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September 19, 2012

Goldfinch Flies Again

Cape Wildlife Center treats tiny patient with patience

  • After delicate surgery and caring rehabilitation, the little goldfinch was ready for release. Lynn Miller/The HSUS

  • The radiograph of the American goldfinch showed the fracture of his tiny leg bone. Cape Wildlife Center

by Deborah Millman

When the small, vibrant, yellow-and-black bird arrived at Cape Wildlife Center in mid-August, expectations for his recovery were low.

The American goldfinch had likely struck a window. He was unable to fly and had a bent leg. Examination determined his wing was just badly bruised, but the tibiotarsus bone in his tiny leg had been fractured.

"Most people have no idea how often birds are injured by striking windows," noted Cape Wildlife Center Director Deborah Millman. "So far this year, Cape Wildlife Center has taken in 49 birds, ranging from hummingbirds to hawks, critically injured after hitting a wall or window. Often, a simple sun catcher or shiny sticker is all that is needed to prevent such collisions."

Tiny birds like the goldfinch often die from striking windows. Although this bird survived, setting the fracture was difficult. American goldfinches are typically less than five inches long and weigh about as much as a stack of three U.S. quarters.

Most people have no idea how often birds are injured by striking windows...Often, a simple sun catcher or shiny sticker is all that is needed to prevent such collisions.

Dr. Silvia Villaverde, a veterinarian from Madrid who spent several weeks at the Center participating in a veterinary externship, used tweezers and a lot of patience to immobilize the goldfinch's leg so that it could heal. 

"Goldfinches are some of the most challenging patients we care for at Cape Wildlife Center, given their size, habits, and diets," noted Cape Wildlife Center veterinarian Dr. Roberto Aguilar. "We had to apply two different types of bandages to this bird to get the tibia to heal in proper alignment. Silvia used extreme finesse and patience in applying the paper tape bandage to secure a complete recovery."

A month later, after successful test flights in a Cape Wildlife Center bird aviary, the American goldfinch was healed and ready for release.

For more information helping wild birds, read how to make your windows "bird safe."

Deborah Millman is director of the Cape Wildlife Center, operated by The HSUS in partnership with The Fund for Animals.

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