It’s been an eventful couple of weeks, what with Canada geese, owls and kestrels coming in here...well, to be accurate, only one goose and one kestrel, but still, it’s been a busier-than-usual first half of December.
The Canada goose, unfortunately, didn’t make it. We’re still not sure what was up with this bird. Folks found him in their yard, right off a highway, and brought him to me. Jim Hobby at Smalley’s did X-rays and a thorough exam, and there were no broken bones and his heart and lungs sounded fine, but he was having difficulty breathing. My gut said euthanize, but Jim and I had both had our fill of euthanasias at that point, so we opted to give the bird a chance. He died within an hour of my getting him back home. I don’t often go against that gut instinct, but sometimes doing so has paid off; in this case, it didn’t. There may have been a slow bleed from internal injuries, or maybe massive tissue damage that no physical exam would show--we just don’t know. And yes, that can be extremely frustrating, but it will happen in wildlife rehab. It’s one of those things you just have to accept: even when injuries appear to be minor, there may be some life-threatening internal injury that will take out that animal you thought had a pretty good chance...
This update isn’t all gloom and doom, though-- just last week I received a kestrel and a barred owl in the same night, both in fairly good shape, although both were apparently hit by cars. Of course, both were at Smalley’s the very next morning, where Peggy Hobby and I were delighted to discover that neither had broken bones. The kestrel had some swelling in the left hip that indicated soft-tissue injury, and the owl had a lovely little concussion going on.
Kestrels are sometimes called sparrow hawks, although they’re actually very small falcons. They’re gorgeous birds and, sadly, not as common in Georgia as they used to be. Because this adult male needed long-term, specialized care that I’m not licensed to provide, he was transferred to Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends raptor rehab, where at last report, he was showing marked improvement. When I transferred him, he couldn’t use the left leg at all; yesterday he was using both legs!
The barred owl, whom I suspect was female based on her size - female raptors are generally larger than males - was only concussed, so I was able to keep her for 48 hours and simply release her. Because she was an adult, however, she had to be taken back to McRae and released near where she’d been found. My niece Caitlan was able to go with me for the release, and she used my camera to snap some pretty decent photos, since I was otherwise occupied. Thanks to Caitlan, you can see the release below.
I also received another adult barred owl, also hit by car and also with no fractures. This one, however, appears to have head injuries that have resulted in blindness. This could be temporary, but as with the kestrel, treatment will require more specialized care than I’m qualified to provide, so this owl will also be going to Steve Hicks.
And how many of you were aware that Friday’s full moon was the closest the moon has been to Earth this year? Yep, that’s why it looked somewhat larger in the night sky. I know, not strictly rehab-related, but I like photographing full moons!
My next update will be in January, as I aim at the 1st and 15th of every month, so let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a Merry Christmas–and to remind you that the best year-round gifts you can give our native wildlife are food, water, cover and safe places to raise their young.