Dietary Treatment of Iron Storage Disease in Captive Birds of Paradise (Paradisaea raggiana)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2009
Kelly E. Helmick1, DVM, MS, DACZM; Erin L. Kendrick2, MS; Ellen S. Dierenfeld3, MS, PhD, CNS
1Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, WA, USA; 2Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis, MO, USA; 3Novus International, Inc., St. Charles, MO, USA


Elevated serum iron parameters were lowered through dietary manipulation in captive Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) using a modification of previously published low-iron diets.2,3 Study birds were part of a captive breeding program consisting of two males and one female, captive born, 3.5–9 years of age. Serum iron, total iron binding capacity (TIBC), percent transferrin saturation, body weight, and hematocrit were monitored through routine examinations and blood samples collected before dietary treatment and at regular post-treatment intervals for 18 months. Routine diet consisted of a variety of fruits, vegetables, a multivitamin supplement, and a commercial low-iron avian pellet, with a total dietary iron content of 55 mg/kg (dry matter) or 1.12 mg iron/bird/day on an as-fed basis. Dietary treatment involved removal of the commercial avian pellet for 30 days at 12-month intervals, for a total iron content of 42 mg/kg (dry matter) or 0.64 mg iron/bird/day on an as-fed basis. Average serum iron and TIBC were significantly decreased by 75% (TIBC) to 80% (serum iron) of pre-treatment values after one 30-day treatment, achieving levels below published normal values for similarly susceptible species.4 Average percent transferrin saturation levels were lowered by 10% of pre-treatment values after one 30-day treatment but remained above the target value of 80%.1 Average hematocrit and body weight remained unchanged. No adverse effects were noted throughout the 18-month evaluation period and breeding behavior was undisturbed. Periodic removal of low-iron commercial pellets from the diet of captive Bird of Paradise is a safe and effective method for lowering serum iron values without need for handling. Periodic application of this technique also may be useful as a preventive tool to maintain appropriate serum iron values in other avian species susceptible to iron storage disease.


We would like to thank the keeper and curatorial staff of the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, WA for their assistance and support in this novel treatment study.

Literature Cited

1.  Lowenstine, L.J., and L. Munson. 1999. Iron overload in the animal kingdom. In: Fowler, M.E. and R. E. Miller (eds.). Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, 4th ed. W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pp. 260–268.

2.  Olsen, G.P., K.E. Russell, E. Dierenfeld, M.D. Falcon, and D.N. Phalen. 2006. Impact of supplements on iron absorption from diets containing high and low iron concentrations in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). J. Avian Medicine and Surgery 20:67–73.

3.  Olsen, G.P., K.E. Russell, E. Dierenfeld, and D.N. Phalen. 2006. A comparison of four regimens for treatment of iron storage disease using the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) as a model. J. Avian Medicine and Surgery 20:74–79.

4.  Worell, A. 1991. Serum iron levels in ramphastids. Proc. Am. Assoc. Zoo Vet. pp. 120–130.


Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Kelly E. Helmick, DVM, MS, DACZM
Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle, WA, USA

MAIN : AAZV Conference : Dietary Treatment of Fe Storage Disease in Birds of Paradise
Powered By VIN