CROW Case of the Week: Adult Osprey (#18-0218)

The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a common fishhawk to this region, often seen nesting on manmade pole structures, circling high above or diving into water and striking its next meal. They are known to be expert anglers. 

These white-headed, rangy birds are excellent travelers, often logging many miles during lifelong migration. Scientists have tracked ospreys with satellite transmitters attached to their backs, and have discovered these birds fly hundreds and thousands of miles during traveling periods. 

At CROW, an adult male osprey was admitted from Bokeelia after being was found along the side of the road and attempting to hide underneath a bush. The rescuer reported its mate was flying nearby. 

During the intake exam, veterinarians determined the patient had a click at its keel-coracoid joint. The source of the click was later confirmed to be a coracoid fracture during x-rays. 

“When the shoulder bones were palpated, an abnormal ‘click ’ or crepitus was felt, which was made by the fractured ends of bone moving against each other,” explained Dr. Robin Bast, CROW veterinary intern. 

Reports said this particular shoulder assembly bone is most often fractured when an osprey collides with an object. Dr. Bast agreed. 

“Yes, it is quite possible that some sort of collision trauma led to this injury,” she said. “It is seen often in patients that have been hit by car or window-strikes.” The patient was placed in a body wrap around both wings and was given pain medications and fluids. 

Body wraps are a good way to restrict movement in an injured area of a bird, especially one that involves wing movement. 

“Studies have shown that conservative management – non-surgical options – result in successful outcomes for coracoid fractures. This means placing the patient in a bandage to immobilize the wing on the affected side to prevent flapping and activit y which could impede healing of the coracoids,” said Dr. Bast. “In this patient, the coracoid bone was actually fractured on both sides of the keel – both right and left sides.” Unfortunately, with the wrap around both wings, the patient was reportedly declining to eat on its own, so another method was utilized. 

“Since the bird held both wings in a normal position against his body without bandaging and was not overly active (and) remained calmly on his perch when not being handled for treatments, we elected to try strict cage rest instead of continuing the bandaging,” said Dr. Bast. “The bird tolerated this much better.” After more than two weeks at the clinic, the medical forecast for the osprey has improved. 

“Radiographs taken last week show the fracture is healing as expected, and the bird will be moved to a small outside enclosure so it can start gradually doing its own physical therapy by stretching/flapping its wings,” added Dr. Bast. “After a week or so, it will be moved to a larger enclosure so it can practice flying and building up endurance. 

“As with any fracture, there is the chance that it will heal in such a way that the bird is unable to regain flight function required to survive in the wild. 

However, based on the latest exam and radiographs, this patient is headed in the right direction. Once in an outdoor enclosure, we will monitor its flight quality closely with the help of video-monitoring. Typically, patients with this type of fracture do well with rehabilitation.”

CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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