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Whole Kernel Corn Inhalation in Wild Turkeys

As part of a Manitoba Conservation project, one hundred and forty wild turkeys were banded during winter 2010, using bait and a pneumatic net launcher to capture the birds. Sites were baited with whole oats and rolled corn except for two which were baited with whole kernel corn. At one of the latter sites, two healthy birds, a tom and hen were captured, placed in individual ventilated holding boxes, and found dead 20 minutes later.


At necropsy, both birds were in excellent body condition and each had a large quantity of whole kernel corn in their upper digestive tract (esophagus, proventriculus, and ventriculus). Surprisingly, both birds also had a single kernel of corn lodged in the airway (trachea), at the bifurcation (point where the trachea divides in two, to supply air to the right and left lung). The corn kernels occluded the lumen of the trachea and the cause of death was thought to be asphyxiation.


Our colleagues in Manitoba, Frank Baldwin and Vince Crichton, upon learning of the diagnosis, supplied the following reference in which whole kernel corn inhalation was described in 1974 and 1991 in wild turkeys baited with whole kernel corn.


  1. www.uga.edu/scwds/topic_index/1991/WHOLEK~1.pdf
  2. Doster GL. 1974. Aspirated corn kernels cause death of canon-netted Wild Turkeys. Journal of Wildlife Management 38(3):578.


By: L. Bryan

Photos courtesy of F. Baldwin, MB Conservation