Bill deformities in songbirds

Bill Tumors, Most Due to Avian Pox

Bill tumors are another type of deformity that is encountered.  Often, bill tumors are the result of avian pox, a virus that most frequently causes lesions on the feet and legs of birds, but also affects other soft parts.  Pox lesions are scabby, crusty, or warty growths.  If near the nostril they can obstruct breathing, or can obstruct vision if near the eyes.  The lesions fall off after about a month when the virus runs its course, but it appears they can sometimes compromise the bill structure — some birds have chunks of bill missing.  This may not be due to the pox itself, but might be due to secondary infections of the pox lesions. Pox lesions may leave a scar. A form of avian pox, “wet pox” impacts internal mucous membranes, but is not as common as “dry pox.”

Avian pox can be spread by mosquitoes, but also through contact of infected tissues between birds.  Banders should be careful to wash hands and carrying bags if they encounter birds infected with pox.  Pox is commonly spread between infected birds at feeders and bird baths.  These should be disinfected regularly with a weak bleach solution, and/or temporarily removed.  For more information on avian pox, see: Michigan Dept. of Natural Resoures avian pox page and the following paper by RRBO’s Julie Craves:

Craves, J. A. 2003. High incidence of avian pox in southeast Michigan, fall 2003. (pdf) North American Bird Bander 28:168-169.

Below is a table of examples of some birds with bill tumors.  Most appear to be related to an avian pox infection. You can contact Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com) with additional reports and the table will be periodically updated.


This compilation of bill deformities is property of the Rouge River Bird Observatory. Do not use or cite without written permission.


Bill tumors


Species

Details

Reference

Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)31 Aug 2002; HY-U; Burdette, NY; growth (tumor?) upper mandible 3x5mmJohn & Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Avian
Migration Obs.(khmo AT att.net)
Red-eyed
Vireo
11 Sep 2003; HY-U; Dearborn,Wayne Co., MI: very large (>5mm) tumor near nares, blocking nostril on one side; feet normal, bill tumor did not look like typical poxRouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
Vireo sp.20 Sep 2003; HY-U; near Amherstburg, Ontario; degraded area near tipHoliday Beach Migration Observatory
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)25 Aug 2002; HY-U; Burdett, NY; 8mm tumor left gapeJohn & Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Avian
Migration Obs.(khmo AT att.net)
Brown
Thrasher
(Toxostoma rufum)
13 Sep 2003; AHY-U; near Amherstburg, Ontario; pox-like tumor on bill; swollen sacs under eyesHoliday Beach Migration Observatory
Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustalatus)20 Sep 2004; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI: hard tumor on top of bill, bled when nicked; bill thus slightly crossed at tipRouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)22 Aug 2003; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; pox-like tumor on top mandible in front of naresRouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
American Robin25 Aug 2003; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; pox-like tumor on top mandible in front of naresRouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
American Robin3 Sep 2003; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; raw tumor on top mandible in front of nares, distal portion
of mandible missing (also had foot pox)
Rouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
American
Robin
5 Sep 2003; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; raw,
bloody  tumor on top mandible in front of nares
(mild foot pox)
Rouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
American
Robin
11 Sep 2003; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; bill in
front of nares with a chunk out, as if a tumor had
dropped off; some foot pox
Rouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
American Robin14 Sep 2003; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; foot pox
and bill tumor
Rouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
American Robin2 Oct 2003; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; severe foot pox and bill tumor; one eye completely oozing and blindRouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
Magnolia
Warbler
(Dendroica magnolia)
18 Sep 2003; HY-F; Rector, PA; eroded tip as if a pox
tumor had fallen off
Powdermill Nature Reserve, Robert S. Mulvihill
(mulvipnr AT westol DOT com)
Northern
Waterthrush
(Seiurus noveboracensis)
30 April 2007; AHY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; top bill eroded and shortened, perhaps healed pox (cross referenced in bill deformity table)Rouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)31 Aug 2001; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; tumor on base of bill (also on shoulder)Rouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)16 Sep 1992; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; tumor on
bill
Rouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
Song Sparrow21 Aug 2003; HY-U; Burdette, NY; either hardened tar or a keratinous growth on  upper mandible, fell off during exam - reddish, slightly bloody but not deformed beneathJohn & Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Avian
Migration Obs.(khmo AT att.net)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)1 Sep 1993; HY-U; Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI; tumor on billRouge River Bird Observatory, Julie Craves (jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)1 Sep 2003; HY-M; Burdett, NY; bloody growth on upper mandibleJohn & Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Avian
Migration Obs.(khmo AT att.net)
Icterus
spurius
)
21 Aug 2005; HY-F; upper mandible shortened from tip, and thickened at base, no crossing; Metro Beach Metropark, Macomb Co., MI (photo available from bander). Allen Chartier (amazilia1 AT comcast.net)

 

Maxilla = Top, Mandible = Bottom.

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