Sunday, April 10, 2011
On February 18th, we received a Ring-billed Gull from Eileen, a fellow wildlife rehabilitator. This gull had been found at a Brooklyn train station and was unable to fly. Eileen gave the gull a physical exam upon admission and noticed that the left wing was hanging lower than the right, which indicated a fracture of the humerus. The humerus is the bone that connects the shoulder and the elbow. Humeral fractures are quite common but they can be tricky- the ability for us to treat a fracture depends on where the fracture happened. Because it can be difficult to tell where a fracture is on the bone, wildlife rehabilitators tend to work closely with referring veterinarians that have X-ray equipment. With an X-ray, one can tell with more accuracy where the fracture is and thus how best to undergo treatment. Thankfully, Eileen was able to obtain an X-ray from her referring veterinarian. What they saw in the X-ray was good news! The fracture was on the middle of the bone, so there was a good chance that the gull’s wing would heal enough so that it would be able to fly again.
After the gull was transferred to us, we began immediate treatment. We wrapped the wing so that it would hang in its natural position, and used another wrap to secure it to the body so that the wing was immobilized. This type of wrap is useful for preventing unnecessary movements of the wing (which could cause further injury), very much like an arm cast does in humans. After the wrap was on for about four days, we took it off and gave the wing physical therapy by slowly extending it and allowing it to snap back into its original position. We then gave the gull a bath so he could further exercise his wing, and then re-wrapped it for a few more days. After two weeks of doing that, we saw that the wing sat in a more natural position so we opted to keep the wrap off. This gull was well on his way to recovery!
As the weather became nicer, we put him in a large aviary outside to get some exercise. By this time, we were well into the month of March. The gull had shown a little bit of flight, but not too much. Finally, on March 29th, a volunteer mentioned that she had watched the gull fly and hover several feet in the air. The next day, as I was weighing the gull, he flew out of my hands and around our nursery, just reaching the ceiling! He was almost ready to go. Over the next two days, we noticed him flying wonderfully around his outdoor aviary. On April 2nd, a lovely spring day, he was released with full flight after a long recovery at Sunken Meadow beach.
Photo credit: http://chrissiatkisson.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html