Apus apus   German Association for the Protection of
  Common Swifts
NewsThe swiftFoundlingVeterinarySwift Rescue CenterAssociationHelp & DonateMiscellaneous
 deutsch español italiano français polski Foundling  →  Complications  →  Shock

Shock, cramps

Cramp attacks due to vitamin B deficiency. © C. Haupt

Very many accidents due to collisions with electricity wires, cars, window panes or similar end immediately and fatally, so that no more help is possible. If the bird survives immediately after the accident then quick treatment is necessary: as fast as possible, treatment for shock by a vet must be undertaken.

Do not attempt to give food or drink to the bird!

Cramps and disturbances of the central nervous system can have very different origins. Frequently they appear as a result of an accident, and sometimes an affected swift has simply a concussion, and is only weak and dazed and recovers after a few days of rest and warmth. However if more serious symptoms appear, e.g. cramp attacks, moving in circles, somersaults and turning head over heels, stiff and unnatural head movements, then the prognosis is more doubtful. Such patients belong in the hands of an avian vet as soon as possible!

Attacks of cramps can also be observed in hand-raised swifts, which have been correctly fed with insects. The cause is a lack of vitamin B complexes.

The symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency can appear very suddenly, progress rapidly and when untreated have fatal consequences. The development is more dramatic the younger the swift is: a nestling a few days old can die from it in an hour.

The symptoms begin inconspicuously with loss of appetite, fixed gaze and convulsive head movements, and progress to "throwing the head against the neck", convulsions and moving around in circles. For adult birds one may also observe blood-curdling screams, painful scratching and wild tossing about. Such cases can be promptly treated by an injection of Vitamin B complex from a vet. Usually such birds are quite calm within half an hour.

Swifts which are fed with mealworms or with low quality grasshoppers are more quickly affected, as well as those which after a normal growth period must remain in human hands, e.g. due to moulting. However over the last few years, understanding has grown of the previously unexplained reasons for the incidence of these problems of sensitive swifts in captivity, so that it is recommended that birds be given a prophylactic sub-cutaneous injection of vitamin B complex every 10-12 days by a vet.

Supplements of vitamin B by mouth (or more precisely, by beak) have been found to be largely ineffective. Also preventative enrichment of food seems not to be able to eliminate symptoms of vitamin deficiency. The syndrome of Vitamin B complex deficiency is also known for swallows and other insect-eating songbirds which are in human care.


Buchenstraße 9
D-65933 Frankfurt

Tel.:+49(69)35 35 15 04
We accept only swifts! Questions regarding other bird species will not be answered!
Information regarding other bird species: http://www.wildvogelhilfe.org/
Start  ·  Flag  ·  Directions  ·  Sitemap ·  deutsch español italiano français polski