Green Heron Recovering From Broken Wing

provided by CROW

Sanibel and Captiva abounds with species of wading birds. Some species stand out and are easy to spot, like the bright pink Roseate Spoonbill or the large, white Great Egret. A quick drive through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife refuge will almost guarantee you will spot at least one species of wading bird. Drive a little slower and look a little harder and you may be lucky enough to spot a green heron, one of the smaller, lesser seen species of heron, stalking fish among the mangroves.

These small herons are only about the size of a crow. They hunt by standing still at the water’s edge, hidden among the vegetation. When a fish approaches, the heron lunges and darts its head, grasping or spearing the fish with its heavy bill. The green heron is also one of the world’s few species of birds that hve been documented using tools. They often create fishing lures out of sticks, insects or feathers by dropping them on the water’s surface to attract their prey.

Recently, a green heron (patient #20-5156) was found in Cape Coral with and injured wing and admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). Veterinarians examined the bird and took radiographs to check for broken bones. They found that the heron had a fractured ulna in its left wing.

“A bird’s wing bends at three joints, comparable to a human shoulder, elbow and wrist,” says Dr. Melanie Peel, one of CROW’s veterinary interns. “Many of the bones are quite similar to humans as well, so just like we have a radius and ulna in our forearms, birds do too.”

In this case, the fracture was found to be a closed, transverse, and complete fracture. For those unfamiliar with medical terms, a closed fracture means the injury did not break the skin creating an open wound; transverse means the break was straight across the bone, perpendicular to the long part; and a complete refers to the fracture going completely through the bone breaking it into two pieces. Luckily for this bird, the two pieces of the broken bone aligned well with each other which saved the veterinarians from performing surgery.

“Since it is a closed fracture and the bones are aligned, we can allow it to heal on its own by limiting movement of the injury,” says Dr. Peel. “Additionally, since the radius that is parallel to the ulna is unbroken, it provides a sort of natural splint to help keep it aligned.”

A wrap is used to restrain the wing against the body and medications ensure the heron is pain-free. To reduce stress and keep it as calm and comfortable as possible, the staff limits their interactions with it. They also replicate the heron’s natural habitat by providing plenty of leafy branches for it to hide under. If all goes well and the heron complies with doctor’s orders, the fracture site will heal quite quickly.

“Hopefully, within two weeks we will see good callus formation on radiographs where the bone is healing back together,” says Dr, Peel.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (11/11-11/17):
There were 92 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including seven double-crested cormorants, four common snapping turtles, three red-shouldered hawks, a black-crowned night heron, two great egrets, an American crow and an eastern box turtle. Recent Releases include a Cooper’s hawk, six double-crested cormorants, a royal tern and a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases! Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!  Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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