I’m sure everyone is thoroughly enjoying Anne’s posts about her adventures learning about each of our birds—I know I’ve enjoyed her posts. This week, however, I, personally, wanted to write about an interesting situation that has surfaced here with the birds. As you all know, working with wild animals is always an adventure and you can never truly predict how each bird will handle a situation. As the summer progressed, we worked hard presenting two fun and educational programs each day, and we all (humans and birds alike) became more and more ready for the summer to be over (let’s face it, it was a long, hot summer). Or, at least we thought we were all ready for summer to be over.
After Labor Day weekend we ended our twice daily programming and the birds and volunteers got a much deserved break from all the chaos and hard work. I even managed to squeeze in a vacation and head back home to South Dakota. When I returned, however, I discovered that not everyone was excited about the new schedule of raptor programming—Hayabusa had started chewing at the feathers on the back of her damaged wing.
Having worked with parrots for several years, I knew that picking at feathers can be a result of boredom. We often refer to Hayabusa as our “diva” because she does seem to enjoy being in public. She is very curious about our guests and is normally the most comfortable bird in a strange situation. But I was also a veterinary technician for a decade and know that animals will often chew at an area that is painful. So, was Haya’s feather damage a result of boredom? Discomfort? Both?
Next stop: the veterinarian.
Hayabusa was exceptionally good during her exam. She was hooded, which she hates, but we were able to examine her wing and take an x-ray to see if there was something in the wing itself that might be causing her behavior. I must say, I love technology sometimes! When I was a vet tech we were still using film for x-rays. We had a processor, so I didn’t have to stand in a dark room and dip film in fixer and developer, but I never got to work with digital radiographs. They are amazing! Within thirty seconds, Haya’s skeleton flashed up on a screen, and there, bright as day, was arthritis in both her “wrist” and “elbow” joints. This could definitely be the reason she had been picking at her feathers. The most interesting part about the x-ray wasn’t the arthritis, however. Haya has no old fractures! We had been informed that she had suffered a fracture near her wrist joint that hadn’t healed well. But her radiograph clearly showed her damage was all in her patagium, the ligament stretching from the “wrist” to the “shoulder” that makes up the leading edge of the wing.
The news, once you really sit down and think about it, doesn’t change much. Hayabusa still suffered a debilitating injury that leaves her unable to fly and therefore unable to return to the wild. She has some arthritis that needs to be managed to keep her comfortable and happy. All that really changes is the story we tell our guests. With the new diagnosis, our vet prescribed an anti-inflammatory to ease her discomfort which should stop the feather chewing. We are also going to start her on a glucosamine product to see if it can control the discomfort in the long run.
I couldn’t, however, shake the feeling that boredom really was a part of her problem. I discussed it with the vet and we decided that getting Haya some extra stimulation would definitely be a good thing. I have been taking her out in public at random times and I even set up a corner of my office with a perch for her so that she gets a change of scenery while spending a couple hours with me in my office while I work on things like phone calls, e-mails, and blogging :0). Yeah, it’s a rough job I have.
After less than a week since her vet visit, she does appear to be leaving the feathers alone and the area already looks better to me. I will be sure to keep you updated on her progress, and in the meantime, I’ll turn the blog back over to Anne so you may enjoy more of her adventures as a volunteer.
Thanks for letting me interrupt!