Peregrine Falcon Medical Updates

On October 12, a rare female Peregrine Falcon was admitted to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.  The falcon  was found on the ground, injured and unable to fly, on East Cary Street in Richmond.  She was picked up by A. K. Taylor of Richmond Animal Control and taken to the Cary Street Animal Hospital.   Peregrine October 2010

The falcon was examined by Dr. Kimberly Kuhn.  Dr. Kuhn took x-rays of the bird and, in consultation with Wildlife Center veterinarian Dr. Miranda Sadar, concluded that the falcon should be brought to the Center in Waynesboro.  Volunteer transporter Michael Knight drove the falcon to the Center, arriving at about 9 p.m. At admission, the falcon was assigned Patient #10-2118 and examined by Dr. Sadar, assisted by Dr. Marc Isidoro Ayza [from Spain] and Pedro Paulo Giese Krindges [a veterinary student from Brazil].  In addition to a coracoid fracture identified in the earlier x-rays, the Center vet team found injuries to the falcon's right shoulder and a detached retina in the bird's right eye.  Given that all of the injuries are on the same side of the bird, Center vets surmise that the falcon may have hit the side of a building or some other object. Center vets administered pain medications, fluids, and anti-inflammatories and secured the falcon in a body wrap.     Photos from October 13 examination On October 14, the Center veterinary staff did a blood test on the falcon -- results were within normal ranges.  The staff redid the body wrap that was used to keep the bird from flapping its injured wing.  With the old wrap, the falcon was sternal; with the new wrap, the bird could stand.  The falcon was offered "quail two ways" -- whole and chopped -- and ate [she seemed to prefer whole]. 

October 18 update

The peregrine was brought into the clinic for an examination and check-up by Drs. Miranda Sadar and Kelly Flaminio on October 18.  New radiographs were taken, which indicated that the injuries to the right shoulder were healing well.  The fractured portion of the coracoid is well-positioned.  The vets will likely need to keep the peregrine in a body wrap for another two to three weeks. The vet staff also had the first opportunity to perform a more thorough examination of the peregrine's eyes while she was under anesthesia.  Upon admission, the Center vets found that the peregrine had a detached retina in her right eye.  On October 18, the vets found no improvement in that eye.  In addition, a small spot was found in the peregrine's left eye -- most likely an older eye injury.

October 21 update

On October 21, Drs. Miranda and Kelly took the peregrine to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech for a consultation with J. Phillip Pickett, DVM, Professor of Ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.  Dr. Pickett and his team found encouraging signs of healing in the bird's right eye, with reattachment of the retina.  Dr. Pickett also examined the bird's left eye.  There are two small scars there, which do not appear to compromise the bird's sight. Dr. Pickett would like to examine the peregrine in another four to five weeks [November 18 or later] to see how the eye has healed and to check the falcon's sight. Patient #10-2118 will continue to be housed in the Center's inside patient ward, in a body wrap, for another two to three weeks.  She is eating well -- "like a pig", to quote Dr. Miranda. Peregrine Exam Virgina Tech 21 October 2010     Peregrine Exam II Virgina Tech 21 October 2010
Photos from the examination:  Drs. Pickett and Flaminio [left photo] and Senior Veterinary Student Cassie Fox [right photo]

October 25 Update:  A  Case of Mistaken Identity ...

The falcon -- a large female [weight of 1 kg] -- was intially identified by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologists as the female from the pair of peregrines that have been nesting in downtown Richmond since 2003 -- first at the BBT Building, and more recently on the west building of the Riverfront Plaza.  This pair has produced numerous offspring, included chicks that have been used to introduce peregrines into other areas of Virginia. This female also had been the "star" of the VDGIF Falcon Cam -- a web-based camera focused on the falcon's nest.  Web-cam watchers have given this bird the name "Harriet" -- her mate, of course, is Ozzie. However, VDGIF biologists have now changed their minds and have concluded that #10-2118 is NOT "Harriet".  A pair of peregrine falcons has been seen in the past few days defending the downtown Richmond nesting site, and careful examination of photos of Harriet and #10-2118 suggest that these are NOT the same birds. So who is #10-2118?  According to Dr. Dave McRuer, the Center's Director of Veterinary Services, this adult female is likely a southbound migrant – most probably from New England, Canada, or even Greenland.  

