Virginia Beach Peregrine Falcon

PATIENT:  Peregrine Falcon, #12-0023


INJURY:   Fractured metacarpals

ADMISSION DATE:  January 8, 2012

OUTCOME:  Released June 6, 2012

An immature peregrine falcon was picked up on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach on Saturday, January 7 by an animal control officer and taken to permitted rehabilitator Lisa Barlow. Lisa found that the peregrine falcon, likely a male, had a wing injury and stabilized the bird before sending it to the Wildlife Center on January 8. Dr. Miranda performed a physical examination of the Peregrine Falcon when it arrived and found that the bird had a fresh, open fracture at the tip of its right wing. Radiographs confirmed that the bird had fractures of the major and minor metacarpals – essentially, the equivalent of the “hand” bones in humans. Dr. Miranda also found injury to the bird’s right eye. Avian anatomy: Peregrine Falcon #12-0023:   The veterinary team flushed the peregrine’s wound clean. While flushing, Dr. Miranda saw a very small fragment of bone in the fractured metacarpal, and removed it. The laceration on the falcon’s wing was sutured closed. Dr. Miranda splinted and bandaged the peregrine’s wing to keep it immobilized overnight. Dr. Miranda will be taking the Peregrine Falcon to surgery on the afternoon of January 9. She’ll be placing an external fixator on the fractured portion of the falcon’s wing. Dr. Miranda will insert several small pins into each end of the fractured bones; the pins are then secured together outside of the falcon’s wing with an external frame. Dr. Miranda doesn’t have much room to work with in this small area of the bird’s wing, but this will be the best option for keeping the fractures stable while the bones heal.

January 10 update

Dr. Miranda took Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 to surgery on the afternoon of January 9. After placing two pins in the falcon’s fractured wing to secure the external fixator, Dr. Miranda began having a very difficult time seeing her “landmarks” on the small, fractured metacarpals. The soft tissue swelling around the injured area was significant; Dr. Miranda became concerned that, without being able to clearly visualize the fracture site, she might damage the bone. Dr. Miranda ended the surgery and re-splinted the peregrine’s wing. Another surgical attempt will be made in a week – after the swelling has had time to subside. As long as the peregrine’s wing remains securely splinted and wrapped, the bones should stay well aligned. The peregrine is currently housed in a small enclosure in the Center’s holding room. Food will be offered on the night of January 10.

January 13 update

The Peregrine Falcon is currently caught up daily so that the veterinary team can provide antibiotics and pain medication to the bird. Dr. Miranda notes that the swelling on the falcon's injured right wing is starting to subside. The falcon began eating on its own on the night of January 12.

January 19 update

On January 17, the veterinary team changed the bandage on the Peregrine Falcon's injured wing. Dr. Miranda noted that the swelling over the injured metacarpals had significantly decreased, and she opted to wait two more days before taking the bird to surgery on the morning of January 19. The Peregrine Falcon has been eating small amounts of quail and chicks -- the rehabilitation staff have carefully been measuring the weight of the food to best determine how much the bird is eating. On days when the staff determine the falcon hasn't eaten enough on its own, they hand feed the bird.

January 20 update

Drs. Miranda and Adam took the Peregrine Falcon to surgery on January 19 to pin the bird's fractured metacarpals. This time around, the surgery went well -- the swelling on the bird's wing decreased enough so that the vets could visualize the small fractures in the falcon's wing. Four pins were placed around the fractures and then the pins were  secured together outside of the falcon’s wing with an external frame. The Peregrine woke up after the 71-minute surgery and was placed into the Center's critical care chamber. Knowing that the 48 hours post-surgery can still be a dangerous time for a bird, the team was encouraged to see the falcon bright and alert on the morning of January 20. Dr. Miranda anticipates that the external fixator will need to stay on the falcon for several weeks -- this sort of wing injury will be slower to heal than a humeral fracture, since the bones are farther away from the bird's body.

January 30 update

Since surgery, Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 has been healing quietly in one of the Center's indoor enclosures. On January 30, Dr. Miranda decided to remove the bird's body wrap, to allow the falcon to move around a little more easily. Since the bird's external fixator will be in place for a few more weeks, the walls of the falcon's crate will be heavily padded to protect the device that is holding the pins in place. Dr. Miranda reports that the peregrine has good extension in its injured wing and despite several days of inconsistent eating, the falcon is maintaining a good weight.

