California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System

Avian Submission Guidelines for Postmortem Evaluation


Number of birds per submission:
Avian submissions include: pet birds, racing pigeons, wild waterfowl or game birds. It does not include poultry species, which include: chickens, turkeys, domestic waterfowl (duck, goose), and squabs.

Each bird is billed individually. Exceptions are birds from an commercial aviary that have similar clinical symptoms and are less than 1 year of age, then 1 to 3 birds per submission are billed a single fee (each additional bird over 3 is charged extra).

Submission of specimens:

  • Live birds : submit birds showing clinical signs of the problem in a box large enough to allow movement and survival of the birds. Make sure that the box has sufficient air holes throughout to prevent suffocation.
  • Dead birds :
    • Submit fresh dead birds within 24 hours of death.
    • If you cannot get to us within 24 hours after the death of the bird(s), then wet the feathers thoroughly with soapy water. Keep the bird(s) in a refrigerated area (39-50 o F or 4-10 o C) if you plan to submit within the next 5 days.
    • Freeze the carcass (less than 30 o F or under –2 o C) only if you cannot submit within 5 days of the bird's death.
Delivery of samples
  • Submit live or dead birds to our laboratories (we prefer the specimens to be delivered by a veterinarian or clinical staff), during business hours (Mon. to Fri. 8am-5pm). No appointment needed.
  • Ship specimens (dead animals only) by commercial courier service, U.S. Mail or Greyhound. Please pack the specimens according to our packing guidelines . Do not use US Mail for Davis laboratory or Greyhound for Davis or San Bernardino . Note: special arrangements must be made with the laboratory personnel for receipt of weekend, holiday, and after hours shipments.
  • Complete and sign the standard submission form to assure proper testing. Complete information concerning the bird(s) would give the laboratory better insight and direction in providing a diagnosis.

Reporting results

  • We highly recommend having a veterinarian involved in the case. Our reports are technical and may be difficult to understand for a person without proper training. In addition, the surviving birds may need veterinary care, and CAHFS does not perform treatments or write prescriptions.
  • Any significant postmortem findings will be communicated by fax, e-mail, phone, or US mail within 24 hours. Additional reports will be sent as soon as testing is completed. Bacteriology, serology, and histology results are normally complete between 3 and 5 working days of postmortem examination. Mycoplasma isolations are usually available 2 weeks after postmortem. Virus and fungus isolations are usually available 3-4 weeks after postmortem. Toxicology testing is performed in the Davis Laboratory and results are usually complete within 7 days of receiving the sample at the Davis Laboratory.