Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

August 13, 2013

Update on oiled Great Blue Heron

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Photo by Paul Berry

Note: This bird is eligible for a symbolic adoption. If you’re a heron lover, please click here to find out how you can help this animal’s care.

The Great Blue Heron we received after it became oiled at a refinery a month ago is still in care recovering from its substantial skin injuries. The product this bird was contaminated with burned the bird’s skin over about 25% of its body, including large areas of its torso. Below, the heron undergoes a wash.

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Photo by Paul Berry

Two weeks ago, our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, surgically repaired the bird’s most severe injury where the skin along its spine was GHBEdead and adhered to the spine itself. This past week, Dr. Duerr again anesthetized the bird for wound evaluation. She found the back wound has healed completely, and much of the other skin damage has healed well.

However, four large areas of damage remain: one on each shoulder, one on the right thigh and one exposing the entire keel (sternum). The shoulder wounds are healing well with topical treatment, but the keel wound required surgical closure and the thigh wound required surgical debridement to remove dead muscle tissue.

The missing area of skin at the thigh spanned too large an area to merely close with sutures and required placement of a skin graft.

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Surgery photos by Dr. Rebecca Duerr

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This heron’s skin remains in such a delicate state that it was difficult to find a location with healthy enough skin from which to collect the graft. But skin was collected from the bird’s neck and placed to cover the defect on the thigh (see photo above).

Great Blue Herons are notoriously difficult to manage in captivity due to being simultaneously stressy and fragile birds likely to injure themselves in any captive housing. We are keeping the patient comfortable on pain medication, and this is helping keep him calm while his skin heals. The bird is doing a great job healing and continues to cooperate by maintaining a good appetite. This bird’s prognosis remains very guarded, but we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.

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Photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr

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