We have just under a month left of Baby Bird Season 2023! As usual, it's been busy. In August alone, roughly 200 new patients entered our hospital, including a species first—a nestling Purple Martin! (pictured below)
Turkey Vulture Survives Arrow!
As we celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day, it seems fitting that the story we share involves a vulture.
On July 21st we received a devastating photo from a finder in Sebastopol.
There was no mistaking what we were seeing: this Turkey Vulture, perched high upon a pole, had clearly been shot by an arrow. At first glance, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The arrow, as you can see in the photo, had gone completely through this poor vulture. For all intent and purpose, he should be dead. Why wasn’t he? More importantly, how could we help him?
Fortunately for the vulture, but unfortunately for us and the caring community, he was still flighted so getting him to BRC for treatment would not be easy.
Capture was a five-day effort. With guidance from BRC, local rescuers were able to secure the vulture and carefully cut off the ends of the arrow so that the bird would fit into a travel container. This allowed the bird to rest in a small, quiet spot overnight before being brought to BRC in the morning.
Because vultures are highly susceptible to the latest strain of the avian flu, HPAI, the vulture was brought to our Quarantine Exam space. If you look closely at the photo to the left, you'll see a small straw-like tube sticking out from the feathering.
Even with the end of the arrow still sticking out from the back of the left wing, this stalwart bird remained remarkably relaxed.
Donned in full HazMat gear, our veterinarian came straight away to assess the damage. Knowing time would be of the essence once he was captured, Dr. Rupiper had been on call since we received the original photo.
As feathers were pulled aside and a full exam performed, we were pleasantly surprised to see this arrow had perfectly pierced the inguinal area (legpit), missing both organs and bones. This did not, however, mean there wasn't damage. We were able to remove the arrow, debride the dead tissue, and stitch the wounds closed in a way that would still allow for natural expulsion of dead material. Even though the arrow itself was now gone from the body, injured internal tissue would continue to be affected.
Since the initial intake and arrow removal, our team has been providing a myriad of medications and supportive care, monitoring the progression of the wounds and regularly reassessing the healing of internal damage. This patient still has a way to go to finish treatment and get a clean bill of health, but we hope to follow up with a happy ending and his flight to freedom.
We at BRC know the power of Vultures as nature's clean-up crew. Their stomach acid is extremely acidic, allowing them to digest just about anything. They can eat carcasses tainted with anthrax, tuberculosis, and rabies without getting sick. By taking care of the carrion, vultures provide an essential service for the health of our ecosystems. Without them, carcasses would accumulate, and diseases would spread from rotting flesh.
The Turkey Vulture is able to smell fresh carcasses while riding thermal winds high up in the sky. You're likely to see them enjoying their time in the air on a warm day, and on cooler days in horaltic poses on poles. This stance allows them to warm up prior to flight.