Understanding the Avian Shoulder: Anatomy and Pathology of the Coracoid
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010
Mark Pokras1, DVM; Charity Uman2, MS

1Wildlife Clinic and Center for Conservation Medicine, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA, USA; 2School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA


The coracoid is one of four bones in the avian pectoral girdle. It is a short, thick bone connecting the sternum to the shoulder such that the ventral coracoid articulates with the cranial part of the sternum and the dorsal, distal coracoid articulates with the scapula to define the glenoid cavity. The sterno-coracoid articulation is an elongate synovial joint that permits both hinge-type movements and mediolateral gliding.1 The sternal surface of this articulation is a narrow, curved groove in which the proximal coracoid glides.2 The coracoid, by way of soft tissue attachments, is involved in rotation, depression, elevation, and protraction of the humerus, elbow and forearm flexion, manus and alular extension.5,6,8

Studies have shown that coracoid injuries often yield a characteristic flight pattern described as an inability to gain altitude while flying only short distances, low to the ground. This is most likely due to an inability to raise the injured wing above the shoulder. Wing droop may or may not be present. Concurrent soft tissue trauma often results.4,5

Coracoid fractures are common, and their repair has been described.3,4 However, the diversity of fracture types is poorly defined in the literature and differential prognoses for proximal, mid-shaft, and distal fractures are poorly understood.

Coracoid luxations are less common and are said to have a poor prognosis.7 However, the authors believe coracoid luxations carry a fair to good prognosis depending on variables such as wing loading. Successful rehabilitation of birds with such luxations is reported or is currently in progress (Uman and Pokras, unpublished).3 Coracoid luxations can be difficult to identify radiographically and orthogonal views are important for evaluation. Post-release studies are needed to document the survival of these birds, as well as to determine any long-term osteoarthritic changes that may occur.

Literature Cited

1.  Baumel JJ, Raikow RJ. Arthrologia. In: Baumel JJ, ed. Handbook of Avian Anatomy: Nomina Anatomica Avium. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Nuttall Ornithological Club; 1993:133–187.

2.  Baumel JJ, Witmer LM. Osteologia. In: Baumel JJ, ed. Handbook of Avian Anatomy: Nomina Anatomica Avium. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Nuttall Ornithological Club; 1993;45–132.

3.  Guzman DS, Buenik LJ, Lauer SK, Vasanjee S, Mitchell MA. Repair of a coracoid luxation and a tibiotarsal fracture in a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). J Avian Med Surg. 2007;21:188–195.

4.  Holz PH. Coracoid fractures in wild birds: repair and outcomes. Aust Vet J. 2003;81(8):469–471.

5.  Orosz SE, Redig PT. Clinical anatomy of the thoracic limb. In: Proceedings of Association of Avian Veterinarians Annual Conference. 2000; Lake Worth, FL.

6.  Raikow RJ. Locomotor system. In: King AS, McLelland J, eds. Form and Function in Birds. Volume 3. London, England: Academic Press; 1985:57–147

7.  Redig PT. Coracoid fracture management in raptors: assessment of the conservative approach. AAV Conference Proceedings. Abstract: 2009.

8.  Vanden Berg JC, Zweers GA. Myologia. In: Baumel JJ, ed. Handbook of Avian Anatomy: Nomina Anatomica Avium. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Nuttall Ornithological Club; 1993:189–247.


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

Mark A. Pokras, DVM
Center for Conservation Medicine
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Tufts University
Medford, MA, USA

MAIN : AAZV Conference : Understanding the Avian Shoulder
Powered By VIN