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Calcium Deficiency in Collared Doves

Young Collared Doves found in February/March are extremely prone to calcium deficiency in the UK, similar to what we would term rickets, in humans. Vitamin D from the Sun usually ensures that calcium levels are sufficient to enable the production of healthy bones and given that these birds historically bred in sub-tropical Asia, this wouldn’t have been a problem. However, since its arrival in the UK in the 1950’s this bird has become widespread throughout the Country but has not yet adapted its breeding patterns to reflect our far less sunny climate. The bird therefore begins to breed as early as January, leading to inevitable problems for the early offspring produced.

Whilst in the nest the lack of bone density is not noticeable, the chick is safe and fed by the parents. However, when the bird attempts to leave the nest and follow the parents as doves do, their legs and wings are not strong enough to do anything more than futter to the ground where they stay unable to fly and often even unable to walk.

The lucky birds are found, picked up and taken to a rescue centre where hopefully, the staff will know that this is an annual phenomenon and take appropriate actions. The severity of the disease can vary from year to year (depending on the harshness of the Winter) from a mild “rubbery” beak and weakness in the limbs to severely deformed and twisted legs. The most severely affected birds will often never be able to walk, even with temporary splints and should sadly be euthanised.

When the birds first arrive at our facility they are warmed up in an incubator or on a heatpad and once the temperature is stabilised, are given critical care, at body temperature, via a feeding tube (gavage). This can often be daunting as they have a tendency to regurgitate and often appear to “fit” for the first few feeds, so little and often is the key to prevent inhalation pneumonia.

We then begin to introduce Tropican Breeding Mash to their tube feeds, again at body temperature and also again, in small but frequent feeds dependent on the size and weight of the bird. If the bird is severely affected, adding a drop of liquid calcium to the feed can be beneficial but otherwise, the Tropican has everything in it that is needed.

Within a few days the bird should be showing signs of improvement and attempting to perch, usually on the side of a nest bowl and most go on to make a full recovery but may need feeding via gavage for longer than the same species born later in the Year. Don’t try to rush them into self feeding, they can only benefit from the minerals and nutrients in the Tropican.

These are 3 of our most recent intake during February 2017 which hasn’t seen too many severe cases coming into wildlife rescues. Ours are all are now awaiting some finer weather for release so it is worth putting in the time and effort.

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