Steatitis in a Wild Common Loon (Gavia immer) and Review of the Literature


  • Jessica Bridgers BS Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Sara Hall MS, DVM Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Yuri Lawrence MS, DVM Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Tara Rittle DVM Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Rebecca Harris PhD Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Mark Pokras DVM Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine



Steatitis, fat, common loon, Gavia immer, vitamin E


Steatitis was diagnosed at necropsy in a debilitated, adult female common loon (Gavia immer), constituting the first known case of the disease in loons. Steatitis has been described most commonly in a variety of domestic and captive species. In these cases, the cause of steatitis is most often vitamin E deficiency in a diet comprised mainly of fish. Until roughly 20 years ago, the occurrence of steatitis in wildlife was relatively rare. However, the condition is being seen increasingly in herons in Japan and both coasts of the US. While several environmental factors have been correlated with the outbreaks, the causes remain unclear and may be multifactorial. Rehabilitators are in a unique position to recognize and report the event of steatitis in wild birds such as loons, allowing researchers to better understand the extent and cause of steatitis in wild birds.


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Author Biographies

Jessica Bridgers BS, Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Jessica Smith Bridgers received her BS in Biology from the University of New Mexico and is currently a research assistant for Dr. Pokras at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic.

Sara Hall MS, DVM, Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Sara Hall obtained a BS in marine biology and an MS in zoology prior to getting her DVM at Tufts. She finished an internship in small animal medicine and surgery and currently works as an emergency veterinarian in Tucson, AZ.

Yuri Lawrence MS, DVM, Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Yuri Lawrence received his DVM at Tufts and is currently a Small Animal Internal Medicine Resident and PhD student at Oregon State University.

Tara Rittle DVM, Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Tara Rittle graduated from the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003 and completed an internship in Wildlife and Conservation Medicine at Tufts University in 2004. She is currently working as a small animal and exotics veterinarian in Atlanta, GA.

Rebecca Harris PhD, Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Becky Harris is former director of the Massachusetts Audubon Coastal Waterbird Program and is an adjunct professor at Tufts University and Brandeis University. She is co–founder of the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET), a collaborative citizen science program of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine that focuses on using seabirds as sentinels of environmental health.

Mark Pokras DVM, Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Mark Pokras is a wildlife veterinarian, former director of the Tufts Wildlife Clinic, and one of the founders of Tufts’ Center for Conservation Medicine. He has been involved in wildlife rehabilitation since 1971.


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How to Cite

Bridgers, J. ., Hall, S., Lawrence, Y., Rittle, T., Harris, B., & Pokras, M. (2012). Steatitis in a Wild Common Loon (Gavia immer) and Review of the Literature. Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin, 30(1), 8–14.

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