Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Patient of the Month

February 7, 2020

Success Stories: White Pelican Back In The Wild After Months in Care

This American White Pelican is a survivor. He was released at McNabney Marsh in Martinez, CA. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

After 143 days in care this resilient American White Pelican is back in the wild.

This huge bird came into care in September 2019 and it was finally released last week. He was originally found in Santa Rosa, CA with a smelly, infected, open fracture of the wingtip. It was treated at our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center

On examination, we found a deep tunnel full of infected material open to the fracture zone. On radiographs, we could see that the bones were shattered right next to the proximal metacarpophalangeal joint. Two wingtip bones that are normally fused were not only broken free of each other, but had infected debris in the space between them.

White Pelican wing tip x-ray

Initially, clinic staff and veterinarian focused on getting the infection under control while simultaneously stabilizing the fracture with a splint/bandage combination. Infected tissue was removed under anesthesia, and the wound healed very well. Unfortunately, the bones did not fuse to each other like they need to do in order for the bird to fly. The bird had what is called a non-union, where fragments of bone persist in staying separate, and this non-union is one our vet had not encountered before. Consequently, she decided to try pinning it, inserting threaded cross pins in an ‘X’ pattern to force the two bones to be immobilized in relation to each other. Thankfully it worked.

After the pins were removed, our staff had to help this patient regain strength in its wings to prepare for release. White pelicans can be a bit difficult to get to fly in an aviary even when there is nothing wrong with their wings, and this bird was no exception. He just didn’t want to cooperate. So for this bird, Wildlife Center Manager Isabel Luevano made his physical therapy progress a personal priority and several times a week made him flap strongly while being safely supported in hand, and then would boost him over the pool, thus encouraging him to fly and land on the water; no small feat with a huge bird. All of the hard work by staff and volunteers paid off!

During recovery, the White Pelican received generous pool therapy at the San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

 

November 27, 2019

Patient of the Month: Laysan Albatross

A Laysan Albatross that arrived into care at our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center is our patient of the month. The bird was originally found at Marina State Beach and transferred to us by our friends at Monterey Bay SPCA.

After stabilization, the Laysan Albatross had its dirty feathers washed. Photos and video by Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

On arrival, the albatross was alarmingly underweight, very anemic, weak, and dehydrated. The intake exam found multiple wounds and swelling on the birds feet and that the patient was unable to stand. The bird is very small in stature for a Laysan Albatross, so is likely a female. She had two discrete abscesses at the bottom of her painful foot, hence we started her on antibiotics and pain medications. After several days of intensive care, the bird was strong enough for us to treat her foot abscesses and take radiographs to check for skeletal or internal abnormalities. Our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, reviewed the radiographs and had a few important findings: the abscesses thankfully did not appear to involve the bones of the foot joint, plus she had two fractures, one of the tibiotarsus (the longest of the 3 leg bone in birds) literally at the knee and another fracture of the fibula. Bloodwork showed her to have substantial muscle damage and an elevated white blood cell count.

In the last few weeks she has made remarkable progress, going from 1359 grams to ~2000 grams. Her leg is still weak and the fractures have been slow to heal, but the foot abscesses have resolved. The anemia has largely resolved, and she has transitioned to living in a large outdoor pool during the day, and indoors at night in a beach-like sand-bottom pen. In the pool, our staff created a submerged “island” for this special patient, giving her a place to float with the weight off her leg while being able to stand in a semi-supported way. At night she can rest on sand like she would if she were on an island.

The albatross’ improvement these past few weeks has been amazing to see, and has been driven by our staff’s constant communication and shifting care decisions that keep her moving in the right direction towards recovery. Although she is not out of the woods yet and our vet has concerns about her ability to eventually walk comfortably considering the nature of the knee injury, her improvement so far has been remarkable. We hope this beautiful bird continues to heal and will soon be able to return to her natural home in the wild!

If you would like to support this bird’s care, please consider a donation to Bird Rescue.