February 10 update

The Peregrine Falcon has been doing well in its padded indoor enclosure -- the pins in the falcon's metacarpals are in good shape. The veterinary team check and clean the pins sites daily. The team has also had to regularly hand-feed the peregrine, as the bird has not been eating well on its own. On February 7, Dr. Dave and Dr. Adam decided to begin laser therapy on the Peregrine Falcon. This is a new treatment for Wildlife Center patients. In January 2012, the Wildlife Center received funds from generous supporters to purchase a therapeutic laser – an item listed on the Center’s medical wish list. At this point, the veterinary team is testing out a demo laser before making the final purchase. Therapeutic lasers are widely used in human and veterinary medicine and offer an array of patient benefits. Clinical studies and trials have indicated that low-level laser therapies may offer beneficial effects on injuries including anti-inflammation, anti-pain, accelerated tissue growth repair and cell growth, improved vascular activity, increased metabolic activity, improved nerve function and healing, and faster wound healing.    The falcon's daily laser therapy session only lasts a few minutes; the painless procedure is done while the peregrine is awake.  A probe is held over two spots on the peregrine's injured wing; the laser is held in place for one minute on each spot. The laser aperture that the veterinary team is using on the falcon is the same one used on the Critter Cam Red-shouldered Hawk. This particular laser wavelength is used for cellular regeneration, which will hopefully speed up the healing process.

February 17 update

The Peregrine Falcon is still not eating on its own -- so hand feeding continues by the veterinary staff. The falcon is maintaining its weight through these twice-a-day feedings. The falcon is scheduled for a set of radiographs on February 20. Dr. Miranda will determine at that time if the bird's pins and fixators need to remain in place, or if the process of a "dynamic destabilization" [the gradual process of removing this equipment] can begin. Laser therapy continues every day.

February 20 update

The Peregrine Falcon was anesthetized for a set of radiographs today. The veterinary team is pleased with the results -- the  fracture alignment looks good, and there is a callous forming. The fractured metacarpals appear to be progressing, but because the fracture lines are still visible, all pins and fixators will remain in the falcon for another two weeks. Radiographs will be taken again on March 5 to check on the progress of the healing fractures.   Hand-feeding continues.

February 27 update

The peregrine continues to heal in the Center's holding room -- the big news of the week is that the falcon has started eating on his own!  For the past few days, Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 has been eating about 70 grams of quail each day. The bird's pin sites continue to look free of inflammation and infection. The team will see if the "destabilization" process [removing some of the bird's pins and fixator] can begin next week after additional radiographs are taken on March 5.

March 6 update

The veterinary team took another set of radiographs of Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 on March 5. The bird's metacarpals continue to heal -- enough for Dr. Miranda to begin the "dynamic destabilization" process. This simply means that, rather than removing all of the pins and fixators at once, the veterinary team will slowly begin to remove parts of the fracture repair equipment over the course of a week or two. On March 5, Dr. Miranda removed the two "inner" pins [highlighted below] on the falcon's wing. The remaining two pins will continue to stabilize the fracture. Additional radiographs will be taken on March 12. At that point, Dr. Miranda may be able to remove the other pins. The peregrine continues to eat well on its own.

March 12 update

Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 had another set of radiographs taken this morning and the veterinary staff were happy with what they saw. The fracture healed enough for Dr. Miranda to remove the remaining two pins from the site. The falcon continues to eat on its own and it will now spend the next few days recovering in the Center's holding area after which it will hopefully be moved to an outdoor enclosure.

March 19 update

On March 17, the Peregrine Falcon was moved to one of the Center's B-pens -- a small outdoor enclosure. The veterinary team reported that the falcon flew to a perch when he was placed in the pen.   Another set of radiographs will be taken on April 2.

March 30 update

The Peregrine Falcon has been getting around well in a B-pen for the past week and a half -- so when a flight pen opened up during the week of March 26, the rehabilitation and vet staff decided to move the falcon into a larger space. The falcon is currently being housed in a flight pen (FP3), and Dr. Miranda reports that the bird flew the length of the enclosure when it was first placed in the pen on March 29. The peregrine is still scheduled for additional radiographs on April 2.

April 4 update

The latest set of radiographs of Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 -- taken on April 2 -- confirmed that the falcon's injured wing is healing well.  Dr. Miranda noted that while the falcon's minor metacarpal is not perfectly aligned, it is healing well. The major metacarpal is well-calloused and well-aligned. The peregrine has about 95% total extension of the wing; Dr. Miranda is pleased. At this point, the staff would like to see the Peregrine Falcon flying in a flight pen and building up its stamina after its prolonged period of cage rest. Once the staff is satisfied that the falcon is doing the best that it can in a flight pen, it will likely be transferred to Wildlife Center friends Eva and Andrew -- experienced, permitted falconers. Peregrine Falcons can be very difficult to fully condition in captivity -- because these birds have a diverse array of aerial maneuvers, these birds are best conditioned in a large space -- or in the wide open!  Falconers Eva and Andrew will be able to apply falconry techniques, such as creancing, much more frequently than the Wildlife Center staff would be able. Overall, this should speed up the falcon's conditioning -- and will also help us assess if the falcon is able to regain full use of its injured wing prior to release. Hop on over to the Wildlife Center's Critter Cam-- as of today, the Peregrine Falcon is the newest patient featured on our webcam network!

