Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Smarter Than the Average Bird

A few days ago, as I arrived at the World Bird Sanctuary to catch up on some paperwork,  I noticed a couple headed toward the hospital carrying a large cardboard box securely bound with rope.  

Staff member, Roger Holloway, unwrapping  the mystery package while Mr. & Mrs. Iven look on

For most people, at this time of year, this would mean someone was getting a belated Christmas present.  However, at the World Bird Sanctuary, that usually indicates one thing--an injured bird being brought in for treatment!  Since I never go to the Sanctuary without a camera, I decided to tag along and see what sort of surprise was in the box.

The couple carefully carrying the large box were a Mr. and Mrs. Iven from Sullivan, MO.  They had been startled by a loud banging at their front door, but when they went to see what all the commotion was about, there was no one there.  There was, however, a large dark bird in the front yard who seemed to be dragging one of it's wings.  It was a turkey vulture.  They then noticed that there were large bird footprints in the snow in front of their door.  Now, anyone who works with birds of prey will tell you that turkey vultures are VERY smart--BUT REALLY!!  KNOCKING AT THE DOOR?

After they got over their surprise, they managed to capture the bird by throwing a large towel or blanket over him, and then proceeded to try to find out what to do with him now that they had him.  They contacted the World Bird Sanctuary's Office of Wildlife Learning who put them in contact with Roger Holloway who manages our Wildlife Hospital.

By the time Mr. and Mrs. Iven arrived with their Special Delivery, our staff was waiting for them.  The Iven's thought that the bird may have been shot, since they had heard the sound of gunfire in their rural area a couple of days before their discovery.

However, upon an initial examination by staff member, Roger Holloway, and our vet, Dr. Stacey Siebel-Spath, it appears that this was a young bird, who at some time in the past had sustained an injury to it's elbow.  The injury seems to have healed on it's own; however, it had not healed correctly and the bird was unable to achieve full extension of the injured wing, inhibiting it's ability to fly.  Since we have had such a mild fall and early winter it was probably subsisting on carrion that it was able to find in the fields, or on roadkill; but now that winter is upon us and snow is covering the ground it would probably not have survived much longer on it's own since it was already in a weakened condition.

The bird was admitted to our Wildlife Hospital for further evaluation.  Mr. and Mrs. Iven were given a case number for the bird so that they could call and check on his progress if they so desired.  It may be quite a while before we know the prognosis for this (apparently) very intelligent bird.

This is how a great many of the more than 300 birds we receive at our hospital each year arrive.  Our thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Iven for caring enough to drive in from Sullivan so that this amazing creature could have a second chance at life.

Stories such as this one are all too common in our wildlife hospital.  The World Bird Sanctuary's Wildlife Hospital has an amazing success rate.  This past year we released over 50% of the 300 plus birds that were admitted.  That's 12% higher than the national average.  We couldn't do it without the generous support of our sponsors and donors.  On average it costs up to $1,000 to treat a bird admitted to our hospital, depending on the severity of their injuries and the time necessary for rehabilitation.   Some, such as the Tundra Swans recently admitted, will cost much more.  Please consider making a donation to help treat these and many more patients in the coming year by clicking on the Donate button.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, Volunteer/Photographer for the World Bird Sanctuary

1 comment:

Photog said...

Unfortunately, I have just received word that the turkey vulture featured in this post had to be humanely euthanized. After looking at his x-rays it was determined that this was, indeed, an old break that had not healed correctly and that there was no way this bird would ever be able to fly again. It could not have survived if released, and would have died of slow starvation if returned to the wild. As wildlife rehabilitators this is the most difficult part of our job, and it saddens us every time we must euthanize a patient. The other 50%--the ones that ARE releasable--are the ones that keep us doing what we do.