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Avian health
Suspected ethanol toxicity in juvenile blackbirds and redwings
  1. J. P. Duff1,
  2. J. P. Holmes2 and
  3. Peter Streete3
  1. 1AHVLA Diseases of Wildlife Scheme, AHVLA – Penrith, Merrythought, Cumbria CA11 9HS
  2. 2AHVLA Diseases of Wildlife Scheme, AHVLA – Shrewsbury, Kendal Road, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 4HD
  3. 3Clinical and Forensic Toxicology, Medical Toxicology Laboratory, St Thomas' Hospital, London SE14 5ER
  1. e-mail: paul.duff{at}

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DURING August 2011 the Cumbrian police were called to a primary school where the bodies of 12 juvenile blackbirds (Turdus merula) in varying stages of decomposition had been found. One additional bird was alive but unwell. Foul-play was considered as a possible cause of the deaths.

The carcases were radiographed, revealing no obvious abnormalities, and then taken to Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) – Penrith and examined under the Diseases of Wildlife Scheme. All birds were in good body condition but some had feathers missing from the breast and neck areas. Postmortem examination and histopathology revealed no obvious abnormalities apart from signs of trauma in some birds. However, all 12 birds had berries present in their gastrointestinal …

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