starling image 1

Starling Talk
Care and Rehabilitation of Injured and
Orphaned Starlings

starling image 2
| Home | Baby Starlings | Adult Diet | Pet Starlings | Health | Photos |
Links |Starlings | Sparrows | Message Board |

Mysterious Leg Problems in Starlings

Click on any topic in the following list, or simply scroll down to read them all.

General Information







Gigi and Hoosier



General Information

A small percentage of pet starlings develop this problem in their first year. It can be very painful causing some birds to stop using the leg, and most of them will spend a great deal of time pecking at the bumps. Products such DMSO or baby teething products, such as Orajel, seem to relieve the discomfort. It presents as a swelling on the inside of the leg starting at the foot. Many of these birds have been examined by avian veterinarians and to date no one has come up with a definitive reason for it, but it is believed, (by several avian vets that I have talked with) to be a haematoma caused by hitting the leg, this in turn is causing pressure against the ligament, with the subsequent swelling. I believe that when young birds land on hard surfaces, that have no give to them such as a table top, the developing leg tendons and muscles can't handle the strain, causing a breach in the supporting tissues. It is never seen in aviary kept birds and is normally only seen in young birds that have free flight time in a home. It clears up in a week or two without treatment.

I haven’t heard of this in other species of birds except perhaps for one mynah. It reminds me of a bird version of Phlebitis.

The following is an excerpt from the Merck Manual: Home Edition.

Superficial Phlebitis
"Superficial phlebitis (thrombophlebitis phlebitis) is inflammation and clotting in a superficial vein. Phlebitis can occur in any vein in the body, but it most often affects the leg veins. Even slight injury can cause a vein to become inflamed. Unlike deep vein thrombosis, which causes very little inflammation and is often painless, superficial phlebitis involves a sudden (acute) inflammatory reaction that causes the thrombus to adhere firmly to the vein wall and lessens the likelihood that it will break loose."
Symptoms and Diagnosis
"Localized pain, swelling , and skin redness over the vein develop rapidly, and the area feels warm. Because blood in the vein is clotted, the vein feels like a hard cord under the skin, not soft like a normal vein. This hard cord feeling may extend for the length of the vein."
back to top

Information Gathered from Starling Owners

Below are some excerpts from the Starling Talk Message Board about this condition as well as some photos. It is possible that we are seeing two or more different problems, or just the same problem that is more severe in some birds than in others

Information and Photos about Kizzie's leg condition:
I've got a fissure and "bump" problem here, too. I took a fairly good digital photo of Kizzie's left leg, shown below.

Kizzie's left leg showing an example of strange leg bumps in starlings.

Kizzie's left leg showing strange leg bumps.

Bumps along outer and inner edge of left leg.

Background info about Kizzie: Kizzie is 5 months old and in otherwise good health. She is slim and flies free in the house about 2/3 of the day. Two pinkish fissures appeared about four days ago, each running the length of the left leg, one inside, one outside. In four days they have worsened to show whitish bulging with small red clots. The red clots you see are definately subdural. There's no surface bleeding or moisture at all She holds the leg up a little more than usual, but is in great spirits.

back to top

Information about Stormy's Foot/Leg Condition
2000 -- The "bumps" on Stormy's feet/legs showed up in 1999 at the end of her fourth month of life and were located along the inner foot areas. Occasionally they ran nearly the entire length of her foot. Early during each flare-up, the bumps looked similar to a blister filled with fluid and contained reddish specks; later they would appear dry. They caused her pain, as when a bump first appeared she would always go lame and remain lame for several days. She would sit only on her good foot and would limp while walking. During the time that she had a lesion on each foot, she rested on her belly most of the time, thus our building her a shelf to rest on.

The condition continued off and on for seven months until Stormy was nearly one year old, and despite several vet visits, nothing helped. During one of the early vet visits our vet found some bacteria in a skin scraping and put Stormy on antibiotics which were no help with the mysterious condition. The last lesion Stormy had was so bad that she actually chewed at her foot until she had it bleeding. She tore some scales off the left foot before we could get her back to the vet. During that visit, the vet put her on Tresaderm which we applied topically daily and which seemed to help the inflammation. Some things about Stormy's case:

1. She had obvious pain and discomfort, often bit the affected leg and refused to use it.
2. The bumps first appeared when she was still very young.
3. The bumps often looked like long blisters or similar to warts and were always along the inner foot area.

