Coraciiformes TAG

Coraciiformes Taxon Advisory Group -

Coraciiformes Taxon Advisory Group Preventative Medicine Guidelines

Original: December 2002
Reviewed: September 2005

The order Coraciiformes includes a diverse species base: hornbills, kingfishers, rollers, mot mots, bee-eaters, hoopoes, woodhoopoes, and todies. Separation into hornbill (African and Asian) and non-hornbill (kingfishers, rollers, mot mots, bee-eaters, hoopoes, woodhoopoes, and todies) facilitates veterinary care for the taxon. Particular species within each group require additional veterinary preventive medicine due to documented pathology. Processing timeline for this protocol is 7 to 14 days for all species, except the Micronesian kingfisher. The following protocol advocates that specific baseline laboratory tests be performed for the purpose of evaluating current health status. Additional tests are recommended to increase baseline information to determine their significance. The final decision for specific procedures should be made in partnership between the shipping and receiving institutions. Any abnormal findings should be communicated to the receiving institution in a timely manner.


1) Signalment - age, sex, origin (specify wild-caught and institution), studbook#, ISIS#

2) A hard copy and/or disc of the complete medical record should be sent to the receiving institution prior to shipment that should include results from all prior diagnostic testing and copies (or digital images) of radiographs.

Specific areas of interest include:
a. casque condition or damage (hornbills)
b. tuberculosis status of exhibit or enclosure (all, but especially, Micronesian kingfisher)
c. status of serum or liver iron concentrations (Asian hornbills)
d. West Nile virus serologic status or vaccination/housing history
e. reproductive history
f. conspecific aggression history
g. diet
h. location and number of permanent identification (microchip)

3) Permanent identification - microchip identification should be confirmed or placed whenever possible. Preferred location is subcutaneously, dorsal midline at base of neck but acceptable intramuscularly in superficial pectoral muscles (when gender is known, right - male, left - female).

4) Physical examination should include:
a. plumage, skin, beak (casque), and nail condition
b. oral and cloacal exam
c. ophthalmic and otic examination
d. body condition and weight (gm or kg)
e. trans-abdominal palpation
f. thoracic auscultation

5) Blood collection - preferred collection site is jugular vein. However, as hornbills have subcutaneous emphysema, the ulnar vein may be more easily accessed and for smaller species, ulnar or metatarsal vein may be utilized. Consideration should be made to size of the species, as those <50gm may not allow extensive venipuncture collection.
a. Complete blood count (CBC) - white blood cell (WBC) counts over 20,000 should be repeated.
b. Plasma (heparin) chemistry panel - minimally including asparate aminotransferase (AST), glucose, uric acid (UA), calcium, phosphorus, creatine phosphokinase (CPK).
c. Serum iron - Asian hornbills - within six (6) months of shipment.
d. Whole blood PCR - Micronesian kingfishers - mycobacterial species (see preventive health) - when available

6) Fecal analysis
a. Parasite screen - direct, flotation, sedimentation for enteric parasites
one, if negative
treat appropriately, repeat at 7 and 14 days post-treatment, if positive
b. Acid fast screen - optimally collected every 7 days for a total of 3 weeks
always for Micronesian kingfisher
for any species when history of mycobacteriosis in collection
mycobacterial culture when collection history or acid fast positive fecal
mycobacterial PCR on feces - Micronesian kingfisher - when available
c. Cloacal culture - evaluate for Salmonella species, type if isolated

7) Vaccinations - none required. West Nile virus vaccination has been undertaken in avian collections of many institutions without adverse effects.

Micronesian kingfisher SSP has recommended no WNV vaccination at this time due to exportation requirements to Guam. (April 2004)

8) Radiographs
a. Hornbills - casque/skull (see Preventive Health below) and whole body
b. Non-hornbills - whole body
c. If hepatomegaly identified, hepatic biopsy should be considered.
histopathology and serum iron - Asian hornbill
histopathology and mycobacterial culture - all, but especially, Micronesian kingfisher

Transport guidelines

Hornbills are potentially destructive to their casques when confined within crates. Interior padding or sufficiently large crates are recommended to minimize this damage.


Repetition of physical examination, blood collection (CBC, plasma chemistry panel), and fecal analysis (parasite and acid fast screen) are suggested.

Preventive health

Casque/skull radiographs (hornbills)
Documented cases of squamous cell carcinoma in giant hornbills have demonstrated that subtle casque lesions may ultimately prove destructive and fatal. Regular monitoring and early detection are important to not only individual bird health but also establishing baselines for the taxon. It is strongly encouraged that four views (right lateral, left lateral, ventrodorsal, and rostrocaudal) of the skull and casque of each adult hornbill be in its record and repeated at least every five (5) years. It is recommended that each adult giant hornbill (Buceros bicornis) be radiographed as described annually.

Mycobacterial culture (Micronesian kingfisher)
This species has an apparent susceptibility to mycobacterial infections, generally Mycobacterium avium, M. genavense, M. simiae, or other atypical Mycobacteria. It typically manifests as hepatic infection. Polymerase chain reaction testing (whole blood, feces) will assist in detecting active infection as acid fast staining on fecal samples is quite inconsistent. However, PCR is inconsistently available from laboratories. An addendum will be provided by the Coraciiformes TAG when an established testing protocol is in place.

Biomaterial banking (hornbills)
A necropsy protocol is available ( which includes requests for serum, liver, casque, and uropygial gland banking. Asian hornbills are purported to have a predisposition to hemochromatosis but this has yet to be documented; this biomaterials request will provide samples to assess this risk.

Contact List

Kathryn C. Gamble DVM, MS, DACZM
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-7722; FAX (312) 742-7823
[email protected]
Veterinary Advisor - Coraciiformes TAG (Hornbill)
Stephanie James DVM, DACZM
Wildlife Conservation Society
2300 Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10460
(718) 220-7104 FAX: (718) 220-7126
[email protected]
Veterinary Advisor - Coraciiformes TAG (Non-Hornbill)
Randall Junge DVM, DACZM
St. Louis Zoo
1 Government Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63110
(314) 781-0900, ext. 487 FAX: (314) 647-7969
[email protected]
Veterinary Advisor - Micronesian Kingfisher SSP
Scott P. Terrell DVM, Ph.D
Disney's Animal Kingdom - Pathology Department
P.O. Box 10,000
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-6382 FAX: (407) 939-6240
[email protected]
Pathology Advisor - Micronesian Kingfisher SSP
Ellen Dierenfeld MS, PhD
St. Louis Zoo - Nutritionist
1 Government Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63110
(314) 781-0900, ext. 205 FAX: (314) 647-7969
[email protected]
Veterinary Advisor - Coraciiformes TAG