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Crop Burn

Know the signs of crop burn in a parrot, and how to treat it.

Margaret A. Wissman
Posted: December 28, 2012, 2:45 p.m. PST


baby Alexandrine
A bird's crop is often covered with feathers, so it may be hard to spot a problem.
This is one of the most serious injuries that may occur in a baby bird. Crop burn occurs when a baby bird is fed food that is too hot, burning the delicate lining of the crop. Food should be between 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Since feathers may cover a burn, the owner might notrecognize the injury early on. This will usually result in the scab falling off and leaving a hole (a fistula) for the food to pour out of. Crop burns are usually third degree burns,causing extensive tissue damage.


A crop burn can occur when food is fed slightly too hot over the course of several feedings (approximately 115 degrees Fahrenheit) or when food is exceptionally hot (120 degrees Fahrenheit or above), for just one feeding.


If it is discovered that a bird has been fed formula that is too hot immediately after a feeding, the crop can be emptied and flushed with cool water to minimize the damage. This procedure should only be performed by an experienced hand-feeder.  However, most people hand-feeding a baby bird won’t notice a burn immediately, and the tissue will become damaged on the inside. As soon as a baby bird is discovered to have a crop burn, it should be evaluated by an avian veterinarian.

Crop burns can be avoided if a hand-feeder consistently use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the formula prior to hand feeding. The formula should never be microwaved, as this will cause hot-spots to develop, which can result in crop burns.


When a baby bird has a crop burn, an antibiotic and antifungal agent will be prescribed. The baby should be offered smaller, more frequent feedings. Other support care may be necessary. When the burn is scabbed over and a fistula has formed, surgical correction should be considered. Timing is critical when surgically correcting a crop burn because the tissue will deteriorate if the procedure is performed too soon after the burn, which could lead to sutures being pulled out, and the repair will break down. Most burns that have occurred in juvenile birds will completely heal over time and the bird will go on to live a normal, healthy life, with no lingering problems.

Disclaimer:’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

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