Thank you everyone, our August fundraising drive is over! But it’s not too late to help push us over $5000. Your donation goes directly to the Rescue and Rehabilitation of the North Coast’s injured and orphaned wild animals as well as humane solutions to keep wild families together and the use non-lethal methods to resolve human/wildlife conflicts. Thank you for donating today!
The young bird was found on a rock off the coast of Crescent City. Typically, this would be where you might find a gull fresh from the egg. Western Gulls rear their young on the seastacks and remote headlands all along the California coast. Less than two weeks old, the bird still had hatchling feathers. We offered him fish and safety and as soon as s/he began to fly, the company of other gulls.
The adorable nature of hatchling gulls can sometimes test the resolve of professional caregivers. “Please can I keep him?” says the smitten rehabilitator. “No!” says Mother Earth, and she quotes Henry David Thoreau, “All good things are wild and free!”
Four weeks after the hatchling Gull was admitted, an adult Western Gull was brought to our clinic who was unable to fly. Upon admission we discovered the bird’s right ulna was fractured near the wrist. As with our arms, the wings of all birds have a shoulder, a humerus between shoulder and elbow, and from elbow to wrist, two bones in parallel, the radius and the ulna.
If you have to break a wing, this sort of fracture is among the easiest to treat. The uninjured radius serves as the perfect splint to stabilize its partner, the ulna, while it heals. The fracture being close to the wrist did cause some concern, but the chances for a full recovery seemed good. We immobilized the wing and checked its progress periodically.
One of the remarkable things about birds compared to mammals is the speed that they heal – a broken bone in a mammal can take 6 weeks or longer to mend, while most fractures in birds are stable after 12-14 days! This gull was no different and after 13 days the break had healed and the stabilizing wrap was removed.
At this same time, the young Gull, fully grown, with flight feathers in (no more cute spots!) was ready to be housed with the adult birds in care. While the adult re-conditioned for flight, the fledgling was discovering flight for the first time.
Within two weeks, the youngster was following the adult around the aviary, mimicking flight and asking to be fed, and the adult was flying with grace and agility, as a gull should.
Releasing a young orphaned bird is a challenge. Although our young patient was able to recognize appropriate food and forage independently, it is still preferable that young birds have adult guidance. Now that our adult patient was fully recovered, it was a fortunate coincidence that we were able to send our youngster out into wild freedom with an older bird.
We took both Gulls down to North Jetty on the Samoa peninsula. The adult burst from the carrier and off across the water. Meanwhile the young Gull took some time to become acquainted with freedom. Soon anothe youngster came by and eventually both took off together – free, wild and at the beginning of a hopefully long career.
Your support makes success stories like these possible and gives injured and orphaned wild animals a much deserved second chance. Thank you for being a part of this life-saving work.
(all photos: Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X)