A captive parakeet auklet at the North Carolina Zoo evaluated for weight loss, lethargy, and dyspnea had radiographic evidence of a distended, stone-filled ventriculus (bird 1). Multiple stones (n = 76) were removed surgically, but the bird died and a large ventricular diverticulum was diagnosed at necropsy. This bird and seven other parakeet auklets had been transferred 3 yr earlier from a zoo in Ohio. Radiographic investigation revealed that 6 of 7 Ohio birds had stones in their ventriculus (n = 2–26), but only 1 of 7 radiographed North Carolina Zoo auklets had one small stone. Further diagnostic imaging (survey and contrast radiographs, fluoroscopy, CT scans [n = 2]) of six Ohio and two North Carolina birds was conducted to determine if other birds had ventricular abnormalities (birds 2–9). No ventricular diverticula were diagnosed using imaging techniques, although two Ohio birds (birds 6 and 7) required surgical intervention to remove 12–26 stones. A small ventricular diverticulum was identified in bird 6 during surgery. That bird died of unrelated causes 11 mo after surgery, but bird 7 remains clinically normal more than 4 yr later, along with four other auklets with stones (n = 2∼15; birds 2–5). It is possible that without surgical intervention, these birds may develop ventricular disease, presumably due to chronic mechanical trauma to the thin-walled ventriculus. It was hypothesized that the Ohio birds ingested stones in their previous exhibit, with a loose stone substrate, and retained them for at least 3 yr. Possible causes for stone ingestion include trituration (for grinding, mixing coarse ingesta), gastric parasite reduction, hunger suppression, accidental ingestion while feeding, or behavioral causes, but the underlying cause in these birds was not determined. Based on these results, parakeet auklets and other alcids should not be housed, or at least fed, on a loose stone substrate.
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