WARNING : IMAGES OF MEDICAL PROCEDURES MAY CAUSE DISTRESS
Many pet birds are commonly sold with a band on one of their legs. Banding or ringing used to be the traditional way of identifying pet birds. Leg bands are often applied by the breeder to help identify and keep track of their birds. Band numbers are used to identify and keep records on breeding birds. For example leg ring numbers are used to pair unrelated birds in order to keep the gene pool diverse and breed for certain traits and mutations.
Breeders usually apply closed leg rings on young chicks when their small feet will fit through the hole. As the birds grow the leg bands cannot be removed unless cut off. Open bands may be put on mature birds after surgical or DNA sex determination. Sexing bands are put on the right leg to indicate males and the left leg to indicate females. Some pet bird owners have leg rings applied to their pets with identifying information of phone numbers and address engraved on the surface of the band. Leg rings can be manufactured from stainless steel or aluminium.
All leg rings on pet birds require periodic checking to make sure that there are no problems or discomfort relating to the fit of the band or the ring. As an avian veterinarian, I am often presented with birds suffering great pain and discomfort from ill-fitting, tight or misshapen bands that have acted as a tourniquet on their legs.
Budgies and canaries commonly suffer from scaly mites that burrow into the bare skin of the legs and feet and cause a thickening and flaking of the skin in these areas. As a result the leg bands become tight and “ring-bark” the legs.
Often owners have not noticed any problem as the feathers tend to hide the legs.
Birds with larger beaks, such as sun conures and Indian Ringnecks can bite at aluminium, open bands and squash them out of shape. This action can also cause the ring to act as a tourniquet and cause swelling and constriction of the leg.
Just recently I had to operate on a sun conure to remove a constricting leg ring that was encased in skin and tissue. The bird’s skin had actually grown over the problem band. Leg rings can also get caught in cages and toys which can lead to breaks, cuts, dislocations and sprains. If seeds or twigs get caught under a leg ring, subsequent irritation can cause swelling and constriction of the foot and leg. In the worst case scenario, amputation of the affected foot is necessary.
Because of all of the injuries and problems that I’ve treated as a result of constricting leg rings, I usually recommend the removal of leg bands from pet birds. Removal of most bands is a simple procedure and will prevent any potential injuries occurring. Owners should never attempt to remove a leg ring themselves. Always consult your avian veterinarian, who will safely remove the band and prevent injury to the bird.
Microchips are a much safer and more convenient way of identifying your pet bird. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and can be quickly and safely implanted into the breast muscle of the bird. Each microchip contains a unique number which is recorded and registered to the owner through a microchip company. It is common practice for veterinarians and animal shelter workers to scan any lost birds for microchip identification which link the lost bird directly to their owner.
If anyone finds a stray or lost bird, they should always take them into their local veterinarian and have them scanned, in case the bird has a microchip. The microchip is the safest way to identify your pet bird and to ensure that it is returned to you in case it gets lost.
© Peter Wilson July 2010