April 10 update

The Peregrine Falcon will begin a light exercise program this week -- once the rehabilitation staff is satisfied with the falcon's level of conditioning in the flight pen, the Wildlife Center staff will contact the falconers for additional flight training and conditioning. In the meantime, Critter Cam viewers are often treated to a "blur" -- as the falcon flies from perch to perch!

April 16 update

The rehabilitation staff have been lightly exercising the Peregrine Falcon for the past week -- they feel that all is going well.   After some "bird shuffling" on Tuesday, April 17, the staff plan on moving Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 to A3 -- so that they can see how the bird flies and maneuvers in a much larger space.   The Peregrine should be moved on Wednesday, April 18.

April 19 update

On April 18, the Peregrine Falcon was moved to A3 for additional flight monitoring and exercise. The staff report that the falcon is flying well -- though is a little winded after flying a few lengths of the enclosure. If all continues to go well with the bird's flight, the falcon will be transferred to two master falconers for additional conditioning.

April 23 update

Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 continues to do well in A3 -- the Center's largest (and highest) flight pen. The rehabilitation staff report that the falcon is flying an average of seven to nine lengths of the pen during each exercise session. If all continues to go well, Dr. Dave anticipates that the bird will be transferred to the falconers during the week of April 30 for continued conditioning and exercise for release.

May 3 update

The Peregrine Falcon has been flying well in A3 for the past couple of weeks -- at this point, the veterinary staff are ready to send the bird to the two nearby falconers for additional flight conditioning. The bird will likely be transferred on Monday, May 7.

May 18 update

Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 was transferred to falconers Eva and Andrew on Monday, May 14. They will be working with the bird using falconry techniques to get it in the best shape possible to better assess it for release. According to Dr. Dave, falconry equipment was made and fitted to the Peregrine Falcon within the first two days of arriving. The plan is to train the bird to the fist this week -- getting used to sitting on Eva or Andrew's gloved fist.   The falcon is already eating on the glove and is being fed small pieces of quail from tongs. If all goes well, Andrew may start creancing the falcon this weekend. Creancing is a falconry technique that uses a long monofilament, heavy fishing line that allows a bird to be tethered during flight. The Wildlife Center staff will occasionally use this technique with particularly stubborn birds that are reluctant to fly in a flight pen, but the falconers will be able to creance the Peregrine Falcon with much more regularity. Once the bird is ready for creancing, the falconers will be providing this exercise twice a day for the next two weeks. A photo of Wildlife Center staff creancing a former patient:

May 24 update

Dr. Dave reports that the creancing of Peregrine Falcon #12-0023 began on May 19 -- so far, everything is going well. The falconers have trained the peregrine to step up on their gloved hands -- a less-stressful way of handling, since they will be taking the falcon out to a field twice a day for the next two weeks. Dr. Dave was on hand for both creancing sessions this past weekend, and while the falcon definitely needs some more work with getting in shape, the bird's flights were good for a first time out in the field.

May 29 update

Eva and Andrew sent us a video of Andrew working with Peregrine Falcon #12-0023. In this short video clip, Andrew is working on getting the falcon to perch and then step up again on his gloved hand. Using falconry techniques decreases the bird's stress and makes handling much easier -- so that the creancing may continue, twice a day.

May 30 update

Falcon reports from Eva and Andrew continue to be good ones -- on May 25, Eva reported, "The falcon flew well tonight! Probably half-mile split between several straight lines, half- and full large circles. Even started to climb on the last long straight."  On May 29, Eva reported that the falcon "is flying much better. Almost reached the treetops before running out of room yesterday." With multiple flight session each day, and improvements seen during each session, the staff and the falconers feel that a release will be in order soon! Here's a short video clip from one recent creance session -- the falcon is a little tough to see as it disappears into the treeline -- but the falconers are pleased with its progress.

June 5 update

The Peregrine Falcon continues to fly very well -- so well, that a release has been scheduled!  After the Peregrine Falcon returns to the Wildlife Center for banding and bloodwork, the falcon will be released on Wednesday, June 6 at the Grandview Nature Preserve in Hampton, Virginia. This release is open to the public -- for additional details on location and time, please click here.

June 6 update

The Peregrine Falcon release went beautifully at the Grandview Nature Preserve in Hampton, Virginia. Read more details -- and check out some release photos -- here!

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