Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Patient of the Month

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.