Friday, April 18, 2014

Bald Eagle....Freedom for A Special Patient

by Calah Beckwith
Lead Wildlife Keeper

A bald eagle is a rare and special patient at the VINS Wild Bird Hospital. Recently, we had the privilege of providing care for an injured juvenile eagle. He was found on March 21 in Danby, VT by game warden Justin Stedman. He was sitting on the side of a road, seeming weak and stunned. 

When he arrived at VINS, we were incredibly concerned about his condition. He was so weak that he was unable to hold his head up. He was emaciated, exhibited signs of head trauma, and we suspected that he had been hit by a car. We started him immediately on fluid therapy - our treatment for emaciation and dehydration - as well as medications for head trauma, pain, and weakness.

When we placed him in his enclosure, he was unable to stand on his own, and we had give him a soft towel "donut" to sit in. His breathing was shallow, and he was so weak that I feared he wouldn't make it through the night.

When I came in the next morning, I checked on him first thing. Amazingly enough, he was standing up and quite alert! As the days went by, he became stronger - and I mean STRONG. By his second day in our care, it took three people to handle him; we are able to handle most raptors with two people. Bald eagles are incredibly powerful birds, and in a rehab setting, we develop an intense respect for their strength. It is impressive.

Needless to say, this eagle progressed quickly. He was eating massive amounts of food - rabbit, chicken, rat - in no time. He put on weight, stretched his wings in our flight cage, and then it was time to bid him a fond farewell.

So on a chilly Tuesday morning, we said goodbye to this powerful, beautiful bird. I have no doubt he'll succeed in the wild - he's strong, and he's a fighter.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Roughed-up Ruffed Grouse

by VINS Staff

Ruffed Grouse, Bonasa umbellus
Have you ever wondered where birds sleep? Birds sleep, or roost, in any number of places - in trees and cavities, on the ground; some even roost under the snow. The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), a common New England ground-feeding bird related to the chicken and turkey, has a very unusual roosting ritual. When snow depths reach at least 10 inches, the bird will plunge down from a height into the snow. The grouse will burrow in and hollow out a cavity, creating a pocket of air under the snow. The snow acts as an insulator, keeping the cavity warmer than the air above, while also offering protection from avian predators. When the time comes to vacate their roost, the grouse explodes up out of the snow, causing alarm to anyone in the vicinity.

Ruffed Grouse in VINS' Rehabilitation Center
Photo by Sara Eisenhauer
Recently, the VINS Wildlife Services Department played host to a ruffed grouse that got himself into a bit of trouble. When a grouse “explodes,” he often does not see obstacles that are nearby, which can result in collisions with buildings, windows, or cars. This particular bird crashed through a plate glass window! VINS’ grouse patient was amazingly lucky and sustained minimal injuries – he had a few cuts and abrasions, an injury to his right eye, and a broken toe on his left foot. He was given a little birdie “boot” to stabilize his toe, his cuts were cleaned, and his injured eye was rinsed and cleaned. After about two weeks in rehab, the ruffed grouse was healthy and fit, and he was returned to his home in the wild.

Ruffed Grouse
Photo by Bill Byrne, Mass. Energy & Environmental Affairs