The sora (Porzana carolina) is a robin-sized bird that is small and chubby with long toes. From the rail family, this secretive brown-and-gray marsh bird is said to have features of a chicken due to the way it walks slowly through shallow wetlands.
While it does take some effort to find, the sora is regarded as the most abundant and widespread rail in North America. Interestingly, these chubby-bodied birds can fly long distances and reportedly do so for hundreds of miles each spring and fall to wetlands in Central and South America.
At CROW, a juvenile sora was admitted to the hospital from Sanibel on St. Patrick’s Day after it was found struggling in a canal. During its intake exam, veterinarians noted the patient to be emaciated with swelling over its left radius and ulna. It was suspected of having a fracture, but full x-rays would be needed to determine if this was the case.
Unfortunately, due to the bird’s emaciated condition, veterinarians could not anesthetize the bird for full radiographs at the time of intake. It was placed in a body wrap to stabilize the wing and provided fluids and pain medication. The patient was also started on a re-feeding plan.
“The sora was safely anesthetized for full-body radiographs four days after being admitted to the hospital,” said Dr. Robin Bast, CROW veterinary intern. “After four days of treatment and nutritional support, the bird was more stable and a better candidate for anesthesia.” According to Dr. Bast, x-rays confirmed suspicions of a fracture.
“(It was) a simple, broken in one piece, fracture of the left radius; the ulna remained intact which acts as an “internal splint” to help stabilize the neighboring radius bone,” she said. “Since the bone fragments were well aligned, we were able to treat this bird with a stabilizing bandage instead of surgical repair.” The sora continues to be treated with therapy in between wing wrapping.
“The bird has a body wrap in place which is removed every three days for physical therapy under sedation,” said Dr. Bast. “After two weeks, the bandage will be removed for one week strict cage rest before the sora is moved to an outside enclosure for the next phase of rehabilitation.”
Dr. Bast was asked if the bird’s struggles in a canal could be attributed to brevetoxicosis since red tide has been affecting other birds recently. “We don’t know what caused the injury itself – there were no other wounds found. Several possible explanations exist, including traumatic incident, or debilitation from a chronic process – disease or toxin – could have resulted in the bird struggling to get out of a certain area and injuring itself secondarily,” she said.
After a full week at the clinic, the sora appears to be reacting well to treatment. “At the last physical therapy session, a palpable callus had formed over the fracture, and it is healing well. The bandage will be removed in three days followed by strict cage rest for a week before moving outside for flight conditioning,” said Dr. Bast. “The sora has gained weight with the re-feeding plan. If all continues to go well, it will be ready to release within the next two to three weeks.”
CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.