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Black-crowned Night-Heron Makes Full Recovery at SFWC

A Black-crowned Night-Heron with an injured wing was able to return to flight thanks to the expert care he received at the South Florida Wildlife Center

  • The Black-crowned Night-Heron enjoys our outdoor marsh bird habitat. Toby Blades

  • The heron being examined by our veterinarian. SFWC

  • A beautiful shot of the heron's face showing his distinct markings. Toby Blades

  • The heron testing out his wings in our outdoor marsh bird habitat. SFWC

When a Black-crowned Night-Heron was brought to the SFWC wildlife hospital with a badly injured wing, veterinarians found his treatment especially challenging. Not only would the small size of the fractured bone and the threat of infection from a wound over the fracture complicate healing, there was the additional challenge of ensuring this shy, delicate bird was able to eat and heal despite the stress of captivity.

When the heron was brought to us by one of our wildlife ambulances he was emaciated but still standing and alert, which was a good sign. After an examination, it was determined his metacarpal bone, which is equivalent to a hand bone in humans, but much, much smaller, was fractured. Our veterinarians were concerned about the bird being able to retain movement of the wrist, but more concerning was the open wound at the fracture site, which made the bone vulnerable to infection.

The wound was cleaned and bandaged, and the bird was given antibiotics to combat any infection. He was also given medication to increase the blood flow to the end of the wing to aid in the healing process.

Once the heron was stable, our veterinarians performed surgery to place a tiny pin in the fractured metacarpal bone. They used the bent pin as a splint to stabilize the bone until it could heal. In addition to the very small size of the injured bone, there was the additional challenge of managing the open wound at the fracture site. A wound so close to a joint could possibly affect range of motion, so it had to be monitored very closely.

The heron’s food intake also had to be closely watched because of his emaciated state. Although he was eating well on his own, he was at risk of refeeding syndrome. Emaciated animals—humans and birds alike—can eat too much, too fast and can get very sick and even die. So we made sure he was receiving enough calories for healing, while also ensuring he wasn’t eating too much at one time in order to avoid refeeding syndrome.

Periodic X-rays were taken to monitor the healing process, and although the fracture was healing well, the heron still had swelling and stiffness at the carpal (wrist) joint, which would prevent him from flying if not resolved. To make sure the heron didn’t lose any range of motion in his wing, he underwent physical therapy for his shoulder and elbow until his wing extension improved.

Thankfully all the hard work of our staff paid off and after about a month, the heron was moved to our outdoor marsh bird habitat to continue his rehabilitation. Only a few weeks later, he had regained full function of his wing and was able to be released back out into the wild.

All the animals that come through our doors are important cases, but we were especially grateful we were able to help this special bird return to his home. But we could not do it without your support. Please consider making a donation to South Florida Wildlife Center so we can continue to help the wildlife of South Florida 365 days a year.

Watch a video of the Black-crowned Night-Heron during his stay with us:

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