Foot lesions can compromise the health and welfare of captive birds. In this study, we estimated the prevalence of foot lesions in captive flamingos (Phoenicopteridae). The study was based on photos of 1,495 pairs of foot soles from 854 flamingos in 18 European and two Texan (USA) zoological collections. Methodology for evaluating flamingo feet lesions was developed for this project because no suitable method had been reported in the literature. Four types of foot lesions were identified: hyperkeratoses, fissures, nodular lesions, and papillomatous growths. Seven areas on each foot received a severity score from 0 to 2 for each type of lesion (0 = no lesion, 1 = mild to moderate lesion, 2 = severe lesion). The prevalence of birds with lesions (scores 1 or 2) were 100%, 87%, 17%, and 46% for hyperkeratosis, fissures, nodular lesions, and papillomatous growths, respectively. Birds with severe lesions (score 2) constituted 67%, 46%, 4%, and 12% for hyperkeratosis, fissures, nodular lesions, and papillomatous growths, respectively. Hyperkeratosis and nodular lesions were most prevalent on the base of the foot and the proximal portion of the digits, likely reflecting those areas bearing the most weight. The second and fourth digits were most affected with fissures and papillomatous lesions; these areas of the foot appear to be where the most flexion occurs during ambulation. The study demonstrates that foot lesions are highly prevalent and widely distributed in the study population, indicating that they are an extensive problem in captive flamingos.
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