2014 August – Resilience



Even if he wasn’t in mortal danger from having multiple open wounds, as long as his crop was breached, he would never be able to eat, drink, or receive medicine; it would all come pouring out. I can only imagine how traumatic these injuries would be for a person, but this bird, weighing no more than 150 grams, stood stoically through no less than three separate sessions, receiving a total of 14 sutures without making so much as a peep. When I happened back to Liberty that same night, he was up and walking around, completely lucid to the world, and seemingly none the worse for wear. Whether he ultimately survives or not, he had a chance, a chance that he never would have received if some caring member of the public hadn’t found him and brought him someplace where he could get the help he needed.

The following week, a young mourning dove arrived on our shift. His initial condition was obvious: he was splay-legged. His legs shifted outward from his body, rather than holding underneath him like they should. Without correction, they would stay that way, and he would continue to mature, losing the potential to ever stand in the process. This deformity is seen occasionally in young birds, but there are steps we can take to correct their posture before the damage becomes permanent. As odd as it sounds, being splay-legged would have made him a rather typical patient for us. What made him unique was his other problem: his crop was full of cherry pits. Eleven of them. Imagine a fledgling bird about the size of your fist, not yet old enough to fly. Now picture his crop, envisioning it like a little inflatable balloon on the front of his chest. Now, fill this comparatively small balloon to the point of bursting, which, for the record, is just around eleven cherry pits. The crop is a holding chamber; it can’t digest anything on its own, and the pits were too big to pass to the stomach, so the dove, who probably fell out of his nest and just so happened to find a batch of discarded cherry pits, had swallowed them out of hunger and was now doomed to starvation or death. His crop would be perpetually full, the pits not only weighing him down but obstructing any real seed from reaching his stomach. He was out of the nest prematurely, and the only recourse we had to save his life was to physically guide the pits, one at a time, out of his crop, up his neck, and out of his mouth, using our fingers on his skin to direct them. Eleven of them. He looked about as thrilled as you or I would be if we were forced to regurgitate eleven or so billiard balls; yet he endured it like a champion, and before the hour was over, he was safely resting in Orphan Care, with a chart detailing how to correct his comparatively mundane splayed legs issue.

The moral is this: even baby birds can endure a lot. Liberty is unable to provide updates on the individual birds that people bring in, a regrettable fact mandated by the sheer number of patients we care for (4,100 and counting for 2014.) It can be hard not knowing, but take heart; by bringing an injured bird to Liberty, you’re giving that bird a second shot at life. After all, even the most ravaged, torn-up, beaten and battered bird is a whole lot tougher than it looks.


2 Responses to 2014 August – Resilience

  1. Art Smith says:

    What else would you expect from a United States Navy Corpsman. Go NAVY.


  2. Pam Kohnken says:

    What a great article. As a “hotliner” I often talk to callers who ask “do you think it will survive” or “can you fix a wing that is so damaged”? This is great information that can support the answers and hope that I pass on to the caller–especially since followup information is not available as to survival of the “patients”. More information like this would certaintly be helpful to all of us who don’t have an opportunity to see the medical side of LW.

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