AIR SACS - Part of the Respiratory System

by Sally Blanchard

Parrots and other birds don't have a diaphragm to help them to breathe. There is no division between the chest and abdominal cavities. Air is moved in and out of the respiratory system through pressure changes in the air sacs. The air sacs of birds extend into the Upper wing bone (the humerus), the thigh bone (the femur, the vertebrae, and even the skull.
Birds have proportionally small lungs plus air sacs that play an important role in respiration. The air sacs permit a unidirectional flow of air through the lungs.
Air sacs also help with flight and in many diving birds allow them to sink into the water. With flight, when a bird takes off, that wing movement creates an air current (even in the bones) that fills the air sacs, makes the bird light enough to fly.
I have met several older parrots with a ruptured air sac in the clavicle area. One was a Festive Amazon and the other was a Blue and Gold Macaw. From time to time the air sac can puff up like a balloon and becomes pretty obvious. Sometimes the air sac will deflate by itself, slow gentle pressure can deflate it, but in some situations, it will need to be gently punctured by a veterinarian to let the air out - don't try to do this yourself!





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