Metabolic bone disease (MBD) was diagnosed in two chicks produced by a captive breeding colony of African spoonbills (Platalea alba). The birds were housed indoor during the winter breeding season and had no access to natural sunlight. When the index cases occurred, the nesting birds and chicks had a mean 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) concentration of 9.9 ± 2.7 nmol/L and a mean ionized calcium (iCa) concentration of 0.98 ± 0.12 mmol/L (winter pretreatment). For comparison purposes, serum was collected the following summer; mean 25-OHD was 20.8 ± 3.9 nmol/L and mean iCa was 1.32 ± 0.05 mmol/L (summer). During the following breeding season, ultraviolet B (UVB) lighting was provided to the flock, resulting in a mean 25-OHD of 19.0 ± 5.6 nmol/L and mean iCa of 1.23 ± 0.06 mmol/L (winter treatment 1). Both 25-OHD and iCa were significantly higher compared with winter pretreatment, and 25-OHD was not significantly different from summer, indicating that treatment during the winter months succeeded in increasing 25-OHD levels to summer levels. However, winter treatment 1 and summer iCa were significantly different. During the next breeding season (winter treatment 2), the birds were exposed to a light with higher UVB output. The mean 25-OHD of the flock was 16.5 ± 7.2 nmol/L, and the mean iCa increased to 1.34 ± 0.04 mmol/L. Both were comparable to summer values. Healthy chicks were hatched during both breeding seasons, and no further cases of MBD occurred during the course of the study. Provision of a UVB light source to captive African spoonbills maintained indoors during the winter months can increase 25-OHD and iCa to levels equivalent to those seen in the summer months, when birds have unrestricted access to natural sunlight. UVB lighting is recommended for all breeding spoonbills that do not have access to natural sunlight.
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