Objective: To describe a protocol for the examination of free-living raptors and report the ophthalmic examination findings of seven raptor species native to central Illinois, namely the barred owl, Cooper’s hawk, eastern screech owl, great horned owl, American kestrel, red-tailed hawk, and turkey vulture and to determine if the findings relative to visual prognosis affected eligibility for future release.
Animals studied: Seventy-nine free-living raptors.
Procedures: Under manual restraint, complete ophthalmic examination including slit-lamp biomicroscopy and indirect funduscopy, applanation tonometry, rebound tonometry, ocular morphometrics, B-mode ultrasound, and electroretinography (ERG) were performed on each bird. Histopathology of enucleated globes was performed after euthanasia or death in selected cases.
Results: The examination protocol was easily performed using manual restraint alone on all birds. Ocular lesions were detected in 48.1% of birds, with 47.3% affected unilaterally and 52.6% affected bilaterally. Ocular lesions were considered to be vision threatening in 29.0% of the unilaterally affected birds and 29.0% of the bilaterally affected birds. The most common case outcomes were discharge from hospital to rehabilitation facility (45.6%) followed by euthanasia (43.0%). The presence of an ocular lesion or a vision-threatening ocular lesion was not significantly associated with outcome. Reference ranges are reported for B-mode ultrasound, ocular morphometrics, and horizontal corneal diameter in all species.
Conclusion: Complete ophthalmic examination can be supplemented by the use of ocular morphometrics, ultrasound, and ERG in the manually restrained raptor. These advanced diagnostic techniques may be useful in developing more objective criteria for evaluating eligibility for release following rehabilitation of free-living birds of prey.