Isla joined us recently at nestling age after being rescued by well-meaning but inexperienced people. We do not know a lot about Isla’s story other than that she has been found as a presumed orphan. We understand that the carer struggled increasingly to raise Isla. After about two weeks they gave up and brought Isla eventually to a local bird rescue, who recognised immediately that Isla was in great trouble. Subsequently, we have been asked to take over Isla’s longterm care and rehabilitation, which we did.
Coexistence of Multiple Health Conditions
After a thorough assessment we found that Isla showed signs of a septicaemia with undulating temperatures. She also demonstrated extensive soft tissue swellings involving hock, ankle and foot joints. Interestingly, Isla’s wing joints were completely preserved. Both very swollen hock joints showed already several small pressure sores. Additionally, obscured by the marked joint swelling, we also noticed an unusual deformity of Isla’s right-sided hock joint and foot, which rather looked like a traumatic injury than a congenital deformity or simple involvement by the coexisting inflammatory joint disease. It was difficult to ascertain the exact pathology due to the severity of joint and soft tissue swelling. However, careful physical examination showed a lack of sensation and power in the injured foot, which made it likely that a trauma has caused at least part of the hock joint swelling, having also lead to a nerve injury. Also, it seemed very likely that Isla has suffered a spinal contusion, as she showed a slight weakness in both legs, whilst both hip joints remained unaffected by joint infection and lack of power. Not unexpected in Isla’s case, as her immune system was clearly overwhelmed, we found her suffering of an external and internal parasite infestation.
It seems likely that Isla has suffered initially a trauma, likely a nest fall, and suffered multiple injuries, which have been made worse by a generalised systemic infection, the latter most likely being facilitated by her weakened immune system. After discussion with our veterinary surgeon, we decided to start, in addition to topical wound care, an extended course of antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory drugs. We treated against ecto- and endoparasites and provided sufficient supplements including probiotics, minerals and vitamins together with a well balanced diet. It took more than four weeks of intense treatment to successfully eliminate the infection. We carefully splinted the comminuted hock joint fracture, which went unnoticed by her rescuers. Unfortunately, we were not able to achieve an ideal fracture position, nor did we manage to restore the joint function fully, the latter being additionally affected by the residual nerve damage. This problem could have been at least partly avoided, if the fracture would have been discovered early enough, at a time when it was still possible to correct the fracture fragment position and to protect the nerve. Sadly, fractures are commonly overlooked by unexperienced carers, in particular in nestling birds, which naturally spend a considerable amount of their time laying in the nest without using their extremities.
The Will to Live
Fractures in birds tend to heal very quickly, some of them even within three or four days, depending on the size of the bird and the bones affected. The symptoms of Isla’s spinal contusion are now gradually resolving as well. The hock joint pressure sores are healing slowly but steadily, still requiring the daily application of padded joint dressings and of course a softly padded enclosure floor. We managed to stabilise Isla’s situation, and she started to gain weight again. Isla is now becoming more and more active and is coping extremely well with her impairment. It is amazing and very touching to observe her strong will and desire to get better, and she is doing her best to get there.
Help or Not to Help
Despite Isla’s impairment we are happy that Isla has been rescued in the first instance, and that we are able to give her a second chance and a permanent home. Some people may want wild animals to be helped yet fear that they lack the knowledge to do it properly, and that they would do more harm than good. Fortunately, there are usually ways to help poorly, injured or orphaned wild animals. To give an animal in need of help the best chance he or she deserves, please contact your local bird rescue or rehabber to get expert advice and to get the animal properly assessed. This is in particular important in situations where the rescuer has no or only little experience in the care and rehabilitation of a wild animal. Please ask for advice as soon as possible. Time is always of an essence.
The primary objective should always be to avoid suffering and to treat and rehabilitate the animal so that it can be at some point released back safely into the wild. Isla is not going to be releasable, but she will have a safe and happy permanent home with us. Our resident rook Lyra has already shown some considerable interest in Isla, and we hope that Isla will be able to join her in the big enclosure very much soon.