Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical agent was responsible for the death of millions of Gyps vulture’s in the Indian sub-region with the safety of the other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) being questionable. With preclinical safety testing not well established for avian species unlike for mammalian and environmental toxicity, we ask the question if a preclinical model could have predicted the toxic effect of the drug. For this study, we test an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guideline 223 for assessing the acute toxic potential of pesticides in birds by exposing three avian species to the drug. Exposed Japanese quails (Coturnix japonica) and Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata) demonstrated clinical signs and pathology similar to those previously reported in vultures viz. hyperuricemia, depression, death, visceral gout and nephrosis. However, exposed domestic pigeons (Columba livia domestica) were insensitive. Following a pharmacokinetic analysis, the drug was well absorbed and distributed in the pigeons with a half-life below 6 h. A toxicokinetic evaluation in quails showed poisoning was due to metabolic constraint, with a half-life and mean residence time above 6 h and 8 h respectively resulting in death. Toxicity seen in the ducks was however not related to metabolic constraint but hyperuricemia as metabolism was rapid [half-life (1–2 h) and mean residence time (2–3 h)] irrespective of survival or death. Despite succumbing to diclofenac, the established oral median lethal dose (LD50) of 405.42 mg/kg and 189.92 mg/kg in Japanese quails and Muscovy ducks respectively from this study were substantially higher than those reported for Gyps vultures (0.098 mg/kg) which is as a result of the rapid elimination of the drug from the body in the former species. More importantly, it suggests that these species are not suitable as surrogates for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug toxicity testing and that the toxicity of diclofenac in vultures is idiosyncratic most likely as a result of species specific metabolism.