cause them during their growth stage to develop angel wings. The avian veterinarian may be able to diagnose your feathered family member by appearance alone; if other illnesses need to be ruled out blood tests may be ordered.
Treatment of Angel Wing in Birds
Treatment of the deformity means taking instant action when you first notice this developing on the immature bird. If you see the wing tips starting to splay out at an awkward angle while they are growing, you can take the young bird to the veterinarian who may suggest that you wrap the wing, binding it onto the bird’s flank for a few days. By acting promptly, you will find it may reverse the damage. At the same time as treating the young bird, adjust his food to a more natural diet and it will benefit your bird. At first your young bird may take a bit to adjust to the binding, and it may be useful to put him in a separate enclosure from the rest of the flock, near enough so he can see them and be reassured, but not in the same enclosure in case the other birds attack him.
Binding the wing allows it to be supported while the limb and feathers form correctly. For older birds, the deformity cannot be reversed sadly, and in the case of a wild bird they are rendered flightless which means they are left behind when the flock leaves and they are open to predators due to the loss of their main method of defense (flying). Teaching your family the harm that bread or popcorn feeding does to the development of birds is important, as this so-called kindness act is far from what it is perceived.
Recovery of Angel Wing in Birds
Recovery in a young bird that is bound and taped up to protect the wing tip is rapid. It usually only takes a few days until the wing strengthens in its rightful place and hardens into position. Once the healing has occurred, you can gently remove the binding and the tape taking care not to rip any feathers out as you go. Your bird will be happy to have the use of his wings back and readjust quickly back into flock life. If it is one of your older birds, then management is the only option. They will be happy with the flock, and all it needs is to keep them free from predators, as they will not be able to fly away to avoid them. Because the condition doesn’t cause any pain, your bird will be quite happy being grounded and cared for.