Avian Venipuncture

Venipuncture in birds is not so different than in dogs and cats.  There are three main sites from which to draw blood.

Jugular Vein

Best located on the right side of the bird’s neck.  The left jugular vein may be used but it tends to be smaller than the right jugular.   It is easy to find because it runs down the neck where there are no feathers.  Since there is not a lot of soft tissue or fat in this area hematomas can easily develop.




Basilic Vein

Also known as the ulnar or wing vein, it is located on the inside of the bird’s ulna.  Like the jugular, it lacks a layer of soft tissue and hematomas are common.



Medial Metatarsal Vein

Located across the hock joint.  This vein is smaller than the jugular and the basilic but the skin is thicker and hematomas are less likely to occur.



Clipping a toe nail short is not an acceptable method for obtaining blood as it is painful and leaves the bird’s foot open to infection.

Now that you know where to draw the blood from it’s necessary to know what you’re going to draw it with and where are you going to put it.

It is recommended to use a 28 or 27 gauge needle for birds weighing less than 100g and a 25 gauge needle for birds weighing more than 100g.  Insulin syringes may also be used.

The blood test that is going to be run dictates which type of blood tube will be used.

Purple Top– Ethylenediaminetretraacetic acid is added to the tube as an anticoagulant.  Immediately after adding the blood to the tube, gently invert to disperse the EDTA to prevent any clotting.  Use this tube if the sample is to be used for hematology including white blood cell counts/differentials, platelet estimates, hematocrit, and reticulocyte counts.

Tiger Top– Serum separator tube.  Use this tube when running a chemistry profile.  The blood must be allowed to clot for approximately 15 minutes before being spun down in the centrifuge.  After spinning, the serum will be at the top of the tube where it can be pipetted or poured off for testing.

Green Top– Contains the anticoagulant Sodium Heparin.  This tube must also be gently inverted to disperse the anticoagulant.  You would choose this tube for special tests including toxicology.

-Blue Top– Contains citrate.  Gently invert after blood has been added.  This tube is used when testing clotting profiles.

This link maps out tubes and what to do with them…Blood_Tubes_and_Labeling_Guidelines

With the appropriate tubes and needles ready you can now ask your coworker to restrain the bird if it is not showing signs of extreme stress.  Drawing blood on  a bird only to cause it to spiral down even more is not worth it.  With the bird being calmly restrained, Insert the needle bevel up and draw the blood as smoothly as possible.  Due to birds having a higher blood pressure than that of cats and dogs it may be necessary to apply pressure to the venipuncture site for 30-60 seconds to stop bleeding and prevent a hematoma from forming.

Sources here and here


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