As mentioned in our recent hospital update blog, there are a number of reasons why an injured bird might be brought in to our raptor hospital. Generally speaking, cases are fairly cut and dried - the falconers are all very experienced and have seen a wide variety of injuries over the years, so they can normally tell whether they will be able to rehabilitate a bird, or whether the kindest thing is to minimise distress and suffering and ask our vet to put the bird to sleep.
However, things aren’t always as they might first appear, as was the case with a Common Buzzard that was brought in to the Sanctuary late in January by a doctor who was out having a country walk with his son. They found the unfortunate buzzard under a bush and the immediate nature of its condition - bloodied wings, belly and foot - suggested that it had been mauled by either a fox or a dog.
When the doctor arrived at the Sanctuary, Maz took the bird in to the hospital: first impressions weren’t good and Maz wasn’t at all hopeful for its survival. However, as it wasn’t possible to get the buzzard seen by a vet until the following day, Maz elected to take it home with her overnight, where she kept it warm and regularly administered fluids to avoid dehydration. She was actually more than somewhat surprised to find that it was still alive the following morning and immediately made the first possible appointment with the vet.
X-rays were taken and it was then that the shocking truth was discovered - the bird hadn’t been mauled at all, it had been shot and the nature of the injuries also indicated that it had been shot while on the wing. The poor bird had not only sustained a badly broken wing, but the x-rays showed clearly that it had been shot in both a leg and the stomach. Apart from the obvious implications of being shot, the buzzard could easily have died from shock or from poisonous lead getting into its system - fortunately, it appeared that tissue had grown around the lead shot and had sealed it from the rest of the bird’s system, thus saving it from lead poisoning.
Maz felt that the bird had already battled so hard to live that she really had to give it the best possible chance to make a complete recovery. Since that time, the buzzard has been taken to the vets on a weekly basis and has been given a high dose of metacalm, which is both a painkiller and anti-inflammatory and strong antibiotics for two weeks.
The vet also recommended that the buzzard be confined for three weeks so that it didn’t damage the healing wing bones. Broken wings can be very tricky and it very much depends on where the wing is broken as to whether it will ever support flight again. Fortunately, in this case it appears that the main wing bone has supported the broken bone, allowing it to callus over and heal.
The buzzard is now in one of the Sanctuary’s specially designed rehab aviaries, where it is very calm and settled. So, what could have been a disaster has hopefully turned into a success story and, all being well, it should only be around two months before the bird can have a final assessment and - fingers crossed - be released back into the wild. We’ll keep you posted!
Shooting birds of prey is illegal and carries a heavy maximum fine of £5,000!