Basics of Avian Radiography

If you have read our recent article in VetNews, you will have seen the "Ventro-Dorsal Projection of an African Grey Parrot"

Check out our blog below for the "Right Lateral Projection of an African Grey Parrot"  


avian X-ray

Musculoskeletal System 

Assess the musculoskeletal system for trauma, arthritis and abnormal radiopacity.


Assess the crop for abnormal distension, gas or foreign bodies.

Trachea and Syrinx

Assess the trachea and syrinx, especially in patients with inspiratory dyspnoea – aspergillus granulomas and foreign bodies can sometimes be visualised radiographically.


Assess the lungs. Normal lungs are described
as having a ‘honey-comb’ appearance. Assess for changes in radiopacity or the presence of masses. Masses are commonly fungal granulomas but can also be neoplastic or bacterial in origin.


Air sacs are radiolucent in the normal patient4. Changes in radio-opacity, the presence of radiopaque lines or loss of coelomic detail is indicative of pathology.

Urogenital System

Assess the urogenital system. Assess the kidneys for size, shape and radiopacity. Radiologically detectable pathology in this system can include neoplasia, renal calcinosis, egg binding and ovarian cysts. In reproductively active birds, the gonads can increase quite dramatically in size.

Proventriculus, ventriculus, intestines and spleen

The proventriculus, ventriculus, intestines and spleen are better visualised on the lateral projection. The presence of grit can facilitate locating the ventriculus. The normal spleen can sometimes be visualised as a spherical organ on the lateral view, an enlarged spleen can indicate infection. The normal proventriculus is sometimes visible on the lateral view, and can distend pathologically in conditions such as proventricular dilatation disease or lead toxicity. Intestines are not as visible as in mammals because they are devoid of gas in the normal bird.


Assess the area of the liver. Generally, in adult birds, the caudal margin of the hepatic silhouette should not extend past the caudal tip of the keel. A decrease in the size of the air sacs may indicate an organomegaly.

Cardiac Silhouette and Major Vessels

Assess the cardiac silhouette and major vessels for size and shape. An increase in size may be due to conditions such as pericardial effusion or cardiomegaly. A decreased size and an angular and retracted shape may indicate a microcardia associated with hypovolemia and dehydration. Artherosclerosis can sometimes be visualised by an increased radiopacity or calcification of the great vessels on lateral view. 

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