Updates on Stormy:
2001 -- Stormy has continued to have infrequent problems similar in nature to the condition described above. She has had three slight recurrences this year, 2001, and she is now two years old. We have subsequently treated her each time with a combination of DMSO and vitamin A & D cream. The DMSO seems to help with the inflammation and may dry the bumps enough that they shrink more quickly.
2002 -- Stormy had another flare-up in early 2002, at nearly three years old, and it lasted for several weeks before subsiding.

back to top

Questions from Victoria to Bill

Did any of your birds begin having this at three or four months old, even if they were slender birds? Did they go completely lame with it or chew repeatedly on their feet to the point of bleeding? Also did the bumps look to be filled with fluid and extend all the way up the inner surface of the foot at any time? Did the feet swell up with these bumps? Also after their bumps went away for good, did they ever continue to have occasional irritation with either foot although no bumps appeared? (In Stormy's case, it is a resounding "yes" to all of the above.)

Bill Lee's Reply
The youngest it happened to one bird was 13 months at onset. The other bird was two years old. (These two birds hatched the same year, so the two episodes were a year apart, but the birds were living together.) The first bird started with very severe simptoms, similar to Stormy's. It was bulging out about 1/8" wide all along the 1" long slit of one side, and in several 1/8" circles along the slit on the other side. This became less severe after 1-2 weeks, but flared up a few times in the next 2 months. I had encouraged frequent fresh water baths and used cream. The second bird was less severe, and it occured later in life. He was about 85 grams while the other was 100 grams.

back to top

Information from Marie about Scooter

The growth on the leg actually looks like something is in it, pus or liquid. However it doesn't look like something that can be popped.

Tom's Info about Smokey's Leg Condition
A while ago, my bird, Smokey, had a small lump of what looked like dried fluid on his left leg. I took him to the vet but he said it was nothing to be concerned about. It eventually disappeared a couple weeks later.

back to top

Jessica's Experiences with Pip
I had a similar problem with Pip about a year ago. It looked as though a vein in her leg was inflamed and protruding. The verdict from the vet was that she had a soft tissue mass lump with no pus and no infection of any kind. Her leg was looked at by a vet technician under a microscope to determine whether or not it was infected. There was no skin scrape done because the bump was located between the scales on the back and the front of her leg and the vet said taking skin away from that area was not a good idea. Pip was prescribed Hibitane ointment (an antibacterial and antifungal) to apply two to three times a day. As advised, I also bought from the vet's office some quick klot blood clotting powder in case the bump began to bleed. It did bleed once or twice before I took her to the vet because she was picking at it with her beak. I could not blame the poor sweetie, as she was obviously in some pain; she refused to stand on her hurt leg and was puffed up and not eating well. I was so worried! One bit of advice I can give you is to make sure to keep Emu's cage clean, as fecal matter could cause an infection. Also, I used Calendula gel on her leg when it began healing -- it is a natural homeopathic treatment my mom recommended. Her leg seemed a overly dry in the area where I was applying the Hibitane and the calendula helped.

back to top

Gigi and Hoosier's Leg Problems
Hoosier was about seven months old when her condition started. Gigi was around five months old when I saw his first one . . . he still gets them and is over a year old now.

Hoosier's leg problem.
Hoosier's leg problem

Close-up of Gigi's leg problem
Gigi's worst leg bump ever, actually two of them on the same side.

back to top

Shadow's Case:
Shadow was two days short of four months old when he became lame in his left foot. He showed no visible signs of injury -- no fractures, dislocations, or wounds. However the joint above his toes appeared swollen and reddish in color. He refused to use his foot, and on the fourth day an oblong "bump" appeared along the inner edge of his foot, above the swollen joint. This bump looked exactly like the lesions Stormy always had. It was causing obvious discomfort, as Shadow would often bite the foot and would rest on his belly instead of perching.

On the fifth day another bump had also appeared on Shadow's right foot, but this one was along the outer edge of the foot. And similarly, the joint above the toes was red and swollen. Day six showed another small bump along the inner edge of the right foot. Frequent baths along with applying DMSO and an occasional drop of Anbesol seems to temporarily soothe his pain, but he is still spending much time on his belly. Photos are below.

Closer view of right foot with bump
In the photo above, notice the redness and swelling in the joint below the bump.

View of both feet affected with strange condition.
These areas obviously cause pain, as Shadow often bites at them.

Photographs courtesy of Gina, Tom, Karla, and Victoria

Back to the top

Back to Health index page.
To Starling Talk homepage.

Copyright © 1999-2011 Jackie Collins - All rights reserved.