November 9 - 10 Update

On November 9 #10-2118 was brought into the clinic for an examination.   According to Dr. Miranda, the fracture site feels great and has a nice callus.  New radiographs were taken; the fracture line in the coracoid is visible, but there is evidence of healing.  The body wrap was removed from the falcon.  She is holding her right wing slightly abnormally -- not unexpected after a month in a wrap.  Center vets found that the Peregrine Falcon's eyes are stable.  The vets can still see areas of pigmentation where the retina is reattaching.  The peregrine handled anesthesia -- and the presence of a reporter and photographer from the Richmond Times-Dispatch  -- very well.  The peregrine has been housed indoors since admission.  After the November 9 exam, the falcon was moved to a small outdoor flight enclosure and was able to hop/fly from the ground to a higher perch.   Dr. Miranda's 7:15 a.m. update on November 10, "I just ran up the hill to check on her and she is perching on a middle height perch right now (and it looks like she ate a bit- quite impressive for her first night in a new place :) )." On December 2 the Peregrine Falcon has an appointment for a follow-up eye examination by Dr. Pickett at Virginia Tech.  

November 19 update

On Tuesday November 16, the Peregrine Falcon was moved into a larger flight pen to allow her to have more room to fly.  The rehabilitation staff report that she is an excellent flier and is zooming around the flight pen.  An additional eye exam revealed no changes. 

December 3 update from Dr. Miranda

Dec 2 optho visit peregrineThe Peregrine Falcon was taken to Virginia Tech yesterday to see Dr. Phil Pickett and the news was encouraging.  Her left eye is stable (the one that just had a couple of scars present, which are old and stable).  The right eye is healing well and the area of reattachment is shrinking (just like a scar on your hand would as it heals).  Her foveas (the areas of focus) are present in both eyes and are intact and free of injury. Dr. Pickett is optimistic about this and sees nothing about her eyes that would impair her release.   Of course, we’re not completely out of the woods yet.  We still need to exercise the peregrine to test her flight and ensure that she can make a complete recovery from her shoulder injury.  Within the next couple of weeks we will creance her--which is taking her into a field on a fishing line and flying her--to give her the best exercise possible.  This will also allow us to make a thorough assessment of her flight to determine if she is releasable. 

December 14 update  

On December 9, the Peregrine Falcon was brought into the clinic for follow-up radiographs.  Dr. Miranda reported that the bird’s right coracoid continues to heal well. For the past week, the rehabilitation staff has been exercising the peregrine daily.  The bird has been showing great progress in increasing stamina and in her ability to maneuver around obstacles.  The Peregrine Falcon has been showing so much progress that the veterinary team began looking for other ways to condition her and evaluate her flight.    Dr. Dave McRuer contacted local falconers to see if they would be interested in training the peregrine using falconry techniques. The Wildlife Center is hoping this training strategy will better condition the bird through intense exercise and test the bird’s eye sight and wings as it attempts to capture artificial lures while in flight.

December 13, 2010

On Monday, December 13, 2010, Peregrine Falcon #10-2118 was transferred to two experienced local falconers – Eva and Andrew King.  Ultimately, the goal is to unleash the falcon so that it can fly freely in the field while still returning to the falconers for food.  This free-flight outdoors will improve the bird’s stamina, build muscle, and test the healed shoulder through repeated stoops, tight turns, and lengthy flights — key elements of a peregrine’s survival skills.    If the Peregrine Falcon passes these  “tests”, she will be ready for release back into the wild.  The Center believes that this approach provides the best opportunity to build up the falcon’s stamina and to ensure that she will be able to survive, and thrive, in the wild.

January 6 update

On January 6, Dr. Dave McRuer stopped by Eva and Andrew’s house to check on the Peregrine Falcon.  Dr. Dave drew blood while he was there to bring back to the Wildlife Center for a variety of diagnostic tests.  He also performed a crop swab to check the peregrine’s crop for parasites.  Overall, the peregrine seemed much brighter than it did on its New Year’s Day hospital visit. Licensed Veterinary Technician Leigh-Ann Horne ran the diagnostic tests on the falcon’s blood and reported that things looked “much better.”  The results on the crop parasites were also negative.  While the WCV veterinary team is still unsure of what caused the weight loss and odd blood work, it seem as though the Peregrine Falcon is back on the mend and ready to resume her training. Additional information and updates on training

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