Emeraid Feeding Protocols for Starving or Emaciated Seabirds

Author: Dani Nicholson, licensed wildlife rehabilitator specializing in seabirds.
Date: January 29, 2011

Intake Examination:

  1. Blood Draw – Collect blood to run a packed cell volume (PCV) and total protein (TP). If unable to obtain a blood sample, use treatment protocol 1 until you are able to obtain a sample.
  2. Temperature – Stop exam if below 100ºF (38ºC). Warm the bird before continuing.

    Place seabirds in a room warmed to no less than 75-77ºF (24-25ºC). If the bird’s temperature does not rise to normal (102-106ºF or 39-41ºC) within approximately an hour or if the bird’s temperature is dangerously low, place a space heater in front of the crate, and possibly place a heating pad underneath the crate. Place a towel between the cage and the pad. Monitor the bird closely by visually watching the bird as well as taking its temperature often.

  3. Weight – see Table 1 below

Table 1. Normal body weight in seabirds *

Species, common nameSpecies, scientific nameNormal weight range (grams)
Cormorant, Brandt’sPhalacrocorax penicillatus2103
Cormorant, Double-crested Phalacorax auritus1400-2000
Grebe, Clark’sAechmophorus clarkii800-900
Grebe, Eared Podiceps nigricollis218-375
Grebe, HornedPodiceps auritus327-528
Grebe, Pied-billedPodilymbus podiceps343-551
Grebe, WesternAechmophorus occidentalis795-900**
Gull, WesternLarus occidentalis700-1000
Loon, CommonGavia immer3800-4480
Loon, Pacific Gavia pacifica1400-1700
Loon, Red-ThroatedGavia stellata1150-1980
Murre, CommonUria aalge600-700
Pelican, BrownPelecanus occidentalis2500-3700
* Weights vary due to sex and season
** Body weight up to 1818 grams has been seen in Western grebes.

Treatment Protocol 1 – Starvation
(PCV < 30%, TP < 2 g/dL)*
Quantity per tube feeding – 7% of body weight (kg)

For instance a 1000-gram bird could be gavaged up to 70 ml of fluid. Administer the fluid very slowly, and stop if fluid begins to well up in the back of the throat. If the bird is unable to hold 7%, then gradually work up to this volume.

Upon Intake: Gavage or tube warm lactated ringer’s solution (LRS) per os (PO) or subcutaneously (SC)
1 hour later:25% dilution of Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later:LRS (PO, SC)
1 hour later:35% dilution Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later:LRS
1 hour later: 45% dilution Emeraid Carnivore
2nd Day*LRS
1 hour later: 55% dilution Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later: 65% dilution Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later: 75% dilution Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later:85% dilution Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later:100% Emeraid Carnivore, made as directed per label instructions
2 hours later:LRS

NOTE: If bird is still dehydrated, you may add another LRS mid-day replacing one Emeraid tube feeding.

Treatment Protocol 2- Severe Starvation
(PCV < 20%, TP < 1 g/dL)*
Quantity per tube feeding – 7% of body weight (kg)

For instance a 1000-gram bird could be gavaged up to 70 ml of fluid. Administer the fluid very slowly, and stop if fluid begins to well up in the back of the throat. If the bird is unable to hold 7%, then gradually work up to this volume.

IntakeLRS (PO, SC)
1 hour later:10% Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later: LRS
1 hour later: 20% Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later: LRS
1 hour later: 30% Emeraid Carnivore
2 hours later: LRS
2nd Day*LRS
Same as Day 1 Except give one LRS tubing first, and then give 40% Emeraid Carnivore feedings all day.
3rd Day*Recheck blood and assess bird’s overall condition
Same as Day 2 Except give one LRS tubing first, and then give 50% Emeraid Carnivore feedings all day.

Continue until blood levels and bird’s energy can tolerate higher percentages. In rare cases, it may take up to 4-5 days for a severely emaciated bird to tolerate Emeraid as directed on the label, and possibly 5-6 days to eat solid food.

These protocols are not an exact science, but merely guidellines. Originally these protocols were used for starving and emaciated pelicans, but they are now used for all seabirds in similar states. Feel free to contact me with comments, questions, suggestions at dani.r.nicholson@gmail.com.– Dani Nicholson

Dani Nicholson is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in California. Dani opened Pacific Wildlife Care in 2007 and she has served as the Center Director and President. Dani now focuses on hatchling and nestling songbird care from her home facility. She is also an educator for Pacific Wildlife Care, caring for and providing outreach with a turkey vulture named ‘Ms. Handsome’. Dani has worked with The Marine Mammal Center at the San Luis Obispo Operations site as a volunteer supervisor and a medical staff member since 2002. Dani has also worked with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network in California since 2003 and maintains her 24-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) certification. Dani recently began her own non-profit corporation named Willow Tree Wildlife, which is primarily involved in education outreach with her federally permitted California brown pelican named Morro. Dani is a member of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA), the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC), and the California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators (CCWR).