The 5,000th Patient

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

This past week, CROW admitted the 5,000th patient of the year. No one thought it would happen so soon since last year the 5,000th patient was not admitted until November 6.

On September 23, an adult male Magnificent Frigatebird (21-5000) was admitted from the intercoastal waterways between Pine Island and Captiva. Boaters found him in the water unable to fly. Magnificent Frigatebirds don’t have waterproofed feathers like other sea birds so once they are down in the water and wet, it is almost impossible for them to take off from there. They rarely land on the water despite their webbed feet. Upon initial examination, veterinarians noted the bird was thin, severely dehydrated, and waterlogged. Some of his tail feathers were bent mid-shaft and had some residue on them. He was given supportive medications and placed in a large cage to rest and limit stress. The next morning, he was perching and had x-rays taken. There were no significant findings on his x-rays. His feathers were cleaned and, as his condition improves, he will be considered for a flight test to assess his progress.

Magnificent Frigatebirds are quite majestic birds. Adult males have a bare patch of red skin on the throat called a gular sac. During breeding season, the pouch is bright red and outside of the breeding season it is hardly visible. They will inflate their gular sac like a balloon to attract females during mating season. Females sport a white breast patch where the males would have their gular sac. The frigatebird has a deeply forked tail helping them to maneuver quickly through the air. They actually coast effortlessly using the thermals of tropical breezes gliding without flapping hardly at all.

These birds are masters of piracy and quite resourceful in their technique. They have been nicknamed the “man-o-war bird” due to their harassment of other birds.The frigatebirds will chase other birds who have recently caught fresh fish, divebombing them until they regurgitate their food which the frigatebird will then snatch out of the sky. A convenient way of getting a great meal with hardly any work. Young frigatebirds practice the mastery of this technique using sticks. One individual will pick up a stick and drop it mid-air allowing the opportunity for another individual to grab it as it falls. Practice makes perfect!!

Magnificent frigatebirds circumvent land soaring along the coast in the Southern United States, Gulf of Mexico, west coast of Mexico and California. They spend time year-round above the waters of the Caribbean breeding around the peninsula of Florida, east coast of Mexico, and the southeastern United States.

There is an estimated global population of 59,000 to 71,000 breeding pairs. Many populations are declining due to human development of urban areas and resorts along the coastal areas where they breed. There are several islands in the Caribbean such as Marquesas Keys off southern Florida, Aruba, and Seal Key in the Bahamas that no longer support breeding colonies due to their heavy coastal development. Other causes in the decline of breeding success include overfishing, invasive species and predator introduction on nesting islands, and natural disasters fueled by the climate crisis such as hurricanes and rising sea level.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (9/17-9/24):
There were 106 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 15 eastern gray squirrels, 15 eastern cottontails, seven northern raccoons, eight Virginia opossums, two laughing gulls, a common snapping turtle, and a bridled tern. Recent Releases include 19 Florida softshell turtles, a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, a gopher tortoise, a red-eyed vireo, and black-throated blue warbler. 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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